“America in 2019 is California in the 1990s,” California Governor Gavin Newsom recently told Politico. “The xenophobia, the nativism, the fear of ‘the other.’ Scapegoating. Talking down or past people. The hysteria. And so, we’re not going to put up with that. We are going to push back.”
Those charges might prompt Californians to review what they did in the 1990s to prompt such wrath from their new governor.
In 1994, California voters passed Proposition 187, “Illegal Aliens Ineligible for Public Benefits,” an attempt to bar taxpayer funded benefits for people not authorized to be in the United States. The measure passed by nearly 59 percent, which meant that Republicans, Democrats and independents alike supported the proposition. Jimmy Carter judge Mariana Pfaelzer overturned the measure, thus trumping the voice of the people and keeping taxpayer dollars flowing to violators of U.S. immigration law, with no compensation from the governments of those foreign nationals, primarily Mexico.
In 1996, California Republicans, Democrats and independents passed Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative that banned racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. CCRI did not, as opponents claimed, ban “affirmative action.” The state could still take action to help students, but could not discriminate against any of those students on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Before CCRI, some of California’s highest achieving students were shut out of UCLA, UC Berkeley and other campuses based only on their ethnicity. Nearly 55 percent of voters favored the California Civil Rights Initiative, which remains state law.
In 1998, a tri-partisan coalition of Democrats, independents and Republicans passed Proposition 227, which called for English instruction in public schools. This was to counter the bilingual or, more accurately, Spanish-only instruction that was harming students’ educational and employment prospects. Proposition 227, passed by more than 61 percent of voters, also upheld the 1986 Proposition 63, which established English as the state of California’s official language.
A full 73.2 percent of Californians approved that measure, a landslide by any definition and not possible without votes from Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. For Gov. Newsom, the record of the 1990s is so much xenophobia, nativism and scapegoating, and as he warns, “we are not going to allow that.”
The Democrats, Republicans and independents who voted for Propositions 187, 209 and 227 might note that the governor’s pushback targets only Republicans. That party, Newsom told Politico, is “into the politics of what California was into in the 1990s,” adding, “and they’ll go the same direction — into the waste bin of history, the way Republicans of the ‘90s have gone.”
Californians of a certain age might recall that President Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, used similar language for the Soviet Union. That Communist dictatorship passed into the waste bin of history in the 1990s, not long after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. There is no symmetry between a totalitarian dictatorship that denies all human rights and laws freely passed by voters in a democracy.
Gavin Newsom is the first governor to consign any group of Californians to historical oblivion, and those voters and their families might wonder how the governor’s pushback will unfold. Nearly $3 million was already in the budget for a new courthouse in El Dorado County, but Newsom vetoed the funds.
The governor is now pushing for state control of PG&E under his “energy czar” and cabinet secretary Ana Matosantos. Based on the performance of agencies such as the DMV, Californians might doubt whether political control of utilities would provide better service.
On the other hand, based on what Gavin Newsom told Politico, Californians could be forgiven for believing that state control of utilities would provide the governor with a powerful weapon to deploy against voters he doesn’t like.