CHARLEYWORLD: Organizing Da House Ain’t Like Organizing A Closet

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BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – Some Hawaii residents are upset that it is taking the state House of Representatives too long to “get organized.”

That sadly shows a fundamental misconception about how politics works because it assumes that a complicated political body, even one dominated by one particular party, can be organized.


Usually when one invokes the word “organize,” it is used in the context of arranging things, like a sock drawer or garage, so that they function better and it is easier to find the things you are looking for.

In the context of political bodies, such as a chamber of a state house or the U.S. Congress, the term “organize” means to “make committee assignments and appoint people to certain posts so as to keep the level unbelievable chaos inherent in such institutes to a level that inspires citizens not to block off streets with horse carts and barrels of flour or storm any nearby Bastilles or armories.”

It is genetically impossible to actually organize a large room full of politicians elected to “serve the people” the way you would organize a sock drawer because socks don’t break down crying and beat their fists on desks when they don’t get promised a new fire hydrant in their district. And socks don’t threaten to tell law enforcement authorities about another sock’s indiscretion with an underage sock at a “Sock Retreat” in Las Vegas.

Currently, the Hawaii State House of Representatives is attempting to “get organized” before the legislative session begins on Jan. 19.

Rep. Calvin Say is the longest serving speaker since statehood and, arguably, one of the shortest. But usually, but not always, height is not one of the criteria used in naming a speaker.

Say, as of this writing, had 25 Democrat members supporting him out of the 51 member body.

Rep. Roy Takumi had 17 Democrat votes and neither side seemed interested in wooing any of the massive 8-member Republican caucus because, you know, they’re Republicans.

I believe that Republicans in the Hawaii legislature, by law, are considered three-fifths of an actual elected official.

At stake during such a period of “organization” is which bloc of representatives will control power in the House and which members will be appointed to the most influential committees, such as the mighty “Ways and Means Committee,” the less mighty “Ways and Plate Lunch Catering Committee” and the stupid “Ways and Snow Removal Committee.”

To figure out these important questions, the House members commence a lot of “horse tradin’ behind closed doors in smoky backrooms.”

Horses are trucked in specifically for this stage of the proceedings, as are smoke machines. If there are more than two factions vying for power, additional temporary backrooms are constructed out of plywood.

Although a lot of bickering, yelling, idle threats and nervous breakdowns ensue during these backroom meetings, some sensitive representatives do try to keep the level of discourse elevated by using Latin phrases such as “Et tu, Takumi?” and “Acta deos numquam mortalia fallunt,” which, I believe means “Your momma.”

Now, most people ( i.e. voters) will never know what happens during this period of “organization” because, in the interest of transparency and public accountability, all of the negotiations are conducted in secret.

It is something like the Conclave of Cardinals who are locked in building at the Vatican until they chose a new pope.

Except Hawaii politicians sometimes break into smaller groups and attend “mini-conclaves” at certain drinking establishments featuring “scantily-clad female voters” dancing near fire poles.

When white smoke issues forth from the drinking establishments or the bar bills top the annual budget of the “Ways and Snow Removal Committee” then the new speaker has been chosen. At least, I think that’s the way it goes.

If negotiations reach an impasse – which, in a state controlled by Democrats for about 134 years  has surprisingly happened several dozen times – a “power broker” or “governor-like person” is sent in to smack around the political combatants until their spirits are broken and they come to an agreement.

This usually happens in time for the members of the body gather together as a group in public and sing “Kumbaya” or “In-A-GaddaDaVida” to show the voters they united and are ready to walk hand-in-hand into the House chamber and get on with doing the “people’s business,” which is to say, “business that will rip the peoples’ wallets and purses from their persons, pour the peoples’ money into a large pile and shovel it into worthwhile projects like snow removal machinery, fire poles for drinking establishments, horse acquisitions and “Sock Retreats” in Las Vegas.





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