By Sam Levine
The Guardian (2/7/18)
In California’s Central Valley an unexpected item is popping up for sale in souvenir stores: Confederate flags. There’s a growing market for the hate symbol.
“There’s been an atmosphere of comfort for folks that were holding these very extreme conservative views,” said Angel Garcia, an activist in Tulare County, an agricultural region where Confederate imagery has become commonplace in immigrant communities.
While California is seen as the national leader of the liberal resistance to Donald Trump, it has also become increasingly polarized, with wars between the right and the left breaking out across the region, from the scenic coast to the rural farming communities that produce the nation’s food.
The widening divides in the US have played out in stark ways in California, where clashes between Trump supporters and those threatened by his agenda have led to violent conflicts, battles between neighbors and dueling campaigns to draw new borders that tear apart the country’s most populous state.
“All of the sudden, your neighbor is waving a Confederate flag. That didn’t really happen before.”
The latest incarnation is the so-called “New California” movement, a far-fetched initiative to have rural conservative counties declare independence from the rest of the state, which is run by Democrats and has passed a series of policies meant to undo Trump’s agenda. New California is a kind of resistance to the resistance, channeling the rightwing rage directed at the liberal havens of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“I’m just waiting for the day the federal government comes in and takes the state over,” said Ross Patterson, a New California backer from Yuba County, a northern jurisdiction that voted for Trump.
California has a rich history of progressive activism, launching the Free Speech Movement, the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter and passing groundbreaking policies on the environment, marijuana, immigrants’ rights and gun control. In reaction, a far-right backlash has quietly brewed for years – and loudly exploded under Trump.
Some conservatives have repeatedly called for the northern region to secede and form a 51st state called the State of Jefferson, with lower taxes and smaller government. Other recent campaigns include Six Californias, a venture capitalist’s proposal that would make Silicon Valley its own state, and Calexit, a push for California to become its own country.
The fringe efforts, though unlikely to alter the Golden State’s political representation, speak to the fractures in California, which has attempted to boldly defy Trump and inspired an angry counter-movement as a result.
Jeff Crow, a New California coordinator said the “hippies” and “socialists” from the state’s major cities would be happy to separate from the rest of California: “We’ll see who thrives. It’ll be a great competition.” He added: “I love the coast. I’ll still be going to the other California to have fun.”
In recent months, much of the conservative resentment in California has stemmed from a “sanctuary state” law meant to protect immigrants and limit cooperation between local police and federal deportation authorities.
Tom Reed, a 57-year-old who has been involved in the Jefferson and New California efforts, said he was frustrated with the state’s decision to limit cooperation with federal authorities: “Assisting criminals makes you criminal … It’s making enforcing federal laws more expensive. California’s disagreement is costing me money.” …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )