What California politicians will wear for Halloween

No treat, all tricks

Greg Lucas’ state-politics column Capitol Lowdown appears every-other week in SN&R. He also blogs at www.californiascapitol.com.

It would be fascinating to know what costumes California’s political leaders are wearing tonight. Actually, it might be kinda scary.

Not to poach on the turf of doctors Oz and Phil, but Halloween-costume choice speaks volumes about the inner life of the chooser. Maybe that’s more information than Californians really want about their representatives in Sacramento.

Halloween dress-up is role-playing, realizing a fantasy. Elected officials are familiar with role-playing since, as the saying goes, politics is acting for ugly people. Halloween allows closeted personality traits or desires to be released for one night. Commonly, without consequence.

It’s shuddering to consider what dark desire might be left unplumbed by former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. But if there is one, he seems the sort to indulge it whether it’s Halloween or not.

But perhaps there’s a prim California Assembly member who buckles into a body harness and manacles to become Dog Boy, Mistress Svetlana’s devoted pet. For a few hours, anyway. A Republican legislator stymied by the two-thirds majorities held by Democrats might reasonably become Spider-Man, Captain America or Wonder Woman—saviors whose herculean do-gooding is idolized by a grateful populace.

Kids and adults wear different costumes (heavy). Kids tend to go as someone or something they aspire to—princess, cowboy, firefighter, ninja. Adults often use their costumes to mock celebrities, politicians or other public figures. “Kids tend to look up, while adults more often seek to satirize or put down,” is how one psychologist of costuming puts it. (Speaking of heavy.)

A tea-party type might wear one of those masks of President Barack Obama as a horned devil with bloodied fangs. What are the California Legislature’s so-called pro-business Democrats going to do? They can’t really satirize Republicans without being hypocritical, since that appears to be their aspiration. Maybe they go as the urban liberals in their caucus who believe they’re so virtuous, government should impose their lifestyle on all other less-enlightened Californians.

Dana Carvey once remarked that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was “too beautiful” to be human and therefore either: 1. made of wax, 2. gay or 3. both. What would bubble up from this mediagenic San Francisco Democrat’s inner self? A careworn Mission District denizen wrapped around a Tokay screw top? The patriarch of a hardscrabble Dust Bowl family? Or does he simply don a gauzy toga to set off his chiseledness and glory in the amplified adoration?

Given his modus operandi as governor, Jerry Brown would likely have a number of different costumes on hand, slipping into the appropriate one for the attendees of each Halloween party he visits.

At a chamber-of-commerce type event, Brown wouldn’t even need a costume. He could simply say he’s Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, a character who certainly embodies plenty of fine entrepreneurial traits.

It would be a bit more effort but, he could also claim he’s Gov. Frank Merriam—“Marble Top,” as he was nicknamed because of his baldness.

Back in 1934, when Merriam became California’s governor at 68, he was the oldest man to be sworn into the office. Brown was 72 in January 2011 when he took the oath for his current tour of duty. Although a Republican, Merriam signed legislation creating the state income tax and boosting the sales tax. Brown mostly recently backed Proposition 30, raising both state income and sales taxes. Temporarily, anyway.

Given his background in ancient Greek and Latin thought, Brown might prefer spending the evening spouting axioms of Cato the Elder, Cicero or Epictetus. He kinda has the profile. Maybe he could borrow a toga from Newsom, although a bit of hemming might be necessary.

Some politicians are comfortable enough in their own skin that Halloween isn’t anything special.

Connie Conway of Tulare, the Assembly Republican leader, says she requires no therapeutic, one-day personality makeover.

“I ride my broom every day,” Conway tells SN&R. “Have you seen the traffic along Highway 99? Now that’s scary.”