Shake on it

On 50 years' worth of constituent photo ops and other by-the-numbers goodies

Cataloging all the condemnations heaped on politicians would require a stupefying amount of square footage. Even if the list went back only to Pete Wilson instead of Pericles, it would still take serious shoehorning just to wedge everything into one of those Moffett dirigible hangars.

A common condemnation is that elected officials don’t do squat about what’s really important, as defined by the condemner, naturally. Skirting the wildly subjective question of what’s truly important, a big chunk of understanding elected officials is doing the numbers on who they actually represent.

Take a California state senator. (Please!) California’s senators have the largest legislative districts by population in the country. Sacramento’s very own Darrell Steinberg represents 936,301 people who live in Senate District 6, centered around Sacramento, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova.

As elected representatives go, Steinberg is darn conscientious. Conscientious enough that he might, no matter how briefly, think it would be swell to personally meet all of his 936,301 Senate District 6 constituents.

Shaking hands with 50 of his flock each day—a challenging but doable number given the other duties Steinberg shoulders as the unspeakably powerful president pro tempore of the Senate—would take 51 years. If he started today, Steinberg would be 104 when he finished and would have been term-limited out of being the 6th District senator for 49 of those 51 years.

He could blow off shaking hands with all the kids in the district. Elected representatives routinely say they’re striving to create a brighter future “going forward” for lil’ kiddos everywhere. (Can there be a future going backward?) But kids don’t vote.

Statewide, 24.6 percent of Californians are under the age of 18. The percentage is a bit higher in District 6, which would mean 244,261 fewer hands to shake.

As a compromise, Steinberg could kiss the 62,732 nippers under 5, leaving a net handshake reduction of 181,529. Just short of 42 years would cover that smaller universe.

Not all of the 692,040 residents who are of voting age can vote: Only 565,628 are citizens. Sticking to adult citizens yields a more manageable 31 years.

Another option would be not shaking hands with constituents of various ethnicities, or shaking the hands of only the percentage of those ethnicities that share the elected official’s party affiliation.

If he wanted to, Steinberg then could shake just 49 percent of the hands of District 6’s white, Latino, Asian-American and African-American constituents, which are 40 percent, 25 percent, 19 percent and 13 percent of the district’s population. Respectively.

But that would be bad. Steinberg would receive a welt-raising public-relations flogging for trying to marginalize Republicans. (Why bother? They got that covered themselves.)

What would really cut down on glad-handing time—probably not so glad after even a few 50-a-day weeks—is meeting only those constituents registered to vote. That’s a mere 433,215 persons in District 6. Under 24 years.

Better yet: Meet only those voting-age residents who are citizens and registered to vote but actually cast a ballot.

In 2010, when Steinberg was re-elected, 224,888 persons cast ballots of which 61 percent, or 137.012, voted Democrat. Meeting those 224,888 voters would take just 12.3 years. Steinberg would be barely 66, which is now the new 65.

If Steinberg was a partisan, tool nozzle scum bucket, he could only meet voters who cast a ballot for him, endorsing the bang-up job he’s done representing the people—or at least some percentage of the people—in District 6.

Darrell Steinberg is many things. Tool nozzle scum bucket, or even one of the two, he’s not.

But if he were either or both of the above, personally thanking those who demonstrated their deep appreciation for him by their votes would take scarcely 7.5 years.