A real genius for politics
We're dialing for democracy
THE VIRUS IS GONE & I WENT VIRAL
After 14 days with a mild(ish) case of Covid, I’m feeling better and testing negative! A big THANK YOU to everyone who reached out with get-well-soon messages and home remedies. In unrelated, but remarkably coincidental viral news, the literary hero of my dreams retweeted me, and now my notifications are blowing up 💥
Michael Estrin @slacker_noirIt's a bad sign for a democracy when the story about the leak gets more attention than the justices who perjured themselves so they could rob women of the right to make their own decisions about their bodies.
My Twitter feed is 60% jokes, 35% calls for democracy and the rule of law (see above), and 5% self-promotion. If you’re on Twitter, give me a follow and say hi!
And now, time for another Situation Normal story👇
Some people won’t answer their phone when the caller ID says Unknown Caller. But that’s not how I roll calls. I always answer when the caller ID says Unknown Caller. Why? Because I can’t resist a good mystery, that’s why.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello, is this Michael Estrin?”
“I hope so. I’m wearing his underwear.”
My joke was an obscure reference to the Val Kilmer classic Real Genius, but the caller wasn’t interested in my underwear, my jokes, or my affinity for underrated ‘80s comedies.
“Michael, my name is Maria and I’m with the SEIU.”
“The SEIU. The Service Employees International Union.”
“That’s awesome, Maria! What can I do for you?”
“I’m calling on behalf of the Henry Stern campaign for L.A. County board of supervisors,” Maria said. “Are you aware of the upcoming election?”
Did I know it was an election year? Of course I knew that, Maria. Everywhere I look, politicians are politicking, pundits are pontificating, and detectives all across the nation are under enormous pressure to solve all of their cases yesterday.
“Yes, I’ve heard the rumblings of an election.”
“Great. Are you familiar with Henry Stern?”
“Yes, he’s my state senator.”
That answer seemed to please Maria, but I could’ve added more detail. For one thing, Henry is the son of Daniel Stern, the actor who rode with Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby in City Slickers, and who voiced old Kevin Arnold in the original Wonder Years TV show. Daniel Stern also teamed up with Joe Pesci to play the bungling burglars in Home Alone. None of that has anything to do with Henry’s qualifications to hold office, and I doubt my pop culture knowledge would impress Maria, but it’s a fun fact to break out at cocktail parties.
“Great! Can Henry count on your vote for the June 7th primary?” Maria asked.
This wasn’t my first rodeo, so I was expecting Maria’s question. But I wasn’t quite ready to commit just yet. On the one hand, the Stern campaign was the only campaign that had asked for my vote. On the other hand, races for the L.A. County Board of supervisors are often determined by low-information voters — a reality that’s bad for democracy and, frankly, bad for anyone livin’ in L.A. County. Here’s how one local publication described L.A. County Board of supervisor races.
An L.A. County supervisor’s seat is one of the best gigs not just in the region, but in the entire state of California. The five supes each represent about 2 million people and ride herd on a budget of nearly $40 million, and they exert influence on everything from public health to the Sheriff’s Department. Anyone who wins a post is almost guaranteed to have the seat for three four-year terms. Perhaps best of all, there is relatively little scrutiny; far more attention is paid to the mayor of the city of Los Angeles than the supervisors.
Could Henry Stern, my state Senator and son of the actor Daniel Stern, count on my vote? I just wasn’t sure yet.
“Maria, I’ve got to be honest here. I think I need to do a little more research.”
“Well, is there anything I can help you with? What issues are you most concerned about? Henry has a strong plan to address climate change.”
“I’m sure he does, Maria. They’ve all got strong plans, or so they say.”
“Henry is the real thing.”
“I’ve voted for Henry in the past, and it says a lot about him that Labor is calling on his behalf. Plus, I like the fact that he’s on the young side. The Boomer politicians who want my vote don’t seem to give a shit that the planet is dying because they’ll be dead first.”
“I feel the same way, Michael. That’s why I support Henry.”
“But the thing is I’ve been burned before.”
“You remember the last Sheriff’s race?”
“I know a bunch of people who voted for our current Sheriff because he talked shit about Trump, but as it turned out, my friends voted against their values. They ended up electing a fascist dickhead and they gave that fascist dickhead a badge and a gun!”
“I hear you, Michael.”
“I promise to give Henry a fair look,” I said. “But I can’t commit my vote just yet.”
“That’s fair. I’m going to mark you as undecided in our system, so you’ll get another call from the campaign soon.”
“You promise, Maria?”
“I’m glad to hear you say that. Promises are cheap in an election year, but at least I can test your promise before I vote.”
“Good thinking, Michael.”
“In the meantime, I’m going to do my homework on this race, and you should do your homework too, Maria.”
“How do you mean?”
“At the start of our call I dropped a solid reference to Real Genius.”
“What’s Real Genius?”
“You’ve got a few days to figure that one out. Talk soon, Maria.”
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WHAT IF EVERYONE DIALED FOR DEMOCRACY?
Like Maria, I’ve also been known to dial, text, and knock doors for democracy. Millions of Americans just like us put the demos in democracy. But as you’ve probably noticed, democracy is more than just elections, it’s also about good government.
This week, the Senate will vote on a bill to codify Roe. In a narrow sense, this vote is about women’s reproductive freedom. But in a broader sense, it’s a critical opportunity to demand that our elected officials stand up for democracy and the rule of law.
I’ll be calling my Senators and Member of Congress, and I hope you’ll do the same. Will phone calls change the outcome? I don’t know—and neither do the pundits! What I do know is that silence fuels authoritarianism.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE STORY!
Hearing from readers brings me joy. Please leave a comment bellow👇
Or, if you’re the type of person who needs a prompt, consider the following questions:
What’s your favorite ‘80s comedy, and why is it Real Genius?
Being an L.A. County supervisor sounds like a sweet gig. I’m thinking of running next election cycle. What should my campaign slogan be?
What was Daniel Stern’s best performance? Hint: Stern’s best performance was in the role of Jimmy in the Cheech Marin classic Born in East L.A. The roll of Marvin in the film Coupe de Ville is also an acceptable answer, but I only know one other person who saw that movie. (And yes, Allison, Louie Louie is a sea shanty).
Who is the last politician who asked for your vote?
How come we never see movie criminals do crimes in non-election years, when the cops aren’t under any pressure to solve cases?
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