2016 a Strange Year in Politics is now Over; The Nation and San Diego



Dec 2016 (San Diego) this was one of those years that was a strange year. For those who were alive in 1968, and chiefly conscious and aware, 2016 has too many parallels. This is the year of Donald Trump. This is the year Democrats showed their weakness at the national level. While the State of California remains firmly in Democratic hands, the national retreat is impressive. Over the course of the last eight years, governorships and state houses have evaporated. Over the last eight years, we have also seen the quickening of economic trends that almost ensured the strange year in politics.

The rise of Trump was inconceivable in 2015 for major media. We predicted the year of change last December. We also said that trump had an excellent chance. What happened in the Democratic primary, however, is worthy of a fear and loathing story across the country, like Hunter S Thomson used to write. It was nothing short of a slow-motion Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention, one that lasted almost nine long months.
There were moments that will stick in the memory of Bernie Sanders supporters. Arizona, and the closing of polling stations, Puerto Rico, where many were never able to vote. New York and the unique voter registration system that requires voters to register before candidates throw their hat in the ring. Then there was Nevada, and the state convention of the imagined flying chairs. It was also the state where Senator Harry Reid showed how an old fashioned political machine could deliver the state to a chosen candidate. That convention foreshadowed how Sanders supporters would be treated at the National convention in Philadelphia. While there were no riots, there were many parallels to Chicago 1968.

This was both a wake-up moment for many new voters, and perhaps another moment when voters will decide to drop out and check out. It happened after 1968. This year it was the millennial generation turn to go to bouts with the Democratic Party establishment. In the short term they lost. What happened after 1968 was a change of the guard. It led to the rise of the Clinton machine that did all it could to keep control of the party, even when many warned Democrats they were going to lose in the general election.

 The Republicans and the Rise of the Extreme Right

Thomson wrote about the era around the Nixon rise to power as follows:

For me, that week in Chicago was far worse than the worst bad acid trip I’d even heard rumors about. It permanently altered my brain chemistry, and my first new idea—when I finally calmed down—was an absolute conviction there was no possibility for any personal truce, for me, in a nation that could hatch and be proud of a malignant monster like Chicago.

Suddenly, it seemed imperative to get a grip on those who had somehow slipped into power and caused the thing to happen.But who were they? Was Mayor Daley a cause, or a symptom? Lyndon Johnson was finished, Hubert Humphrey was doomed, McCarthy was broken, Kennedy was dead, and that left only Nixon, that pompous, plastic little fart who would soon be our president. I went to Washington for his inauguration, hoping for a terrible shitrain that would pound the White House to splinters. But it didn’t happen; no shitrain, no justice . . . and Nixon was finally in charge.

This year the Republicans had their establishment challenged, time will tell how far it was shattered, by a pompous man. That was the now President-elect Trump. He will be in charge. He will be inaugurated as the 45th President. This after a bizarre primary that surprised most observers.

It started with 17 candidates. The one that the press commentariat expected to succeed was the first to fall. It seems Republicans have had enough of the Bush political family. Job Bush fell fast, so did former governor of Texas Rick Perry, and the other strange one in the mix, Doctor Ben Carson. Two unpolished nonpoliticians ran. Trump the rich businessman became the nominee and then shattered the Clinton machine where it mattered. While many hardcore democrats continue to say that she got the popular vote, Trump played to the rules of the game, not what we might wish the rules are. So he concentrated on areas of the country where the economy is not booming, and where jobs have left. He struck a very populist tone. One where he promised to bring back both factory and mining jobs to the United States/. He also promised to protect both Social Security and Medicare, two promises that most observers do not expect him to fulfill.

Here we will break with the commentariat. Trump will try, because not doing such will make him fail before he starts, to save the safety net of the Roosevelt and Johnson eras. That said, this does not mean not changing them beyond the point where they are not recognizable. Time will tell if we are correct, but if feels that Trump not only destroyed his own party’s establishment, but also the Democrats.

That said, his choice of cabinet members seems extreme. We expect policies to continue as they have, from one administration to the next. The continuity in major domestic and international policies, regardless of who occupies the White House, is actually alarming. That said, we might be seeing the beginning of a realignment, and if we are correct, the Republican party is starting to move left, while Democrats will continue to move right.

This year ends the same way that last year did. It has been a critical cycle, and one that repeated many patterns that we in ages past.

San Diego in Politics

San Diego is also having its own moments of echoes. Like last time around, the Council elected a weak president for it, with the full backing of four republicans. One that can easily be controlled since she owes her place to the other party and the mayor.

Then there are the San Diego Chargers and the on again, off again, leaving the city. They were rebuffed by voters. They were told no more. Yet, they still seem to be looking for a way to stay in San Diego, and the City Council, or at least some, are ready to make offers that the city should refuse. One dollar for 99 years is not just silly, but fiscally irresponsible. No professional sports team, not even one with 50 plus years of tradition in any city deserves this. They are a private business, and the model is to have the public pay for new stadia. City residents have wised up, but it seems our city council has not.

San Diego is also part of national trends, regarding law enforcement, There is little trust in local, or regional, law enforcement. The study released by San Diego State does not help. It proved what many in communities of color not only suspect, but experience every day. If you are a resident of communities south of interstate 8, you will be policed differently than if you live north of the 8. There is a pattern of what locals call harassment or worst. Yes, the study found that if you are black, you will be stopped more often than if you are any other minority. If you are Hispanic, you will also face racial profiling at higher rates than whites. Never mind that contraband is found in vehicles driven by whites more often.

The response to this from Council President Myrtle Cole was stunning at Council. Especially since she is a black woman representing those same communities that are policed in this fashion. She blamed this on black on black crime. This will be a sore point going into the 2018 election. There are people in her community lining up to run against her. Shane Harris, President of the National Action Network San Diego Chapter is already promising this to be a hard time for Cole.

This split is also obvious in the living neighborhoods committee, which is now having three north of the 8 members, with one new member from south of the 8. Except for Chris Cate, none has served as part of this vital committee who’s job is to oversee the police department, has served or is very familiar with the issues. These include the fact that SDPD cannot retain officers, or that the report reveals the department is having some serious issues with policing minority communities. This is a matter of trust, and in the end, officer safety. If the community has an adversarial relationship, more akin to that of an occupied country, they will not cooperate with law enforcement.

Incidentally, this year also saw the loss of an SDPD officer in the line of duty. Officer Jonathan “JD” DeGuzman, a member of the gang unit, died earlier in the year. HIs partner was injured. This brought Harris and members of NAN to not just honor the officer, but say something that some members of minority communities have yet to accept. The lives of members of law enforcement also have value, just as the lives of black and brown people.

Organized Labor…

In San Diego, we have had a division of the labor movement that this year became open. It is between the Central Labor Council and the United Food Workers, which is one of the most powerful unions in Southern California. They took sides during the back room dealings as to who would become Council President. The UFCW preferred to have Myrtle Cole in charge, while the rest of the movement wanted David Alvarez.

The latter also represents a community from south of the 8, but also has allies in the Central Labor Council. More importantly, while Cole promised to not make any waves, Alvarez was intending to give mayor Kevin Faulconer a headache or two.

This split was also obvious to us when labor occupied the office of Congressman Scott Peters when they were protesting fast track for the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. Congressman Peters voted for it, incidentally, which angered many in the labor movement. That said, the UFCW was noted for its absence during that.

At the same time, when Mickey Kasparian, President of the UFCW is present, the Central Labor Council is mostly absent. This is a dynamic that we expect will be increasingly obvious as San Diego moves forwards. Who both sides also chose to back was interesting. The UFCW backed Cole, while the Central Labor Council backed Alvarez. The way labor acts in the coming legislative season will be something to watch.

 California and the Feds

As 2017 comes in we expect more surprises. The inauguration of the 45th President will be in January. Like 1972 there is fear in the air. What will the new administration will bring is a good question. The state of California has also warned that they will continue with the climate change plans that are already underway. Famously, Governor Edmund Brown also warned that if the Earth Mission at NASA is canceled, the state will launch a satellite. Once before, in another age, he warned California would launch a communications satellite. That is when some Republicans started to call him Governor Moonbeam, which he embraced.

The conflict, however, will be more down to earth. The state and multiple cities have told the Feds they will refuse to work with the incoming administration when it comes to immigration law. San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman joined many Chiefs across the state in saying they will refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. We also have many cities reaffirm their status as Sanctuary Cities. In some cases cities have done this going back to the Central American wars of the 1980s and the Ronald Reagan administration. While this is not new, we expect constant conflict over federal grants over the coming four years. The state pays more to the Feds than it receives in federal grants, however. Meaning that the pressure the Feds can put on California is less.

This year we also saw the beginning of a movement to leave the Union. While we expect nothing to come of it, in the end, that is a significant development. California has a long history of trying to divide itself, going back to the early days of the state. It lacks this history of wanting to leave the United States, like Texas for example. This started the night of the election, dubbed CALEXIT, after BREXIT. It has only picked up steam and it will try to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

In short, we expect the relationship to be quite stormy.


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