This partly concerns events that happened quite long ago.
But nothing they show about the role emotion and quotidian detail play in political life, or about the central importance to it of the arcane, mundane mechanics of redistricting or the scheduling of legislation, has altered much since then.
But the game of politics he had not
learned (and never did learn): the deal;
the nature of combinations; easy fellowship;
compromise; the slipperiness of logic; humor;
patience; generosity; the ready smile...
Robert Penn Warren
Howard Berman, who has, over his 40-year career, learned the game of politics very well indeed, is suddenly in the news again. This year, after his 14 terms of relatively uneventful re-election (by healthy margins) to the United States Congress, the theoretically non-partisan redistricting process that eliminated both his current district and the adjacent district of fellow Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman has thrown the two of them into a close and bitter contest — a contest that's been described in CalBuzz, admittedly uncharitably, as involving "a legend versus a schlemiel." The lawmakers are competing for the claim to a new San Fernando Valley district cobbled together predominantly from parts of the districts each has represented up until now — a stressful situation stemming from the passage of the 2008 ballot initiative in which Californians were persuaded (ironically, via funding, largely by Republicans, that played on voters' reflexive and usually delusionary preference for anything labeled "political reform") to substitute an appointed "citizens' commission" for the control over the redistricting process that traditionally had been exercised by whichever party (for the last three censuses it happens to have been the Democrats) was in the majority in Sacramento at census time. The impact of the change up to this point resembles nothing so much as the one resulting from the 1990 California ballot proposition that imposed term limits on state officeholders — another vote precipitated by reformist instincts — which is generally held to have been a disaster, and in fact, was largely rescinded by the voters in 2010.
Howard, who was first elected to the California Assembly in 1972, talks sometimes about "the legitimacy of strokes." Political strokes, he means — the smile, yes, and the handclasp, and the promptly returned call; the "How's it goin'?" with the answer listened to; the articulations of gratitude; “Thanks," and "Couldn't have worked it without you," and "Hey, you did a great job." He believes in the legitimacy of these things, which is to say he sees them not just as motions that have to be gone through, but as possessing some intrinsic validity to them; and he believes openly in the legitimacy of the rest of the game. This makes him something of an anomaly, and always has: a liberal politician with an intellectual bent endorsing these views over...read more