California Attorney General, Rob Bonta (official)

Several years ago, while working with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color through PolicyLink in Oakland, California, I had a front row seat to the inner workings of one of the most exciting times in California politics.  This meant that I got to cross paths with everyone from both Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom (as Lieutenant Governor) as well as Kamala Harris (as Attorney General) Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, who at the time represented my Assembly District in Oakland.  What struck me about AG Bonta was a combination of earnestness and accessibility.  Having witnessed him in listening sessions with local youth, I got to experience how well he listened, how much insight he had and the fact that his deep, deep compassion for human beings sits at the center of his political and legal mind. Maybe this is because of his background as an immigrant and a person of color; maybe he learned this in school.  Regardless of any personal opinions one may have about his political dealings, Rob Bonta is someone I have personally witnessed as a straight up good guy.

Ron DeSantis however, is another story.  I do not know him.  I’ve never met him.  I’ve never seen him publicly interact with anyone who looks like me (in fact, I’ve never seen him interact with anyone who wasn’t white).  His policies are atrocious and bigoted with little rationale beyond scoring conservative political points.  Inclusive of his many short comings, I find great irony in his resistance to the history of race and oppression being taught in Florida schools because so much of that history intersects with the different forms of human trafficking.

Only the most ignorant of people would not be able to understand that the coerced and or forced capture and transportation of human beings against their will or without their knowledge for profit (monetary or political capital) is literally trafficking.  This is what happened to enslaved Africans; it is what happened to Jews during the Holocaust; it is what happened to Native children removed to “Indian Schools”; it happens to vulnerable women and children around the world and more.  Shockingly, it is what is now happening with migrants entering the US at the southern border.  DeSantis, and equally culpable migrant runner, Gov. Greg Abbott will deflect from the truth of their actions, stating that they are somehow acting in these people’s best interest by moving them along to “sanctuary cities”, but the truth is that if you put someone in a bus, or plane against their will, or without their full understanding of where they are going, it is an act of kidnapping.  If there is financial compensation involved, it is an act of trafficking.

DeSantis and Abbot do not condemn these actions and they’ve tried to distance themselves from the facts, but the paper trails lead, most pointedly to DeSantis and his Florida government.  Although I recognize that we are a country of laws and that one is innocent until proven guilty, no one asked the migrants who have become pawns in this disgusting political show and I somehow believe that the laws of the land that entitle DeSantis to a full investigation should not outweigh the laws of humanity or human decency.  His involvement in any part of this display needs to disqualify him from any public office, let alone the Presidency of the United States.

If DeSantis is willing to participate in this kind of action, what’s to say he won’t try to cook up something just as draconian for transgender people in Florida…or worse as President for the country?  What’s to stop him from locking up women seeking abortion care and shipping them off to Minnesota?  If you teach CRT will you be packed off to New Zealand?  Will he bus Mickey Mouse back to California?

Rob Bonta, besides being a good guy is also a brilliant and highly detail oriented legal professional.  I trust that he will put his Yale degree to better use than DeSantis is putting his.  I also trust that he will blend that technical knowledge with his lifelong commitment to justice and humanity. He will find the legal facts but he won’t forget the people impacted by them.  The lottery of birth location is challenging to witness here because if anyone should be able to run for president its Bonta and not DeSantis.



Cleaning House

SOMETIME in the early 1990s I wrote the outline for a musical. I was still entertaining the idea of being the next Cole Porter/Stephen Sondheim and made it a regular habit to fully think through the concept, major plot points and even sketch out some of the numbers for the next great American musical.  One of those ideas was about a cleaning woman in an office.  As someone who spent much of his early professional life as an Executive Secretary (we weren’t yet called Administrative Assistants), I spent a lot of time after hours with the cleaning crews that came in at the end of the day.  In New York in the late 80s early 90s most of them were from Mexico and Central and South America with the odd Eastern European here and there; many of the maintenance folks were black men…the same age and generation as my parents.  None of these people were stupid or incompetent regardless of their language skills.  They were all working hard to support families and often putting children through expensive schools.  They were understandably proud of what they did.

My idea was a story about a woman who cleaned the office of a rising junior executive.  Unbeknownst to her, it was the office of her own son.  He Americanized his name and fabricated a story about his parents being dead…so his boss and the office didn’t know about his mother…let alone that she was a cleaning woman…let alone his cleaning woman. Basically, both the mother and the son were keeping each other secret from one another.

Mayhem ensues…

I think this story is not unusual in some ways.  Many hard-working parents do things that some kids with certain kinds of aspirations might not be super proud of…although they should be.  These parents clean, they janitor, they cook, they wait tables, they work retail, they work on assembly lines.  And they do it out of love and the belief that if they provide something for their children that can give them a solid education and a belief in their own ability to achieve something, they will have more choices than their parents.  This is one telling, out of many, of the American dream.  We like this story.  Sacrifice, success, dignity, pride, paycheck to paycheck, tough choices…its all there.

It is a shame that with so many working Americans having these stories, more of them aren’t told honestly.  The halls of government are increasingly for the wealthy.  This is actually not new, but it is on a different scale.  The level and extremity of wealth is something that is remarkable[1] and should be alarming to anyone who believes that they are being represented by “regular folks” in the government. Actually being a bartender[2] or an immigrant[3]…or the child of a cleaning woman should be a perspective that is regarded as being as valuable to making public policy as any degree from a higher learning institution, real or imagined.  This is not to say that millionaires like Kevin McCarthy[4], Matt Gaetz[5] and Marjorie Taylor Greene[6] don’t understand work, but work feels different when missing rent is a recent memory, or even current situation.

The point is, Congress is getting exactly what it deserves right now.  The priority is wealth: personal wealth, fundraising wealth, protecting the wealth of the wealthy in policy.  This is not government; this is a private club.  No one should be surprised that lies (including abominable lies[7]) are the price of admission.  There are book deals and media buzz and a sweet pension on the other side of the threshold.  Constituents?  Personal narrative? Integrity? Not so much.

We need more cleaning women making public policy.  At the very least, we’d know their real names.



[1] A 501tax-exempt, charitable organization 1300 L. St NW, and Suite 200 Washington, “Majority of Lawmakers in 116th Congress Are Millionaires,” OpenSecrets News, April 23, 2020,

[2] Lisa Miller, “The Unprecedented AOC,” Intelligencer, February 11, 2022,

[3] “Ilhan Omar Is Unlike Anyone Who Has Served in Congress. This Is Her Complicated American Story.,” Washington Post, accessed January 30, 2023,

[4] Federick Brown, “Kevin McCarthy Net Worth 2023: Salary Wife Cars House Income,” January 5, 2023,

[5] “Matt Gaetz Net Worth: Lawmaker’s Parents Among America’s Ultra Rich 1%,” accessed January 30, 2023,

[6] Steve Bennett, “Marjorie Taylor Greene Net Worth 2023: Salary Assets (MTG),” December 20, 2022,

[7] “George Santos, Who Lied About Being Jewish, Gives Speech About Antisemitism on House Floor,” Jezebel, January 27, 2023,