The current state of politics in the Inland Region is much like a 3D stereogram image. On the surface it looks like a colorful abstract pattern made up of unified images, a one dimensional amalgamation of repetitious shapes and vibrant colors, but stare at the picture deep and long enough and you see something else, a 3D image hidden within the pattern that eventually takes shape and pops out.
For months now I’ve been examining local politics much in the same way. I could see the surface, the various groups coalescing to support specific candidates and causes: a union here, an environmental group there, and politicos posing together in pictures shared on Facebook, liking each others’ smiling faces, commenting sometimes in cryptic language, and other times making overt statements about others who aren’t in their circle of “friends.” All the elements were there, but I couldn’t see beyond the surface, either my eyes weren’t fixed in the right direction or I didn’t look long enough to see the shape hidden within the pattern.
During the last election cycle, the Inland Region seemed to become “ground zero” for California’s progressive political movement. National groups like Democracy Alliance — a network of progressive donors including California billionaire Tom Steyer, labor unions, and environmental advocacy groups — have been planning and preparing for this battle for quite a while, hosting private convenings to discuss the building of an aligned progressive coalition to neutralize more “moderate” electeds. One of my high school classmates, a big Democratic Party donor, was in attendance at one such conference in 2015 and returned with one of the conference agendas as a special gift to me. It became a way for me to begin to make sense of what I was seeing. And just in time for Black History Month this year, I was given another gift.
The coalition that aligned to defeat Assembly member Cheryl Brown, one of California’s few African-American representatives in Sacramento, recently released a video outlining their strategy. The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) cited two pieces of legislation she didn’t support that would have benefited their union members as the reason for targeting her seat. In the video the union’s executive director stated that Ms. Brown didn’t support “our values.” I guess by “our values” he meant “their legislation.” The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the other union that participated in the effort, expressed the same concern, although she had overwhelming support from organizations that represent domestic workers, farmworkers, school workers, public safety workers, professors, agricultural workers, small business owners, autoworkers…I think I made my point. I’m still not clear whose values they are referring to in this case.
Also in the video were leaders of the Inland Region’s Sierra Club and Center for Community Action & Environmental Justice, who called Ms. Brown “co-opted” because she was a member of a voting bloc that wouldn’t support the state’s ambitious climate change legislation until a requirement to cut petroleum use by 50% was omitted. She was joined by her colleagues from the Inland Region including Assemblymembers Freddie Rodriguez and Jose Medina, who unlike her were not fiercely targeted in the last election cycle. For the co-opted and corrupt narrative to be true the coalition leaders had to ignore that many of the Inland leaders voted collectively in the best interest of their constituents, mindful that such a requirement would negatively economically impact the vast number of Inland residents who commute to work daily. If that is the truth, why create another narrative made up of “alternative facts” what thinking people simply refer to as “lies”? For example, one campaign claim from the coalition was that Ms. Brown took over a hundred thousand dollars in money from the state for personal expenses. That, in actuality, is the per diem that every state representative who lives 50 miles from the capital is given to live in Sacramento the required 4 days a week. Or that Chevron gave her a million dollars. Which was simply not true. Just like UFCW and SEIU, they funded independent campaigns in support of candidates and against others.
There were a few missing faces from the video including the former UFCW leader now Senator Connie Leyva who led the charge in the district, Democratic progressive leader Tom Steyer who funded local organizations to do canvassing and grassroots outreach, and the small faction of individuals who believe that such a large Latino population should be represented by someone who looks like them, regardless of the job being done by the person in office.
The alignment of diverse political interests are once again forming to try to unseat another Black woman elected to office in the Inland Region. This time it’s Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren. A recall started by a different group and possibly fueled by those tied to the Fontana Democratic Club, now has some of the same groups and individuals coalescing using the same playbook, the strategy outlined in the UFCW video: claims of ties to “special interests” and even the use of alliteration as a battle cry “Warehouse Warren” echoes the “Chevron Cheryl” campaign of last year. What I find interesting about the targeting of Mayor Warren, who is one of the most respected city leaders in our region, is that the real compromised city council, the one tied the closest to the developer of the largest proposed warehouse project in the country, is in Moreno Valley, 24 miles down the road. I suggest you start there if your real motive is what you claim. I can provide a long list of more obvious choices.
I see a new image starting to take shape. The progressive movement in the Inland Region is functioning much like the populist movement that ushered our current Administration into office, by using a nationalist ideology to divide and conquer. His was just blatant and less coded, he didn’t whisper his attacks he voiced them clearly from the stage to the chants and cheers of his followers. I can at least appreciate his directness. Writer/philosopher George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay on the topic, “Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.” It is “not only defined as alignment to a political entity”…but can also “encompass a religion, race, ideology, or any other abstract idea.” The progressive coalition leaders are behaving in the same manner as other nationalists. “Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty,” Orwell notes, but in part because they believe they are “unshakably certain they are in the right.” It may not be truthful and may not be honest, but they must believe the end justifies the means.
It’s easy to be distracted by the mess that our national political scene has become. There seems to be an attack daily on the values that so many of us hold dear. But it’s clear to me that we are under attack from the far left as well and that the leaders of the progressive movement in the Inland Region have decided that not all of us matter, that their way is the only right way, and that we are simply collateral damage in the battle for what they consider to be the greater good. As coalitions continue to align to attack our good elected leaders, will we continue to close our eyes to avoid reality and simply smile for the pictures they post on their Facebook pages or will we look deeper at the real image that’s under the surface? I promise if you stare hard enough, aiming your eyes through the image and into the distance, the true picture will take shape.
Just so you understand why there is mistrust and misgivings regarding certain movements that have historically maligned African-Americans I thought I'd include this interesting article on the topic.