It’s the shortest month of the year, but state politicians managed to generate plenty of fodder for our monthly roundup of all things weird and frustrating.
This month in unexpected headlines
From the Press Herald: “LePage says his pay is so low, he feels like a priest or a nun.” (If you add together the Maine governor's salary and benefits, he makes at least $100,000 — nearly twice the median income of his constituents.)
And we have another contender in this category from Utah: “Chaffetz probes Bryce Canyon tweet welcoming Bears Ears.” This is the same representative who was recently yelled at by constituents at a town hall, who told him, “ Do your job.”
Asking for a second opinion on your Google search
When Oklahoma State Representative Justin Humphrey was trying to explain to the Intercept why his bill, which would force women to get permission from fathers before getting an abortion, was a good idea, he said, “I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions.” Like all explanations that start with the premise of nameless downtrodden men, it did not improve with subsequent points, especially when he began describing human biology in terms more appropriate to the Alien series. “But after you’re irresponsible,” he concluded, “then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
He was later asked to explain his explanation, and literally used the excuse, “I googled it.”
It is unclear how the various definitions on the Merriam-Webster website — “a living animal or plant on or in which a parasite lives,” or “one that receives or entertains guests socially, commercially, or officially,” or “the eucharistic bread” — led Humphrey to think that this was the best possible word choice, unless thinking about the women he was describing wasn’t on his to-do list.
If you drive past Green Oak, Michigan, on U.S. 23, there's a decent chance that you'll see a man in a pussy hat standing with a “DUMP CHUMP TRUMP” sign. Per the Livingston Daily, Tom Parker's been out protesting twice a day. His county voted overwhelmingly for Trump, so he gets a lot of middle fingers, which he greets with a thumbs-up. He is not the only solitary protester to get attention lately; one man drove two hours to get to the Syracuse Airport and greet arrivals with a sign that read, “ Welcome All With Visa.” There has been at least one pro-Trump lonely protester: On Presidents’ Day, Dion Cini went to the big “Not My President’s Day” rally in New York City with a big blue Trump flag.
Political Fashion Week
Free tip: Do not wear jeans to the floor of the North Dakota state Senate, because you will be asked to leave. Even if you are the governor. Governor Doug Burgum — who, per the AP, also wore jeans to his inauguration — was shooed away from the floor on February 15. The Senate Majority Leader told the Bismarck Tribune that Burgum was already aware of the ban “because we’ve been kind of trying to enforce that rule.” When asked on KVRR about the denim debacle, Burgum said, “If I thought there was, if I thought I could be a better governor by wearing a tie every day, I’d wear two of them, you know, every day.”
Not too far away in Devils Lake, a school banned yoga pants two years ago, making it clear that North Dakotans have very strong opinions about legwear. Of course, they aren't alone: A Montana legislator tried to make yoga pants — or rather “any device, costume, or covering that gives the appearance of or simulates the genitals, pubic hair, anus region, or pubic hair region” — illegal. No one seemed to agree with him that this was a problem. Finally, at the Nebraska State Capitol, don’t try to sit down if you’re wearing bedazzled jeans. The antique wood furniture is reportedly suffering for fashion.
Breakaway: California edition
Each age comes with its own secession movement, and right now, it’s California’s turn. One group tried and failed to get an initiative that would split California into six states on the ballot last year. Now organizers — including one man who told the Washington Post he is like “Galileo, Copernicus” — feel newly energized after the election didn’t go the way they wanted, and are collecting signatures for a new ballot question for 2019. The leader of Yes California lives in Russia, voted for Trump, and spends most of his time denying that his new homeland is pushing him to separate the United States from one of its most populous and economically important states. Politico points out that he is “by no means the first North American separatist who’s caught Moscow’s eye.” It is extremely unlikely that anything like a Calexit will ever happen, although after this past year, that may not be a sentiment that convinces anyone of anything.
Today’s political weather forecast: a slight dusting of Snowflakes
A few legislators in Arizona are sick of all the protesting and have thus introduced legislation that would allow law enforcement to arrest demonstrators under rules more commonly used against organized crime. Merely planning a protest would constitute racketeering under this legislation, which has already passed through the state Senate. One of the elected officials supporting this measure is a Republican from a town actually called Snowflake. The Washington Post later found out that there are multiple places in the country called Snowflake, and most of the people who live in them voted for Trump.
Things that were actually said at town halls during the congressional recess
A lot of good questions were asked at elected officials’ town halls this week — at least in districts where those officials bothered to show up to said town halls, instead of leaving their constituents to call them out by placing “ Missing” signs on all the milk cartons at the supermarket. When a bunch of pissed-off Americans come face-to-face with a very outnumbered public servant, it can lead to some strange dialogue that looks especially odd out of context — and that's even before we get to the representative trying to hold a Love, Actually town hall.
— “The only time I need Tums is when I have chocolate ice cream before I go to bed.”
— “Those of you who have studied the Bible know that God has used imperfect people to do great things before.”
— “ Shut your hole.”
— “Have I mentioned I went to seminary yet? I think you’re playing bingo out there.”
— “I kind of feel like we’re sitting in the dining room watching a presentation about how the backyard’s going to get reworked, and meanwhile, vandals have set the roof on fire.”
— “He’s deleting all the parks and PBS Kids just to make a wall.”