Thursday, July 17, 2014

California(s), Here I Come!

Six Californias map
Fearless blogger to the rescue! All twenty of my followers will, no doubt, rise to the occasion to turn back this scourge!

In the latest bald-faced evil Republican plot to steal the White House from the popular vote, Tim Draper, a Californian billionaire, has gathered over a million signatures on a petition to divide the state of California into six smaller states, thus diluting the impact of the huge liberal urban vote and tipping the balance of the US Senate solidly in the direction of the GOP.

It's gerrymandering on a macro scale, and it's hard to imagine anyone but the petition signers and the handful of conservative billionaires living in California voting for it,  not to mention the challenge of getting it through Congress, which has to approve changes in state borders by much larger majorities than the Republican party can generate, but even so, one has to give a nod of respect to the sheer audacity of the scheme. Claiming that this is in the best interests of Californian citizens is almost as brazen a lie as the pretense that this is anything other than a power play by the haves to wrest what little clout the have-nots retain.

It's wholly consistent with the dirty tricks Republicans have been bringing to bear in the years since the theft of the 2000 Presidential election, carving out Congressional districts so crazily drawn that there is no geographical sense to their boundaries, disqualifying minority voters by demanding identification it is difficult for them to produce, shutting down polling stations at hours more conducive to minority participation, creating obstacles to true majority rule that haven't been seen since the days of Jim Crow.

The thought of tearing apart California is revolting for a lot of reasons. This was my birth state (San Jose, 1961), and while I only lived in it during my toddler years, I've been back plenty of times. Oregon is my home, but I feel a deep affinity for the big state to the south. It's a state of diversity: racial, ethnic, religious, political, cultural; a state whose largest cities bear Spanish names while maintaining identities unique from each other; a state of magnificent mountains, searing deserts, rugged coastlines, crystal beaches, farmland that feeds the nation, vineyards whose wines rival those of any other region in the world; a state that has so perfected the presentation of American culture that its iconic images and products are internationally ubiquitous. Breaking up this state that is--well, not a microcosm, but at least a midicosm of America would be a travesty. Had I a vote in whatever election that may result of this plot, it would be cast in strident opposition.

I can understand where the desire to do such a thing comes from. California's reliable electoral votes for the Democratic Presidential candidate are a thorn in the side of Republican schemers. I feel the same way about the reliably homophobic votes commanded by the United Methodist conferences of the South, which keep my denominational home from making a single advance in gay inclusion in the last thirty years. And I admit I've often speculated (in this blog, even) that the answer is division: who needs the South, anyway? But that's just church politics I'm fulminating over. In this case, we're talking about an entire state which, despite a few thousand cranks in the far northern reaches who'd like to break away (along with Oregon's Rogue Valley) to form a new state called Jefferson, is both powerfully diverse and unified. No other state holds together the opposing forces of urban and rural politics as California does. If the Republicans want to nab some Californian electors, they need to craft a platform that works for a majority of Californians, and have it represented by a candidate who looks more like a 21st century American than the old white guys in suits who keep heading the ticket. It needs to acknowledge the growing gap between rich and poor, and address it in a way that actually works for the poor, rather than continuing to throw more and more money at the wealthy who already have more of the stuff than they know what to do with.

Of course, ranting about this from Portland, whence so many Californians have fled, is a futile endeavor. The people who can make this go away are all down there, not up here. But if you've got family or friends in California, I suggest you talk with them about the "Six Californias" idea, and get them on board with the resistance. California is a big, bright, crazily diverse state. Let's keep it in one piece.

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