I was going to write a piece about how President Obama’s shameful treatment of the Golden State as a political ATM is disrespectful of those who live beyond the borders of Marin County, San Francisco’s affluent districts, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood.
But then the Sacramento Bee did it for me, in this spot-on editorial (which, you'll notice, isn't stopping me!).
“Sometimes”, the Bee began, “a very fast jet carrying a very important man and his entourage will streak across the Central Valley sky. That’s the closest President Barack Obama will get to the part of California where mortgages are upside down, where unemployment is disgracefully high and where levees are in need of rebuilding”.
The President might have been physically much closer to the grassroots demonstrators who were protesting the prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline being driven through our country from Canada in a retrograde step which would endorse the Tory social and environmental rape of the Canadian heartland and deal clean energy a devastating blow.
But he was as insulated from them as he was from those Californians in the rural North State, the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, the Central Coast, and the pulsing hearts of Los Angeles and Oakland, who have been the victims of economic disinvestment, who have seen decades of conservative misrule in the state shred public institutions, the safety net, and investment in infrastructure which benefits the poorest, weakest, and most voiceless amongst us.
The Bee knocked Obama’s priorities, writing that “apparently, Obama was too busy on this visit to the Golden State. The fundraiser in Chief hopes to help Democrats retake the House, and was vacuuming up money for that effort from billionaires and multi-millionaires in Sea Cliff, Pacific Heights and Atherton”. The trouble is, Obama and the Democrats won one pretty handy victory in 2008 based on prodigious fundraising, and basically squandered it. The President almost never talks about poverty, about our national transition away from democracy, about the need to supplant corporate power with an empowered citizenry, about climate change in anything more than a passing way, or even, with much seriousness, about public investment.
The politics of these things are, as the President whined to his affluent hosts when they pressed him on his regressive environmental policies, “tough”. And this President doesn’t seem to do “tough” when it comes to the needs of working people in California or across the country.
The Bee concluded with a hope: “Maybe, as he flies back over, he will gaze out the window and realize California is a big state. Perhaps one of this political advisers will whisper something about how there are several swing congressional seats in this part of the state. Maybe he’ll resolve that one of these days, he will stop by and learn a little bit about the other California”.
Californians need to demand that the President takes our concerns seriously. But for this to happen in the long term, we need some election reform so that the votes of all Californians (and all Americans for that matter—progressives in Red States and conservatives in Blue States, and those who think that neither party has much to offer), and not just those whose votes the President can take for granted, can count.