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Defending Newsom

I have to admit to being in a state of advanced confusion, particularly about politics and social policies. Every alt-whitie white supremacist I know is looking forward to Larry Elder becoming California’s next governor. Up and down the Central Valley, and the Imperial Valley, farmers who normally put up signs along their frontage roads praising the government water projects that provide them the wet welfare without which their farms would blow away in the dust, are now lining up to vote for a candidate who claims to want to end such government “pork” and “waste.” 

People living within the evacuation zones of the Dixie and Caldor fires see no inconsistency in railing against the “inherent corruption” of mail in ballots, and now damning the Postal Service for cutting back, amidst the flames, smoke and road closures, thereby risking the chance that their ballots won’t be counted. 

 People who vote to replace Governor Newsom with Larry Elder are voting against having Forest Service and state fire fighters to contain and control the wildfires ravaging our forests. According to Larry Elder’s Ayn Rand politics, public services like fire fighters, in the forests and in the cities, are immoral. They’re voting for a candidate who thinks that it is not the government’s job to build roads into their isolated communities, or to plow the snow off those roads in winter. Not the government’s job ensure that they have electrical, water or sewer services. Let alone the internet connections that allow them to whine about all the government excess burdening their lives. 

According to Larry Elder’s Ayn Rand politics, public services like fire fighters, in the forests and in the cities, are immoral. 

But it isn’t just the inconsistencies of alt-whitism that confound me. I went to the gym to exercise my broken leg today. In support of getting anti-recall voters out, I wore my union-made, all cloth, made in the USA mask, with “VOTE” printed across the front. A special gift, last year, from the good folks at Act Blue, for a small donation of $25. 

The mask came with cloth ear straps that were NOT elastic. And after a couple of washings, it has shrunk so that it is almost too tight to wear. It also has no metal bail across the nose part, to form down to keep from fogging glasses. But no problem, it wasn’t intended to be a useable mask, but rather a fundraising gimick. Again, not intended to be useful, just for fundraising. 

That is the most typical part of the dozens or more fund begging emails I get every day. “Send us money to help get our message out,” they cry. But rarely do they say much about what the message is that they want to get out. Never do they tell me whom their work will target or what they will say. A too small mask without elastic ear loops isn’t even intended to share the “VOTE” message with othe people.

Other writers have pointed out how little “organizing” or “get out the vote” money actually gets spent on outreach to minority or poverty communities. It’s understandable that fundraising isn’t directed at poor communities - they don’t have the money to donate. But it is less understandable why outreach efforts are not a primary focus of progressive or even liberal groups. 

 There once was a group named “Swing Left,” which postured itself as a grassroots effort to get out the vote with door-to-door canvassing and ‘phone banks. They were successful enough that they got absorbed by the Democratic Party fundraising machinery. Now they still do canvassing and ‘phone banks, but as a commercial operation, with scripts and supervisors making sure that no one gets suckered into actual conversations with voters. 

“Stay on script. Don’t let “them” get you into long conversations which slow you down.” “Tell them what they need to know, don’t let them “waste time” telling you what issues they care about.”

Spring Left operators like to brag about their successes in 2020. If I recall correctly, the efforts of Swing Left and other Democratic machine operations gave us a DECREASE in Democratic House members. Excuse me if I don’t mark this as a great success. 

There is no end of publicity for work to turn out Republican voters in the “red” farming communities of California. There is also very little apparent recognition by the Democratic Party that although the farms may be owned by rich Republicans, they are worked by faceless, nameless hordes of potential voters, people who could be convinced to support social safety net programs, reasonable, safe working conditions, at least minimally effective health care. 

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But I have never received even one email solicitation for any outreach program to the working poor, even those who speak English. 

Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta built a movement by reaching out to individual farm workers in the fields. Just as black ministers built the civil rights movement by organizing impoverished parishioners in tiny country churces. They hadn’t felt the “helping hands” of Democratic Party machine politicians, instructing them that it was important to tell their workers and their parishioners what they should believe, instead of asking them what they did believe and asking them what they wanted from politicians. 

As I watched the new Barack Obama ad telling people to vote against the recall, I started remembering Delores Huerta. While so many of the recall opponent messages are grim and warning, President Obama presents with a smile constantly on his face. His message seems to be “si, se peuda,” Delores Huerta’s famous slogan for farmwokers who were being constantly told what they couldn’t do. 

In the 19th century, the Grange Movement organized rural farmers, among the lowest of the impoverished laboring classes. By addressing what was important to the farmers, rather than to party politicians, the Grange Movement built power, and ended up affecting the creation of the Farm Credit Bureau, free postal delivery to rural communities, consumer cooperatives, and laws regulating excessive railroad charges. (The railroads had only succeeded with massive government subsidies, but then they wanted “capitalistic” freedom to rape farmers with excessive shipping charges.) 

At its height, the Grange Movement brought the nation progress which benefited both farmers and urban society. The Grange Movement called for universal sufferage. States that are now reliably “red” were, a century ago, the first to give women the vote, and were actively progressive. Their examples, both of success and then of being co-opted, should be encouraging.

(Sadly, the Grange Movement recognized and worked for the equality of women, but not of non-white Americans. When remembering good pieces of history, it is very important to admit the clay feet as well.) 

Jerry Falwell’s corporate-centric “moral majority” worked to encourage members to pursue seats on local school boards and town offices, at a time when corporations were wooing black ministers with blandishments of commercial televangelism and megachurches - telling them to dump the local concerns of backwoods chapels and parishioners for the bright lights of commercial church fundraising, always fundraising for good purposes, of course. 

While the moral majority took over issues once championed by Grange and locally focused progressives, the Democratic Party focused ever more tightly on “important” national policies, all but abandoning the poor, rural, and factory working folks that had been its base. There was a nonsensical assumption that the base would always be there. (That same assumption, inverted, now has both Democratic and Republican leaders making no effort to change or to secure, respectively, the “Donald-base.”) 

tom hall

So we ended up with Democrats essentially abandoning blue collar America. It is the political realization of WW-I’s “How’re you going to keep them down on the farm, once they’ve seen Paris?” And the result is a popular governor, about to be recalled because the Democratic Party simply isn’t aware of the interests and needs of millions of voters who have been convinced that Republican Party policies which give them every year lower wages, poorer schools and lesser healthcare, are the only practical option they have. 

The confusion is apparent in writings of pseudo-progressives who condemn Democrats for not being even more focused on national and international issues, even more isolated from the increasingly impoverished working classes. 

Whatever the outcome of the recall election, the Republican Party is collapsing under the weight of its own Trumpian excesses. Bragging about intentions to revolution, or at least a new civil war. All but declaring war on women and non-white people. A governor Larry Elder will be a national joke. In the language of the literary world, a very black comedy. 

Perhaps losing the recall election might motivate the Democratic Party to re-examine its roots - reconnect with the ideals of using government to empower the least powerful, in the language of the Constitution, to “promote the general welfare.” President Biden seems to have some of that spirit. 

Tom Hall

 But then again, governor Larry Elder will have to contend with a legislature filled with a super-majority of Democrats - few of whom have shown any awareness of the roots of decay in their own party. Maybe they’ll just keep sending fundraising emails, offering us premiums like unwearable masks. 

Tom Hall