Tuesday, September 06, 2005


In the magnetic pull of Disneyland, all politics remained local...and vocal. A swing vote on the same-sex marriage bill headed for a California Assembly vote today or tomorrow was sandwiched at the pubic BBQ on Labor Day.

This is an atavism to those of us who have looking at politics awhile. Decades ago, we recall the stunned looks on the faces of teen students visiting the South Carolina legislature to see how the process worked. A highly charged bill came to floor, only to receive an immediate vote, with no discussion.

Where was the sound, the debate of democracy, the contention, the agon, the struggle for compromise?

Fact is, like most bills in most states, some grandstanding may occur. However, most legislators have made their decisions long before the public discussion. It's the professional lobbyists, the other lawmakers they deal with for what they want, and as often as not, the key constituents who call or hit them up at events like BBQs.

In this holiday weekend case, Assemblyman Tom Umberg (Democrat from Anaheim) got served opinions in both ears. Read all about it in the Los Angeles Times here. At this last public appearance before the vote, he said, "On only rare occasions have I walked into [the Assembly] chambers not knowing how I was going to vote on a bill, and this could be one of them."

Last time when the subject was before the Assembly, he abstained. So, both sides figure he can be had. The pro folk made calls to his honor (time to do the right thing), to his pragmatism (Attorney General Bill Lockyer saying it's only a matter of time before SSM is legal), and group pride (Democrats have to stand for something).

Whether Umberg is playing coy or just is overwhelmed on this one remains to be seen. A couple in the Assembly could make the difference on this one, and they are all high profile.

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