With the dust from the November election now settling, Republicans managed to pick up a handful of legislative seats, but head into the coming session almost hopelessly outnumbered by their Democrat colleagues. This year finds a large number of newly elected GOP members, to whom I offer some constructive words of wisdom.
10. OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE — Humility is a quality for which you should constantly strive. You will be offered goodies and inducements from influence-seekers. These will be offers of free trips to Hawaii or other international locales; fancy dinners; golf at fancy resorts–all of which leads to voter cynicism. It’s okay to reject stuff!
9. TALK TO THE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT MATTERS — Focus your speeches, releases, and social media efforts on challenging what the Democrats, who are in control, are doing. No one cares to hear about your authoring innocuous bills that don’t move the needle. Welcome to the loyal opposition–speak out!
8. FACE IT, YOU’RE GOING TO GET BIG — Of course in the Capitol everyone will treat you like you are the state’s version of royalty. And this could make your head grow big. But as a more practical matter it is a well known fact that newly elected legislators actually get physically larger, putting on the pounds Someone told me it’s like an average of around 20-25 pounds, which is no laughing matter. It’s not a complicated formula: MORE SITTING + LESS EXERCISE + CONSTANT ACCESS TO ALCOHOL AND FOOD = GIRTH EXPANSION. So the practical advice–use the stairs in the Capitol, and if you are hitting multiple receptions, save that drink and those munchies for the last one.
7. KNOW YOUR COLLEAGUES — While it may seem like all of your new Democrat colleagues are all the same (the best analogy may be that school of Moonfish in Finding Nemo), you might actually be surprised that they each have their own names. A number of years ago I was hanging around at a legislator’s home in Sacramento, who was entertaining a bunch of his fellow legislators, and there was a discussion around the backyard fireplace about that day’s floor session. It was kind of painful having a five-year incumbent using physical characteristics to describe one of his Assembly colleagues because he simply did not know his name. Perhaps have your staff put together flash cards to help you remember. The benefits of knowing all of those Democrats by name may seem unclear, given that they all vote like they are part of the Borg, but there is merit in not looking stupid.
6. SO CALLED BI-PARTISAN COOPERATION IS A ONE WAY STREET — Some of you (especially those that served in local elected office) may be arriving to the Capitol seeking to work with your Democrat colleagues towards mutual policy goals. You will very quickly learn that bipartisanship in Sacramento is really just about the need of the Democrats to get YOUR vote to raise taxes–or getting you to channel your inner liberal and use the power of government to pick winners and losers (such as raising car taxes on the people, unrepresented by lobbyists, to then redistribute that money to businesses, represented by lobbyists, to give them regulatory relief–true example). I can think of no example to share with you of bipartisan cooperation in Sacramento leading to smaller, leaner state government (except maybe when the recession forced cuts).
5. TARGETED TAX CREDIT B.S. — “But as the minority party this is the only tax relief I ever get to vote on”–words I’ve heard too many times from beleaguered GOP legislators. Let’s be sure we all understand what happens with industry-specific special treatment. You are the LAST STOP. Long before that special treatment legislation gets to the floor, big bucks have been transacted by those seeking the special treatment–such as funding the Speakers Cup, and all of the other big-ticket Democrat Party fundraising events. When the tithing has reached its apex, suddenly the gift of public money takes place, and then Republicans just go along for the ride. Never mind that these “targeted” credits make our state’s woes even worse, created a legislated unfairness in how different people are treated under the law. No offense to those in manufacturing, or aerospace–but where is my blog publisher’s tax credit?
4. THE STATE’S PULIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS HAVE PURCHASED THE LEGISLATURE — Understand that, with just a few exceptions, the CTA, SEIU and their ilk can and will get the votes of Democrat legislators whenever they insist on it. Period.
3. REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE — It is important to remember that at every single meeting that you take, or participate in, the taxpayers have a representative in the room:YOU. The people don’t hire lobbyists–YOU are their advocate in the Capitol. Last year I had a conversation with a GOP legislator after they cast a disappointing vote to extend a very regressive tax. One comment they made that I will always remember was, “But I heard from so many articulate policy experts about why extending the tax as a good idea–and no one came to my office to lobby against it.” Stay grounded, and remember that YOU are that lobbyist for the taxpaying citizens of California.
2. GOOD ADVICE ABOUNDS, SEEK IT OUT — Talk to your colleagues, and talk to those who have served and now are back in the private sector. Wisdom is power. Also, follow the Laws Of The Public Policy Process.
1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS, AND FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS — It doesn’t take a degree in mathematics or physics to understand that if in every game their team puts 78 players on the field and you have 42 players, your team is going to lose over, and over, and over again. Picking up a few legislative seats to go from super-minority status to nearly-super-minority status is an incremental gain, to be sure, but it does not really change the reality of your life as a GOP legislator in California–you are on defense, all of the time (unless you cut some deal and cast your vote to use the coercive power of government to screw over someone). Ignore the lame media spin that you are only effective as a legislator if you pass bills, since any bills of significance that pass pretty much suck. Focus your efforts outside of the Capitol, working to make sure next season more players on the field are wearing your team’s jersey.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.