Dear Big Daddy:
I’m thinking of working for a member of the Legislature, and I’m told that
Republicans make much better bosses than Democrats. I hear Democrats are
arrogant and grouchy, while Republicans are easier to work for. Is this
true? Should I send my resume only to Republicans?
Democrats? Arrogant and grouchy? Au contraire, you can’t take a look at one
current or former state lawmaker from the lone area of the state that’s both
a city and county and leap to the conclusion that every member of the
Democratic Party makes Attila the Hun look like the winner of the
“Supervisor of the Year” contest.
I’ve known plenty of Democrats in my time who were effective lawmakers and
purred like kittens, as well as plenty that made great bosses probably
because they had zero ambition and an IQ rivaling the statue of Minerva in
the Capitol rotunda.
I also served with plenty of Republicans in my day and, while I never worked
for any of ’em, I gotta tell you that a few of them were the meanest SOBs I
ever did see.
You may find it hard to believe, especially when you take a gander at the
picture that adorns this column, but there are those who felt Big Daddy was,
in his day, a bit arrogant and grouchy. In all honesty, it’s hard to say
those folks were wrong 100 percent of the time, but I had things to get done
and I didn’t suffer fools very well.
One reason people believe California’s statehouse Republicans are, in this
day and age, more easygoing is because, by mid-March, they have so little to
do legislatively, they have the time to set up and run a Parcheesi
tournament ladder in their front lobby. All of their fantastic ideas to
permit paddling in public schools, to create a private-school-voucher
system, to infringe on the First Amendment, to license horse massagers, and
to give away tax breaks to anyone who draws a breath are generally dead and
gone by the first house policy committee deadline. After that, the biggest
decision they face is whether they want to be blue, red, yellow or green
when the big tournament kicks off.
Democrats, as the majority party in the Legislature, actually have to
govern. That’s not to say that they always do it responsibly–one look at the
state’s prison and pension systems will tell you that–but they are
responsible for shaping the policy direction of the state and making sure it
runs. The beauty of being in the minority party–as I had the misfortune of
experiencing for two years in the late 1960s–is you have no responsibility
to anyone. You can sit back and just work on your tan, if you so choose,
because most things–save the budget–are going to move forward with or
without your participation.
If you really want arrogant and grouchy, not to mention proof that the level
of irritation isn’t dictated solely by a person’s party registration, take a
good gander eastward and look at the folks sitting in the White House and
the congressional leadership. I’m not sure what your definition of
not-arrogant and “easygoing” is, but I have a hard time seeing Dick Cheney,
Karl Rove, Rick Santorum and Ted Stevens, just to name a few, fitting into
The bottom-line questions you have to ask yourself before you lick those
envelopes and seal those resumes is where do your principals lie and what do
you hope to accomplish while working in politics? Wherever you work, you
should always be treated with respect. That’s a given. But since you have a
choice, wouldn’t you prefer to spend your time making a difference and
fighting for your beliefs with someone who shares your common values, even
if it means putting up with a boss who won’t take the congeniality prize
every moment of every day? If you want to spend your time having your boss
hand you a glass of warm milk and pat you on the head while teaching you the
finer points of how to use safety zones, avoid blockages and race-and-chase
your way to the top of the Parcheesi tournament ladder, then be my guest.
It’s those types of attitudes that will help ensure that the Democrats will
continue to control the policy agenda for years to come.