Thursday, September 08, 2011

Political Rochambeau in the State Capitol Waning Days of Session

THe last two days in the legislature have been intense and insane. It is the last week of legislative session for the entire year. Tomorrow at midnight is the constitutionally mandated "drop dead" time for getting legislation passed. The final week of session in California bears no resemblance to anything. Nothing in Washington, nothing in California legislature the rest of the year, nothing in nature can prepare you for this. I take that back. Picture a swarm of drunken bees at a cocktail party being responsible for lawmaking and you might get some notion of it. Both the Senate and Assembly floors are in session day and night. Lobbyists in power suits swarm the 3rd floor "well" outside the entrances to the floors. Most members of the legislature use the optional doors on the other side to avoid the lobbyists, so I"ve never understood how this is a good place to be. It is, however, THE place to be the end of session. Most of the time most of the people have nothing to do but wait. It is a dangerous thing to have so many people in suits representing powerful interests standing in one place with nothing to do. Recent studies of human organizations show that in the absence of information, humans will, scientifically put, make shit up. Case in point the last week of session: Bored out of their mind, lobbyists engage in a dangerous form of political rochambeau: take one fact, two lies and an interest group and mix it deftly into an unsubstantiated rumor. Rumor in hand, start to "walk the halls" telling everyone you meet the rumor. As you tell it, get more and more invested in its veracity, importance and the righteousness of your cause. If possible, work yourself up into a sort of angry frenzy. When you first concocted the rumor, you thought it was merely a plausible and intriguing scenario, something that might be true and if it was, woah wouldn't that be someting? As you tell it and retell it, you find that it IS true. More than that, you find that you are really outraged that this has happened. You want others to be outraged too. When, occasionally, a listener pushes back on the story, questioning even your own thin internal reasoning, that adds to the outrage. How DARE you question my veracity? In effect you're thinking, this really IS a good rumor! I KNOW for a fact that it's a good rumor because I'm the one who made it up and am spreading it. Don't tell ME that this isn't true! You spread it enough that others hear it and begin to spread it too. The opposition (and there's always opposition) quickly gets wind of it and begins chasing down its source. Could this really be true? How did this happen? Is there really going to be an extra session this week? are they really doing a last minute evisceration of my bill? Is there really an initiative being filed on this subject while we speak? The efforts to chase down the rumor lead to confusion and anger. NO. We are not filing an initiative. Where did you get that? NO. there is not an extraordinary session next week. The people who are being lied about now have to figure out who is doing the lying. And the circle of life continues in this tiny town called the capitol. The secret, I've found, is to secure a safe haven in someone's office in the capitol, a comfortable chair, a computer monitor to watch the floor and wait for the rumors to reach you. They always do.

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