Street art in Mexico City, Mexico.
Photo by Geraint Rowland Photography
Street art in Mexico City, Mexico.
Photo by Geraint Rowland Photography
Photo Credit: ilozavr / Shutterstock
For the past two decades, California has been on the cutting edge of social and economic change in America. Now, with Donald Trump about to enter the Oval Office, the Golden State is poised to take on a new role: leader of the anti-Trump resistance.
California’s frontline position in opposing Trump is not merely a reflection of its deep-blue politics. On many of the flashpoint issues expected to define Trump’s presidency, California has a tremendous amount at stake. As the new administration tries to reverse the significant gains made on immigrant rights, climate change, criminal justice and workers’ rights, to name a few subjects, many of the fiercest battles in the country will be fought up and down the state.
Can California lead the resistance to Trump’s right-wing agenda and continue to be in the vanguard of advancing progressive change? Yes – and in fact, the two are inextricably linked, both tactically and symbolically. In the months and years to come, California must become like the best sports teams, capable of playing defense and offense at the highest level.
Why California Must Lead
No state rivals California either in the dimensions of its population or economy. At just under 40 million people, California has more residents than the nation’s 20 least densely populated states put together. Its economy is the sixth-largest in the world, trailing only the U.S., China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
California is also home to several of the nation’s most powerful and influential industries, including high tech and entertainment. Both Silicon Valley and Hollywood wield enormous economic clout, and are key shapers of consumer habits and cultural norms.
Why is this significant? Because California has the ability to exert enormous pressure on everything from markets and mores to politics and policy, a position it has ably demonstrated in its leadership role in addressing climate change, despite federal inaction.
Size and economic strength by themselves are not enough. But over the past 20 years, California has acquired another key comparative advantage: It has developed some of the most innovative social movements in the country – and exported them to cities across the U.S. These movements have secured rights for immigrants, boosted worker pay, protected LGBTQ Californians and pushed the state forward on addressing climate change. They will be called upon to use their organizing prowess to hold the line against Trump even as they continue to push the envelope of social and economic justice in California and beyond.
California advocates have succeeded in large part by mobilizing an incredibly diverse set of stakeholders. This will pay big dividends now, as very disparate groups of people – immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, the poor, women, communities already suffering the effects of climate change – see their interests threatened by the Trump administration. The experience of working together across racial, ethnic, geographic and class lines will lend itself to the creation of even broader alliances – so broad that California could be a key base for the biggest and most diverse progressive coalition the nation has ever seen.
While California’s anti-Trump coalition will need to develop the capacity to fight many battles at once, one initial front will surely be immigration. If Trump makes good on his campaign promises, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants will be faced with deportation, many of them DREAMers protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The economic, social and human costs of disrupting the lives of so many Californian families are staggering. Recognizing this, state and local leaders have vowed to resist efforts targeting immigrants, setting the stage for high-stakes confrontations with the new administration.
No less dramatic will be the battles over climate change. Governor Jerry Brown has vowed to oppose any efforts to roll back the state’s pioneering environmental policies (including a promise to have California launch its own satellites to gather information on global warming!), and he will be joined by a broad-based group of business leaders and activists.
Another flashpoint will be workers’ rights. Fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder is likely to be the new labor secretary: He is on the record as opposing increases in the minimum wage and expansion of overtime pay and is clearly no ally of those who seek to rein in the abuse of independent contractors and gig-economy workers. In California, the nation’s strongest labor movement, together with community and business allies, has enacted some of the most far-reaching worker protections in the country; we will need to stand firm on what we’ve won and stand strong against an assault on labor rights.
More broadly, unions face an existential crisis under a President Trump. Just last year, the Supreme Court heard a key case initiated out of the Golden State, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which anti-labor advocates sued to eliminate the ability of unions to collect dues for collective bargaining. Down one justice, the Court deadlocked – but since a tie sets no national precedent, another version of the same sort of case is widely expected to come up once Trump fills the open seat. Californians will have to be among those opposing any Court nominee likely to ignore worker, minority or women’s rights.
Another bone of likely contention: Trump can also be expected to push hard on a law-and-order agenda that will fly in the face of efforts to reform the criminal justice system. After recognizing its own disastrous infatuation with over-incarceration, California has embraced recent initiatives to reduce the sentences of nonviolent offenders and to ban labor market discrimination against former felons. This will be another policy battleground and will provide the opportunity to showcase a national counter-example to Trump’s fear-driven attempt to strengthen law enforcement at the expense of civil rights.
The Challenges Ahead
While California is well positioned to lead the charge against Trump, the success of these efforts is not inevitable. The challenges ahead include the risks of factionalism, the rise of extremism and the need to craft a new relationship with business forces.
When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, left-of-center political forces fragmented badly, expediting the rise of conservatism, which in turn has dominated national politics ever since. California’s progressive movement does not appear to be headed in this direction, but Trump has proven himself a master at dividing and conquering, and he will no doubt pursue the same strategy as president. He will also attack on many fronts, creating a strain on resources and the possibility of destructive in-fighting.
And although California may currently vote progressive, it is also no stranger to extremism. The descendants of the John Birch Society are alive and well, the Tea Party has its Golden State adherents and it’s worth recalling that Rush Limbaugh got his talk-radio start in Sacramento. With Trump in the White House, the right in general and the politics of hate in particular may well get a boost. The inland and rural regions of California have been the traditional breeding grounds for white nationalism, but the alt right is also operating in the state’s urban population centers.
Finally, some business leaders, lured by tax cuts, deregulation and union-busting, will be supportive of the Trump agenda even if they are repulsed by the anti-immigrant and anti-trade rhetoric. Other business leaders have a more balanced perspective, recognizing that a strong and sustainable economy requires that wages rise, racial inclusion occurs and the planet is protected. Progressives will have to figure out where alliances are possible and effective. This is particularly important in California, where some “business Democrats” often side with corporate lobbies on critical environmental and labor legislation. While several such elected officials found themselves unelected in 2016, others may be emboldened by Trump and his brand of scorched-earth capitalism. This could pose a serious risk to progressive priorities, even with the Democratic super-majority in the state legislature.
As Trump and his allies wage war on all fronts, a weariness may set in – and along with it a tendency to take refuge in California’s different political reality. That would be a very costly mistake. Not only must California help the country fight back, it must not take its own prolific advances for granted.
After all, it was only two decades ago that we were convulsed by our own anti-immigrant hysteria in the form of Proposition 187, a law that sought to strip all services, including education, from undocumented immigrants. It passed with an overwhelming majority, and the state soon followed with an electoral attack on affirmative action and aggressive efforts to criminalize black and Latino youth. And even as the nation voted for Obama in 2008, California voted for Proposition 8, stripping the rights of same-sex couples to marry.
We’ve come out of our political morass, not just because time has passed and demographics have shifted, but also because of a new hard-fought and hard-forged politics and social compact. With the nation now experiencing its own “Prop 187 moment,” we have a responsibility to help others avoid our own mistakes and accelerate the country’s path to a more inclusive future.
We will also need to lead by example. For all of California’s political progress, we still have one of the highest levels of inequality in the country, some of the most polluted communities, huge shortages of affordable housing, a massive homeless population, ongoing police brutality and one of the nation’s highest number of people caught up in the criminal justice system.
Even in the Trump era, California can tackle these problems – but it will require old relationships and new allies, solid institutions and innovative strategies, long-standing-values and a fresh and compelling vision of our future. All this will require a clarity of purpose, a level of passion and strength of resolve that few of us have been called on to summon.
So get ready. The battle begins now.
The speech delivered by Donald Trump Friday at his inauguration as president has no parallel in American history. It was a violent, nationalistic tirade, with distinctly fascistic overtones. Trump proclaimed his program to be “America First,” threatening the rest of the world with dire consequences if they did not submit to his demands, both economic and political.
The speech was anything but an “inaugural address” in the sense of outlining at the beginning of an administration the general ideals to which it will be devoted and attempting to give these some universal significance, however hollow, clumsy or hypocritical the effort might be.
In a few cases, most famously Abraham Lincoln’s, the inaugural address has endured and become a political landmark. In the modern era, Franklin Roosevelt declared, in the midst of the Great Depression, that the American people had “nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Trump’s message was just the opposite: “We fear the world, but the whole world must be made to fear us.”
Any conception that once he actually assumed office a “presidential” Trump would emerge was quickly dispelled by the tenor of his remarks. He glared, he ranted. He had only one tone of voice: an angry shout. The speech gave a jolt, signaling to the world that the new American president is an out-of-control megalomaniac.
Unlike American presidents for the past century who have postured as leaders of the “free world” or suggested that the United States had a stake in global development, Trump treated all foreign countries as economic enemies and blamed them for the crisis of American capitalism. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he said.
Trump won the election in economically ravaged industrial states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin by cynically exploiting the social devastation in factory towns and rural areas, offering an entirely reactionary and bogus solution to the crisis, based on economic nationalism.
This was the main theme of his inaugural address, as he claimed, “[W]e’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry… and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.”
Trump summed up his chauvinistic perspective with the sentence: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.” Not true! The wealth produced by working people has indeed been stolen and “redistributed,” but not to foreigners. It has been seized by American capitalists—the tiny elite of financial aristocrats like Trump himself and much of his cabinet, the billionaires and multi-millionaires.
Hitler’s “big lie” was to blame the Jews, not the capitalists, for the devastating consequences of the crisis of the profit system that produced the Great Depression of the 1930s. Trump’s “big lie” offers a different scapegoat to divert popular anger over the economic crisis that erupted in 2008, but it is just as false and reactionary.
As in Germany in the 1930s, the perspective of restoring national greatness through economic autarchy and military expansion leads inevitably to war. Trump’s speech is a direct substantiation of the perspective advanced by the Socialist Equality Party: the growth of American militarism over the past quarter century stems from the effort of the US ruling elite to find a violent solution to the long-term economic decay of the United States.
Trump’s speech was shot through and through with language drawn from the vocabulary of fascism, with the assistance, no doubt, of his top political aide, Stephen K. Bannon, former chief of Breitbart News, a haven for “white nationalists,” i.e., white supremacists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis.
The new president declared, “We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.” He demanded “a total allegiance to the United States of America,” hailed “the great men and women of our military and law enforcement,” called for “a new national pride,” and concluded that “we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”
His blood-curdling pledge to destroy “radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth” will be taken as a threat, legitimately, by the broad masses of the Middle East and the entire Muslim world, some 1.6 billion people. Trump has already declared that they are to be banned from entering the United States.
There is no question that Trump’s speech will be read as a declaration of war, not only in Beijing, Moscow and Tehran, but also in Berlin, Paris, London and Tokyo. When he said that “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” he was announcing the onset of a dog-eat-dog struggle among the major imperialist powers for markets, sources of raw material and cheap labor, and key strategic positions. The inexorable logic of this struggle leads to world war.
Trump’s policy of military expansion and extreme nationalism has the most ominous implications for the democratic rights of the American people. He speaks for a ruthless financial oligarchy that will brook no opposition, foreign or domestic. His call for a Fortress America, mobilized against every country in the world, means the suppression of all domestic dissent.
It is notable that Trump’s speech discarded the democratic rhetoric that is traditional for inaugurations. There was no paying tribute to the electoral process, no appealing to the tens of millions who did not vote for him, no reassurance to those opposed to him that their rights will be respected, no pledging to be a president of “all the people.” There was not even an acknowledgement that he had received only 44 percent of the vote, trailing his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.
On the contrary, Trump denounced “a small group in our nation’s capital,” identified as “politicians” and “the establishment,” in other words, everyone seated around him on the western face of the Capitol building—congressmen, senators, former presidents. He declared that they would be deprived of all power because “we are transferring power from Washington, DC and giving it back to you, the people”—with Trump himself, of course, acting as the stand-in for “the people.”
There is only one politically serious conclusion that can be drawn from this inauguration: Trump is seeking to develop an American fascistic movement, offering a false enemy to be held responsible for the crimes and failures of capitalism, demonizing anyone opposed to his policies as disloyal, and presenting himself as the personification of the popular will and the only one who can deliver a solution to the crisis.
Trump has assembled a cabinet of billionaires, right-wing ideologues and former generals. The Trump administration will go much further than anyone imagines in pursuing a program of war, attacks on democratic rights and the destruction of jobs and living standards for working people.
The Democratic Party will do nothing to oppose Trump. The Democratic Party leadership, from Obama on down, sat through Trump’s militaristic and anti-democratic diatribe as though listening to a “normal” political address. Obama has spent the transition period spreading complacency about the incoming administration, while the congressional Democrats pledge to work with Trump and embrace his toxic and reactionary economic nationalism.
Working people are in for great shocks. Whatever the initial confusion, whether they voted for Clinton, for Trump, or refused to choose between them, they will learn quickly that this government is their enemy. American capitalism has embarked on the road to disaster and nothing can stop it but a revolutionary movement of the working class.
Street art in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina,
by artist Tuk.
Photo by Tuk.
I wanted to do something to mark the 50th anniversary of 1967 – a truly magical, myth-laden, musical year when so much changed, separating old from new and leading to a seismic cultural shift, especially via the recording industry – artists becoming increasingly ambitious, with pop music no longer regarded as throwaway fodder for the kids, but the great artistic statement of the age.
1967 provides the pivot point in my personal mapping of the 20th century – June 1st if I want to narrow it down to a specific date. This was when ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles was released, an album that would soundtrack the psychedelic ‘Summer Of Love’, blowing minds and inspiring countless other artists to up their game, whilst The Beatles’ interest in lysergic acid diethylamide and eastern mysticism, altered not only their own states of consciousness and perception, but, pied piper like, they led a whole generation down the rabbit hole.
*Due to the compilation falling foul of Mixcloud’s agreement in the US regarding the amount of tracks by an individual artist, the podcast is unfortunately not available to stream there. To resolve this we’ve now also uploaded the podcast to the Hear This platform, which can be accessed in the US: https://hearthis.at/hazy-cosmic-jive/1967-6-hour-selection-50-years-on-compiled-by-greg-wilson-2017-192/
However, you won’t find any of the tracks on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ in the compilation I’ve put together in tribute to this momental year – the reason being that none of its inclusions were issued as singles. I’d originally thought about approaching this as a selection of my favourite tracks from the year, but whilst I was researching I decided that I’d only feature singles that had made the top 50 of the UK chart during 1967, and in the order in which they appeared. This has resulted in a 6 hour epic, available to stream via Mixcloud.
The 7” singles only format, is in line with my 24 hour Random Influences project, covering the ’60s and the first half of the ’70s,, which is available to stream via Mixcloud:
Whilst, of course, being a subjective selection, I felt that this format would provide a reflective representation of what people were listening to in the UK that year. It meant that I missed out on some tracks that we’re hits in the US, but not here, not least the Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ and Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’, both key US countercultural anthems, plus Soul classics including Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher’ (which would be a UK hit thrice over, but in ’69, ’75 and ’87) James Brown’s Funk blueprint ‘Cold Sweat’and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ ‘Tears Of A Clown’, hidden away as an album track in ’67, but destined to become a transatlantic #1 hit 3 years on. Then there’s a whole heap of now Northern Soul classics that were complete obscurities at the time of their release, only to be excavated in the ’70s by obsessive British DJs.
Beautiful, “nasty,” women…and men…working to fight the evil Orange plague that is enveloping the USA. Keeping America great!!
Street art in Mexico City, Mexico,
by artist Apitatan.
Photo by Lois Stavsky.