The recent election of Trump to the Presidency sparked riots and protests across the Country. Just one question: What were they protesting? It certainly would have been understandable to protest his comments when he was running for office and civil disobedience will be on point when he decides to implement his more unctuous promises. But why take to the streets after his election? Are people protesting massive voter fraud? Are they complaining about his status as a political insider that shut out more mainstream competition? Neither is the case. So what is this about? Anybody?
All I can think of is that people who have not been following events or issues are now enraged that their ignorance and apathy finally caught up to them and the Country in a very nasty way. The smart money is betting that none of this rage is directed against the Democratic National Committee that pulled the rug out from under the Bernie Sanders campaign to fast tract their favorite daughter. If they had played fair then Bernie likely would have carried the rust belt, Pennsylvania, and the election. Therefore, the DNC is responsible for Trump’s new job in the Oval Office. Strangely, there have been no massive demonstrations with signs saying “Never Again” outside the DNC offices.
How did this happen? Because other than the long ignored issues themselves there are the class identities that shape a bigger view of how people see themselves and the interests they see aligned against them. Facts are not terribly important to two identified classes: one barely educated but hard working and a middle class that believes that once they have arrived they deserve to stay there, along with their material symbols of rank. These two classes overlap in their pretensions. It has gradually dawned on both groups that the Democratic Party that was once inclusive has now cut a very different set of deals that don’t include them. Republicans are the undeserved beneficiaries.
Is there an alternative to jumping out of the Democratic frying pan and into the Republican fire? A different way of weighting facts and choosing allies may be called for. Rather than a sturdy peasantry who thinks a life of toil without complicating abstractions should be enough or a merit based bourgeois class of minor nobles, maybe the most solid aspects of both could work along with something bigger. Maybe work outside a bureaucracy or chartered corporation should be esteemed. Maybe the only status should be that conveyed by being part of a community of interests, preferably more cooperative than individualistic. This goal suggests several mental sea changes.
The first transformation must be within what’s left of our middle classes. We created a booshie wonderland that peaked in the 50’s that was based on the best of conditions that obviously weren’t going to last. When the bill for a war that was not paid for came due and corporations were given the green light to ship American jobs overseas the house of cards came tumbling down. Now it is time for the booshies to shed their phony hyper individualist identity and join the rest of humanity. Looking for scapegoats among people who never had the power to create a sharp division between haves and never-will-haves is not going to bring back an ever expanding consumer utopia.
One real identity was the workers’ quest for a fair share of the corporate booty and shorter hours to enjoy it. As their success pushed them into middle class income levels they started detaching from less successful workers and taking on booshie sensibilities and insecurities. In addition to a fair share from their work they also started assuming that their security descended from on high and not from common interest cooperation or tighter, less anonymous neighborhoods. When the corporate exodus dropped the worker backbone of America into low wage, no benefit contracting, an anger developed. Workers also looked for the culprits who stole their rosy future in unlikely places.
Angry people don’t think very well and they certainly weren’t thinking at all in the last election. But it is true that big, bold things need to be done and soon. Consider my bottom up list, “a people’s agenda” with specific plans attached. A bottom up, first things first agenda is neither reactionary or progressive nor is it moderate. First item on the agenda: take inventory of what is left to work with. How many small property owners are left without second mortgages? How many good jobs are left? How many bad jobs are left? How many people aren’t two paychecks from being tossed out on the street? Finally, what kind of usable skill base is there that can be put to use within a community?
Other agenda categories imply an economies of scale to pursue them outside the existing political and economic structure that likes things just the way they are, thank you very much. This does not mean a researched and shared knowledge base should not be used to confront indifferent politicians about what is minimally acceptable for them to be taken seriously as agents for positive change. Laws need to be changed. Voluntary legal structures need to be created for defense and lifestyle stability. Corporate intrusions into our education and health need to be rejected and replaced. Visualize fewer cars, lawns, and hours being spent mindlessly entertained.
So what is the focus for this new or maybe very old mindset? Its about having a place you control. Its about being able to do work for real people. Its about having some greater purpose of your own beyond acquiring, consuming, or controlling. When we were a farming country this was the “yeoman” ideal. But we are beyond that never realized state – more complications and opportunities. Often our new tools get in the way of our lofty goals. It doesn’t have to be that way. The intentional connections between people, structures, natural resources, and within our bodies and environment are called context. A chosen context also provides a filter and focus for relevant information streams.
A yeoman today would probably not be a farmer but they would work locally to serve the local economy. A yeoman is more focused on “us” rather than “them.” There is an effort to maintain a community of action that you are not paid for and is not always fun. Mutual ownerships and memberships make dropping out or walking away inconvenient. The sturdy peasant does not see the point of effort that is not paid or fun. The booshie tends to see a world of other atomistic booshies imbedded in a envious or hostile world out to get them and theirs. The only real purpose of government is to add the security that valued chattels and paper wealth fail to provide.
Over time, the lack of social context of the peasant worker and middle class booshie created the anger and terror of everything outside their world, real or imagined. It was only time before all issues beyond their control or understanding would shrink to fear and resentment. Blaming them for honest if irrational reactions won’t change anything. Promoting the citizen yeoman option in all things will give people a positive alternative to a world out of their control. The biggest job will be taking functions away from distant power centers. Those who have benefited from centralizing wealth to pit strangers against each other will not go quietly into the night.
Everyone has gripes about how their city functions or was developed. Most problems are manageable and residents learn from them in hindsight. On the other hand, it is possible for a few arrogant, narrow minded people to cause almost unimaginable systemic damage in the formative period of a city. The same people violently resist all attempts by newcomers to make obvious changes, decade after decade. This is what happened to Clearlake.
The biggest deal killer, if there ever was one, was the decision by a small group of realtors and developers to reach out from the old Clearlake Highlands resort strip as far as they could into the howling wilderness to create a fictitious city of 10.6 square miles. Simple people deluded by vague promises of services and skyrocketing land values voted for the incorporation. Never mind that it’s considered poor planning to assume municipal service responsibility for any area that can’t or won’t pay for its own infrastructure. Best practices were irrelevant for founders with their own agenda.
Most of “The City” was composed of hundreds of paper lots with paper access. Forty-four percent of this charming war zone is still only accessible by dirt roads that pollute the Lake with silt. A recent City Manager even tried to give the sprawling paper development called “The Avenues” back to the County. The County laughed in his face.
Lake County wasn’t the poster child for California’s State Map Act for nothing. The constant refrain around here is “When will someone pave the roads?” Post-Map Act, the developers pave them. But Clearlake is pre-Map Act so the only way a dirt road resident’s feet are going to touch asphalt is for neighbors to form multiple road assessment districts and pay for it.
After incorporation the City did not wait for the other shoe to drop before shooting themselves in the foot. The City Fathers, or Deadbeat Dads, frightened the locals in voting for Measure P which mandated that 63% of the City budget must go for police in addition to a half-cent City sales tax. Robert VanNort, an interim City Manager who didn’t plan to stick around, reported that nothing will improve in Clearlake until this restrictive measure is reformed. He was ignored by the Goobertocracy.
While Clearlake can’t spend enough on police, sewers are a low priority. The future thinking brain trust put in a bargain basement version of what the County recommended. This was a faith based infrastructure project where overloaded pipes were believed to drain uphill by divine intervention. Prayers were answered after heavy rains by manhole cover lifting miracles where waves of toilet paper streamed out like dollar store bridal veils.
Clearly, what Clearlake needs is free enterprise. You know, where businesses don’t wait around for incompetent, wasteful government to find a solution. It is entrepreneurial know how and the will to put your money where your mouth is that will save the day. For a City that was never a town, that means the old resort strip of businesses would have to vote in a Business Improvement District, made possible by a 1994 law, to assess themselves.
This would give business property owners control of several blocks to create a commercial oasis and vacation paradise. They would make the decisions and pay the bills, knowing that their superior knowledge of how the market works to satisfy consumer demands will enable this self- supporting district to draw tourists from hundreds of miles. Then and only then will their substantial investment, free of government subsidies and interference, pay off.
Then I woke up – to a city where the business community never forked over a dime of their own money for a long range project. Why should they? This is a City that acts as their agent to be first in line for State Bond money and Federal stimulus packages. That City launches another sales tax attempt every election on the poorest residents in the State while never considering an infrastructure assessment.
Since local businesses don’t want to pay their own bills they certainly won’t contribute their share to the few basic City functions. So the City spends all their time trolling for short term start up grants to fund desired services such as wood chipping or a youth center program. The grants give the City “administration” money for the grant and an opportunity to hire a crony or their unemployable relative for the grant’s duration. When the grant ends, the service that people enjoyed as a step forward is not continued with local funds. That’s the standard operating procedure in Clearlake.
Redlining is a term of exclusion used by the real estate and insurance industries. Those on one side of the line are the favored ones while those on the other side are deemed the great unwashed, cursing them to higher rates and loan denials. Of course, they may be within sight of people they have known for years on the other side of this invisible barrier. Sometimes the line drawers deny the lines even exist but the proof is in the community changes over time caused by those who use those lines.
After 2010 another type of redline tore through Lake County without any pretense of invisibility. At first glance it is just another example of Congressional gerrymandering but this boundary is much more. Gerrymandering means an irrational line change in a district but in Lake County there was never a Congressional division to begin with. We were always in one district which is important since we are so small, poor, and isolated. These factors did not impress the 2010 committee of line drawers.
Looking at this new jagged line that rips through the County, East to West, I cannot help but be shocked by the stark demographics of the division. Two “Lake Counties” were created. A desperate North which included the Lake (District 3) and a better off South, comprising Middletown, Kelseyville, Lakeport, Clearlake Riviera, Hidden Valley, and the Cobb Mountain communities. Neatly sliced off like bad meat is the sprawling County redevelopment district of the North Shore and the 16,000 people occupying the war zone of Clearlake.
I live in Clearlake. We had enough problems without this political stab in the back. So what kind of representation can our sliver of desperation expect in Congress. We can answer this question by looking at the makeup of the rest of Districts 3 and 5. Neither of these Districts include Mendocino County, the easiest county to get to from Lake County and formerly part of our district.
District 3 protrudes into Lake County like a hernia from several Central Valley rural counties. The rest of the District is accessible on Highway 20 through a long mountainous pass with no public transit. This District is mostly Big Ag, the upscale Sacramento suburb of Woodland, and UC Davis. So what does the distant colony of North Shore and Clearlake have in common with this constituency? Not a whole lot. What can we expect from Washington? Not a whole lot.
District 5 is another kettle of votes. South Lake County is now floating on the fringe of Napa County and a piece of Sonoma “Wine Country.” Congressman Thompson no longer has to tightly smile his way through endless fish fry fundraisers in Clearlake. He is lord of the Napa Frontier and its continuous devastation of the pristine South County in the service of cheap vineyard knockoffs. District 5 gets grapes and hillside development. District 3 gets the runoff into the Lake from both.
I can’t help but suspect Congressman Thompson was somehow behind this antidemocratic maneuver. He has always been known as the Republicans’ favorite Democrat. Never much of a social program booster, he is now free to boost the North County in other ways. Lake County is a neater fit geographically to Napa than Colusa. North County and its 30 some thousand people is now a representative island.
I’m making this an issue for the 2020 redistricting. This outrage cannot be repeated. In the meantime, we should lobby the District 3 Congressman to give Lake Transit an earmark grant for a bus line extension to the Central Valley region we are now supposedly part of.