html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: The karma bus drives in short circles.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The karma bus drives in short circles.

Like reasonable people, I am dismayed that Senate President Pro Tem Perata locked three Democratic Senators out of their offices for attending a caucus for Senate moderates.
Over the weekend, Senate leader Don Perata had ordered the locks changed on the offices of newly elected Sens. Ron Calderon, Lou Correa and Gloria Negrete-McLeod as punishment for attending a fundraising dinner Thursday, hosted by the Assembly moderate caucus.
I happen to believe those three Senators are my employees, and I am not pleased that Perata prevented them for working for me for several hours on Monday. I also can’t understand how Perata calculated that he would look good after throwing a temper tantrum because his colleagues attended a function for political moderates. People don’t rush to take your side against The Moderates.

The gesture itself is interesting. I like displays of power that are more involved than chest-thumping and I like it when people remember a physical solution, use the physical environment as a tool. I am puzzled about how he actually got the locks changed in a weekend. I’m guessing the Senate offices are in a state building; those are maintained by the Department of General Services. In a state building, no one but DGS is allowed to touch the structure. Seriously. We can’t change a light bulb, hang a whiteboard, anything. But I cannot imagine that he got someone from DGS to change locks in a weekend. Never. I mean, if he managed that, he can make anything happen and he deserves to be President of the whole world and King of everything. DGS fixing something in one weekend. No way. So he must have gotten a locksmith in there on his personal authority. Did he pay for that? Himself? Who did? Did Perata snap at an aide to “make it happen”? How did the aide get the nerve? Was the locksmith shaking his head the whole time? Would Perata be personally liable for vandalizing a state building?

I think Perata’s fit of pique was a terrible idea for him. Political fallout, sure, yeah. But more important is that whether or not those three senators adhere to his discipline, they will always remember the feeling of wandering the halls that morning, stunned they couldn’t get into their own offices and awkward in front of their colleagues. They may decide to work with Perata, but they will never have good will towards him again. Perata may not think he needs that now, but life is long and circumstances twist and the world is small, small, small. I’m still young, but I’ve already seen it enough that I nearly always take the high road. When people do hurtful things, I act gracious with a fake smile on my face and bitter gall in my heart, but I do it. And I can think of half a dozen times when I’ve been grateful I did. I needed a favor from them later, or found out they had enough grief without me piling on, or they turned out to be the person who could connect me to something valuable. I very rarely regret the times when I didn’t spite someone in return (with the big exception that I still wish I had vandalized the ex’s cars before they left town. Everyone would have known it was me, though.). Perata will need something from one of those senators one day and then he’ll have to grovel enough to fix the way they felt that morning. That’s an awful lot of groveling for a stupid stunt. When the day comes, locking them out will not have been worth it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might not like the tactic, but here's some reasoning:

First of all, he had a broad rule against all Caucuses, not just the business Democrat caucus. But it's a caucus that has been destructive to consumer and environmental causes.

Second, the temporary lockout is SO much milder than other potential actions. Like firing all their staff. Or physically moving them to the "doghouse," the smallest office in the Capitol. Or removing them from key political assignments. Or running a candidate against them. Or holding up all their bills in Appropriations. Or... you get the point. It's a warning signal, before you get to the meaningful stuff that actually had an impact on people and policy.

Third, there are no permanent friendships or enemies in politics. One of the Senators locked out was hand-picked by Perata to run last year. But you might be right: the signal may be more to the other Senators than to the three who didn't have an office for a morning.


12:51 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey friend!
I think the tactic itself is pretty cool, but I'm against making people feel small. They remember that forever.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite physical solution was when all those Texan reps left the state in 2003 and hid out in motels to make it impossible for there to be a vote on re-districting. Genius.

12:03 PM  
Blogger lil miss dubin said...

>> When people do hurtful things, I act gracious with a fake smile on my face and bitter gall in my heart, but I do it. And I can think of half a dozen times when I’ve been grateful I did.<<

Totally. It's extra hard for me to do that, but when I manage it I am glad almost without exception, and when I don't manage it, I am regretful almost without exception.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yeah. Sadly, the gladness for being a bigger person and the regret for being petty have been consistently reinforced.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, wow, lil miss dubin is my age. For some reason I'd always assumed she was much younger, like 21 or something.


2:25 PM  
Blogger jens said...

If you called yourself "Lil Miss Justin", you would seem a bit younger too.

Please don't.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

I used to believe this. Completely. But after two and a half years in law school I'm really starting to wonder if that policy isn't making me a really good target. I used to think, "I could do something, but I won't." And feel better. But now I think, "I could do something, but they know I won't." And feel worse. Much worse. Than I ever thought a policy of trying to be gracious and a non-asshole would ever feel.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So grown up, so civilized. And yes, probably better for you all around.

Still... don't you have moments... I'm reminded of Coleridge's poem, The Raven; the ultimate ode to revenge (really, schadenfreude).

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I used to believe this. Completely. But after two and a half years in law school I'm really starting to wonder if that policy isn't making me a really good target."

Not fully, but to a large extent we get to choose who we interact with. It's clear that cheek-turning behavior can be used against you. However, you can choose to minimize interactions with those who treat you poorly. Maximize contact with those who engage in reciprocal altruism. You don't get revenge but (and?) your life gets better.

I always wonder about why so many lawyers are so unhappy. Maybe it is the short circles from falling in with a bad crowd.


9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Locking people *out* is for wimps. Jesse Unruh locked 'em all *in* -- didn't let the offending parties out of the assembly chamber for 24 hours, until they finally cracked.


4:48 PM  

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