The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Right’s California Obsession

Andrew Exum, in The Atlantic, observes, “There is a certain kind of conservative politician here in Texas who spends a sizable part of his day obsessing about the state of California. Such politicians have spent much of the past few years mercilessly teasing the progressive leadership of California for the failures of the state’s power grid.”

This is true of today’s conservatives in general not just those that slither around the Texas oilfields.

I constantly see an obsessive anti-California hysteria griping conservatives who are prone to exaggerate real problems, or simply invent fake ones for the state. They frequently go from one lie to another. It’s part of this sick mentality of “owning the libs.” Their politics isn’t built so much on principles as on trying to bring the maximum discomfort to others.

They ceased to promote ideas of any kind, in order to embrace a policy that is meant to cause maximum pain and suffering when possible, provided those suffering are the libs, the gays, the “illegals,” the Muslims, and the list goes on and on.

The increasingly wobbly Foundation for Economic Education — sometimes libertarian, sometimes conservative — published an attack on the state for wild fires by a writer for the cult-run Epoch Times. The piece regurgitated lies Trump told, “California’s mega fires stem largely from decades-long mismanagement of its forests.”

The problem, as our rebuttal showed, is the wild fires in California were predominantly on federal land, not land managed by the state itself. The dishonest writer blamed the state for what the federal government was doing and tried to imply the whole problem is California itself. But, “California has almost no control over forestland policy. That’s under federal control.”

The Right-wing Manhattan Institute launched an attack on “America’s Havana,” by which they meant San Francisco — a particular fetish for the Right. They falsely smeared the city saying, “Diseases arising from poor sanitation — typhoid, typhus, hepatitis A — are reappearing at an alarming rate.” Actual data proves this to be totally false. For instance California Department for Public Health data shows San Francisco’s number of typhus cases per year from 2013 until 2022. There was one case in 2013 and none since then, yet Right-wing sites claim the city has a typhus problem.

A 2017 report from the CDPH said that in previous years “There were 8 counties in California that reported at least 1 case of typhoid fever.” San Francisco was not one of those counties. As for Hepatitis A I couldn’t find data for San Francisco but the CDC does show where outbreaks are a serious problem: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, but not really California whose number of cases was less than 14% of that of Florida, another Republican state.

The Manhattan Institute made all sorts of assertions about California in general and San Francisco in particular, but the actual hard data shows them being inventive when they do so; and by saying inventive I’m being overly generous.

Another favorite lie about “America’s Havana” made by the obsessive Right was the claim human excrement covers the streets of San Francisco. They even produced a map where one pile of crap — was made the size of a house and then they mapped out where such crap was found. The result showed the city in a sea of shit. There were several problems with the claims. For instance, the bulk of reports were that dogs had crapped somewhere not humans. In fact, the city doesn’t run DNA tests on the crap and neither have the conservative whiners.

They just invented the claim it was from humans out of thin air. Their entire report was rigged to exaggerate the problem of people owning dogs in the cities, who take the dogs out to do their business and don’t clean up after their pet. (For a detailed dissection of these lies see “Conservative Crap About San Francisco.”

Conservative author Victor Hanson tried to argue California is doomed because of all the gays and immigrants and no one is having children. He asserted the state faced obliteration “due to the most radical demographic shift of any one state in recent American history.” He complained of “hip, youth and gay[s]” moving to “the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and coastal Los Angeles” doomed the state.

He asserted this means California is dominated by childless couples, or those with one child and thus the state is in decline. Census data proved all that a lie. Yes, California has single-person households but actually has fewer of them than the country as a whole. As for all the singles, Census data shows the percentage of households with married couples is higher in California than for the nation as a whole.

Even the lack of children proved a lie. Census data from 2020 showed 5.7 percent of California’s population is under the age of 5, which is precisely the same as the national average, and 22.4 percent of Californians are under the age of 18, while the national average is 22.1 percent.

This doesn’t mean the state doesn’t have problems, it does. All states have problems. There is plenty California can do to improve things, but that holds true for Republican failed states such as Mississippi, Alabama and the like, many of which survive partly on the excess taxes Californians pay to subsidize failed red states.

Those Texas politicians, who previously ridiculed California shutting down power distribution due to the wild fires on federal land, are now dealing with the failure of their own electrical distribution system. And even there they are lying about it. They are blaming solar and wind farms for the shortages when their own reports show the failures were disproportionately in production facilities based on coal and gas

The problem with “owning the libs” is it’s a wholly negative strategy. It isn’t even an attempt to get people to rethink their positions. It’s goal is to cause discomfort and anger. It stokes the politics of division and makes dialogue impossible. But these nationalistic populists have no solutions. Hate and social division drive their entire agenda. As they see it they are at war — ultimately with everyone and anything that isn’t white, heterosexual and Christian.

Conservatives in America have largely adopted the evangelical mind-set of being at war with everyone else and anyone who isn’t one of them is evil. They are at war with science because they adopt faith and creationism. They are at war with capitalism because it produces evil goods and services such as erotic films. They are war with equality of rights because it puts women on the same plane as men, blacks on the same plane as whites, and gays on the same plane as heterosexuals.

Theirs is an agenda based on privilege and status endowed by unearned factors such as skin color and sexual orientation. They can’t stomach an economic system based on competitive, private ownership as so many of them bring nothing to the table in regards to skill, education, training or basic intelligence. They demand a form of the welfare state but instead of redistribution based on need they want rights, privileges and wealth doled out by a state favoring them on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

One thing they hate about California is they perceive the state to be dominated by racial and sexual minorities who aren’t them. That it isn’t quite true doesn’t matter. The state is known for social tolerance and their agenda is social intolerance. In their mind California is a target because tolerance is their enemy. If others are tolerated and succeed in life, what does that say about their status among the least-educated, least-productive residents of this country? Instead of accepting their own possible role in their failures they seek others to blame and demand privileges be handed to them for entirely irrational reasons. There relative “success” is one that depends on holding others down, which makes them feel better about themselves.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.