Friday, July 12, 2013

Doug LaMalfa's Crocodile Tears for the University of California

It takes a special kind of nerve, or else an exceptionally under-developed sense of irony, to be Congressman Doug LaMalfa.  In his blog, Marc Beauchamp pointed out that LaMalfa has already responded to the announcement of Janet Nepolitano (former Governor of Arizona and current Homeland Security Secretary) as the University of California’s next President. 

The north state’s representative in congress opined that “University of California students can look forward to the same authoritarian management style Secretary Napolitano brought to the Department of Homeland Security, hardly a bastion of free speech and open government.  While I am pleased to see her leave Homeland Security, Napolitano’s views are entirely incompatible with the UC system’s history of civil liberties and the decision to appoint her is perplexing”.

No more perplexing, it must be said, that LaMalfa’s own sudden embrace of the UC system or of open government and civil liberties.  Let’s remember that our buffoonish Congressman is proud to march in lock-step with the party of the Patriot Act, the party which rubber-stamped the war in Iraq, the party which enthuses about torture and rendition, and the party which assails our terroristic President for being insufficiently bloodthirsty in his warmongering. 

LaMalfa’s party has sought to repeal measures of the Voting Rights Act, has a broad, deep vein of misogyny at its core, and promotes discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality.  His party has repeatedly sabotaged efforts to sign up to international human rights treaties which would hold war criminals in our government to account, and has argued that members of our national security apparatus who have committed acts of terrorism on par with those committed by Al Qaeda should walk free. 

LaMalfa serves the party of Citizens United.  His party takes both the dime and the marching orders of the Koch Empire, the financial industry, the energy lobby, arms companies, and big agriculture—all of those interests which work at cross purposes to the most essential liberty that citizens can possess: that of being able to live comfortable lives, characterised by access to institutions, services, good housing, clean water, safe food, and democratic institutions. 

A civil libertarian with the interests of the public in mind?  That doesn’t sound like LaMalfa to me.

And although he has been in Congress for less than a year, LaMalfa has a longer record in state government, where he and his party used California’s undemocratic supermajority requirements to run our state into the ground from the minority.  The University of California, which he professes to care for, was one of the foremost victims of the Republican Party’s campaign to sabotage state government, which consisted of their undermining the ability of state government to serve the public and then decrying state government’s failure to do its job.

Thanks to LaMalfa and his party’s caucus in Sacramento, the University of California costs students twice as much as when I arrived as an undergraduate in 2004.  Course offerings are more restricted, graduation times are longer, more students are pushed deeper into debt, departments struggle to find the funds to replace faculty, and whole academic units have been shuttered.

The result is that the University of California is less accessible to citizens of the Golden State, and particularly to students from comparatively poorer and more marginalised parts of the state.  In other words, by forcing the slow privatisation of the University of California, the people LaMalfa has hurt most are those like his constituents, who benefit less with each passing year from the collective investment in California’s greatest institution which once defined our state’s sense of itself as a progressive, open community, always in the vanguard of the idealism that characterised the California dream.

Now, that dream has been deferred, and is being dismantled by the political Right across our country.  LaMalfa is no friend to his north state constituents, and certainly no friend of the University of California, and for him to shed crocodile tears over its travails is hypocritical, and therefore very much in character for him and his party.    

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