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Los Angeles | Patt Morrison

Party Politics That Last Just 50 Soul-Baring Minutes

November 12, 2002|Patt Morrison

"Doc?"

The therapist looks up at the voice and sees the familiar face. The therapist is a PhD, not a doctor, but if it makes his clients feel better calling him "Doc," who is he to argue? The therapist invites him in and steers him to a seat by the Kleenex box; he can tell when a patient will be needing a tissue and he gets tired of standing up and walking it over.

"I know you haven't seen me for a while, but I'm glad you could fit me in," the man says lamely. What seems to be the problem?

Big sigh. "I dunno, Doc. It's like I've just lost my bearings. I used to be so sure of who I was and where I was going. And now?" He fiddles with the little English enamel box made to look like a psychiatrist's couch. The therapist knows the signs; he'll be bawling in 10 minutes, you can make book on it.

"It's like one day, I'm one kind of political party, and then the next day -- something completely different." And when did this start?

"Well, you heard what happened to me a week ago?" The therapist makes that professional, noncommittal, encouraging "mmm'' sound it took him two years to master.

"I was ... just ... wiped ... out. Blown out of the voting booth by the other party. The one that begins with a big-D, and I don't mean Dallas. It was like getting fired and having your girlfriend dump you and finding out your house is built on a toxic waste site, all at once. The Chargers won more than we did.

"It's like, what did I DO? Where did I go wrong? You know me, Doc. I was a winner! Look, I can show you pictures -- here's me with Nixon, me with Reagan, me with George Deukmejian -- OK, so not everybody had star power, but we were a TEAM. Howard Jarvis and I were just like THAT. I had the money, I had the voting base, I had Tom Selleck. And now I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of the G-O-P. Trent Lott wouldn't pee on me if Osama bin Laden set me on fire.

"I just don't feel like the party I used to be. I second-guess everything. I feel like two different parties, like my left and my right don't know what they're doing. I look in the mirror and I think, who am I? Would I rather be right than president? Heck, would I rather be right than insurance commissioner? It's pathetic." The blubbering begins. The therapist looks furtively at his watch -- right on schedule.

"I'm not just being paranoid. I can tell everybody's pointing at me and saying stuff like, 'Hey, I guess elephants really ARE extinct in California,' and 'Look, there goes the new California third party.'

"I can't even get girls -- women, I mean. I don't understand -- I'm rich. I have a nice house in the Anaheim Hills. I could afford to take care of them, so they could stay home and have a lot of kids -- I believe in family values. And do you think they give me the time of day? N-O. They run off to that other party, which if I may say so isn't exactly great-looking OR loyal, and you wouldn't want to know how it gets its money."

Have you had any suicidal thoughts?

"Oh, why bother with suicide when you're getting murdered? Suicide, homicide -- I've thought of everything. Some people say I commit suicide every primary election. I know I keep nominating guys who can't even beat Barbara Boxer -- but what about the principle of the thing?"

Has your family been supportive?

"Oh, yeah right. Bad enough the voters hate me. Then my own family -- backstabbing begins at home. You should hear the name-calling when we get together -- hypocrite, half-baked, throwback, carpetbagger. It hurts, y'know? It just hurts." He blows his nose in that manly way of crying without appearing to cry. He drops the tissue at the wastebasket at his feet. He misses.

"The worst part is my relatives out of state. Here I am, the big brother of the family, and THEY'RE the ones doing great, and they don't let me forget it. I got a snotty e-mail from my cousin in Alabama yesterday addressed to 'Dear Mister Republi-cant.' And now my brother-in-law in D.C., Mr. Velcroed-to-the-White-House, thinks he should be calling the shots -- like he really knows how to drive my car from 3,000 miles away. Just watch, with my luck, Arnold Schwarzenegger'll move back to Austria.''

The therapist is about to say that the time is up when, from the anteroom, there's the sound of "Ruffles and Flourishes," and then the triumphant brass clash of "Hail to the Chief." The patient looked startled.

"Is that who I think it is?"

The therapist sighs deeply. He goes to the door, opens it slightly. "Please take a seat, Gov. Davis. I'll be right with you."

*

Patt Morrison's column appears Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com

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