Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Come the 'Chattering Class' Doesn't Care About California?

California, home to 30 million Americans, is the largest state in the United States. If it was a separate country, California would be the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. California is the largest center of so-called high technology. It is a center of aerospace technology. California is a huge agricultural state. It is the world's leading center of the film industry. California is a major destination for tourism in the U.S. California includes a couple of America's busiest ports. It is a center for rail, highway, and air transportation. California also has many key military installations and, for obvious reasons, is a strategic security zone.


Here are links to two news articles in two leading California newspapers in just the last week:

San Jose Mercury News, January 27th:

Starting in February, state Controller John Chiang plans to suspend some $3.7 billion in scheduled payments for at least 30 days... If the impasse stretches into March... the state may have to issue IOUs to vendors, taxpayers and other recipients of state funds...

Los Angeles Times, January 30th:

California officials must immediately implement Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's order that state employees take two days off without pay each month, a judge ruled Thursday, denying claims by unions and the controller that the governor's directive is illegal.

And yet...

For some reason the stupid, U.S. chattering class could not care less that California is on the brink of a total breakdown. As one who has lived and worked in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles area, up until now I've just been annoyed. Now with the state maybe weeks away from running out of cash, I am finally starting to get pissed!

All politics is local.

Unfortunately, for too many otherwise intelligent, sensitive political thinkers, all politics is presidential. Journalist and blogger, David Sirota, recently complained about

America's only authentic national religion... presidentiualism, the worship of the president as an all-powerful, all-knowing deity who is the only important political actor in our country.

Thus, at the very moment everybody is celebrating how "the system works" with the peaceful transfer of power from Republican George W. Bush to Democratic Barack Obama, nobody seems to care that the big state of California's dysfunctional system may run out of cash in a matter of weeks. All the Big League commentators care about is endless Washington gossip: Bush, Cheney, and their families and friends are about this; Obama, Biden, Clinton, and their families and friends are about that. They write about the adventures of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in Illinois only because of his connection to President Obama. They write about goings-on in Alaska only because of Gov. Sarah Palin's fifteen miniutes of fame as a vice-presidential candidate.

What is even more amazing is that even the most prominent California-based Web Sites are completely indifferent to our predicament. Go to the Web Sites and see for yourself.
Edited By: Robert Scheer
Contact Address:

1158 26th St., No. 443
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"Gore Lectures Congress, But Is It Too Late?"
"NFL Players Risk More Than Broken Bones"
"Blagojevich Pleads His Case"
"Colbert Turns O'Reilly Against Himself"
"Oprah for Senator?"

Mother Jones Online
Edited By: Monika Bauerlein, Clara Jeffery
Contact Address:

222 Sutter Street
6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"The Fed Awakens"
"Is Obama's Regulatory Czar a 'Radical Animal Rights Activist'?"
"A Silver Jew Fights Back: Indie Rocker David Berman"
"The People vs Dick Cheney"
"Paterson to NYC: Drop Dead"

Reason Online
Edited By: Nick Gillespie
Contact Address:

3415 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"The President is Not a Gunslinger"
"Obama, Race and Affirmative Action"
"Stimulus Won't Change the Education System's Status Quo"
"Bush Was a Big Government Disaster"

Edited By: Joan Walsh
Contact Address:

101 Spear Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94105

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"Ted Haggard's 'Miserable' Exile"
"Armey's Behavior Proves 'Commmon Ground' Talk is Inane"
"Dick Armey's Mysogynist History"
"Paul Krugman Unfairly Slaps Obama Around"
"Young, Black, Sexy, and Sad in San Francisco: Indie Film Review"

Salon is a case that I find particularly interesting, since I have been browsing this web site since its creation. In late 2003, there was a bitter runoff election for Mayor of San Francisco between Democrat Gavin Newsome and Green Party Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. The race was almost dead even and the Democrats pulled out their "top guns" including Kennedys, Clintons, and Al Gore to stop the San Francisco Green Party insurgency.

Near the climax of this drama, one of my all-time favorite examples of an over-the-top commentary saying, in effect, the sky would fall if Green Party candidates were elected to office was written by none other than Ms. Joan Walsh:

Posted on Salon, December 9, 2003.
San Francisco's Greens vs. Democrats grudge-match
By Joan Walsh

"Thank you for supporting a racist liar tonight!"

That's what groovy young Matt Gonzalez supporters, all but one of them white and well-pierced, shouted at a multiracial crowd of Gavin Newsom backers Monday night, when former President Clinton came to San Francisco to endorse the embattled Democratic candidate for mayor over his Green Party challenger. Nobody bothered to explain why Newsom was a racist, or a liar. It was the Gonzalez campaign in a sound bite: Sanctimony over substance, personality over policy, and a good time was had by all of his supporters -- a helluva good time! -- as they vilified the opposition without offering an agenda for change of their own.
. . .
Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi: Democrats in the last few weeks have gone all out to elect Newsom and defeat the Green Gonzalez. After Arnold Schwarzenegger's storming of Sacramento, the party can't afford to lose another stronghold. Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Brown, who's been savaged by Gonzalez, is making the Green's defeat and Newsom's election a test of his legacy. On the other side, local and national Greens have swarmed the city to try to elect Gonzalez, who'd be by far the highest-ranking Green if he defeats Newsom. And yet the Democrat-Green matchup doesn't fully describe the depth of the feeling catalyzed by the race.
. . .
And for all his lefty rhetoric, Gonzalez doesn't appear to have spent much time thinking about the issues that move many progressives, especially those having to do with poor children and families. By many accounts, he blew a chance to win over the liberal Human Services Network -- which still resents Newsom for his controversial "Care not Cash" homeless reform -- because when he visited the group, he simply hadn't mastered the details of service programs well enough to reassure even lefty program directors and agency heads he will do right by their clients.
. . .
Likewise Clinton worked the crowd, once he got there, with his trademark vigor and love of gladhanding retail politics. He stayed longer than anyone expected, telling campaign volunteers and reporters alike how much he respects Newsome. Outside, righteous young Gonzalez supporters heckled everyone leaving the building for supporting the "racist" Democrat. As I walked away, they were shouting down black minister and former supervisor Rev. Amos Brown, but they were calling him "Cecil Williams," the legendary leader of Glide Memorial Church, which Clinton visits on every trip to San Francisco. (The short, bearded Williams and the tall, clean-shaven Brown look absolutely nothing alike, except they're both black.)

You don't have to like Amos Brown or Cecil Williams to play a role in San Francisco politics, but you really ought to know who they are. But it was just another night of fun and self-righteous games for Gonzalez supporters. On Wednesday morning, we'll know whether it matters.

Since December 2003, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi spent five years not only enabling Mr. Bush's War, but also nodding and winking at secret domestic snooping, extraordinary renditions, etc. Gavin Newsome had his fifteen minutes of fame performing gay marriages before dissolving his own marriage, helping defeat Democrat John Kerry in 2004, and supplying "sound bites" for Proposition 8 opponents of gay marriage in 2008. Meanwhile, William Jefferson Clinton, the "First Black President" and dear friend of San Francisco's Rev. Cecil Williams went on to a vicious 2008 campaign in which, among other things, it was said Barack Obama could not appeal "to white people" with wicked friends like Chicago's Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

And by the way, that commentary way back in 2003 was the first... and last... time Cecil Williams has ever been mentioned in Salon and, as far as I know, the Green Party is the only Bay Area Institution (including the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police and the Mormon Church), that has ever been denounced in this way for being "Too White."

Let me be fair.

My purpose here is not to single out Ms. Walsh or Salon for criticism. The truth is that the passions of 2003 had nothing to do with any particular "issues" in San Francisco. Gavin Newsome and Matt Gonzales were "proxies" for Al Gore and Ralph Nader. And so, that long-forgotten election meant nothing but an opportunity for frustrated partisan Democrats to vent their hatred of Ralph Nader.

The "chattering class" didn't really give a damn about local issues "having to do with poor children and families" in 2003 and they still don't in 2009. Today, it really is true that the sky is falling in California for the poor, middle class, professionals, farmers, small businessmen, and even mainstream corporate managers.

But for the "chattering class" all politics is "inside baseball" around the Royal Palace on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

1 comment:

Wes said...

Alex, the point is that they all want California to fail. Both Republicans and Democrats will then blame the other and hope to sweep up a super majority forever in the aftermath. The media who depend on one side or the other for their news just goes along or they will never get another interview.