Who is to say that California seceding from the United States is a crazy, stupid and impossible idea?
Until recently, many thought it to be a crazy, stupid and impossible idea for a reality-TV star with no government experience and a disdain for facts to be elected president of the United States. Well? How crazy, stupid and impossible does President-elect Donald Trump sound now?
And just like that, California secession – nicknamed “Calexit” – seems all the more plausible because what was once considered preposterous is being redefined by the hour.
It would take 585,407 signatures to get a California secession measure on the ballot for November 2018. With signatures costing more than $5 each – a price paid by some statewide ballot measure campaigns this election season – that’s a daunting amount to raise for a little-known secessionist group going by the name of Yes California. But like the once-nascent Trump campaign, the one that was laughed at by TV pundits such as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, help for Yes California is percolating on social media.
Shervin Pishevar, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose company, Sherpa Capital, pumped big money into Uber and Airbnb, has said on Twitter that he would fund a “legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation” if Trump won the presidency.
Pishevar hasn’t held a news conference to expound on his tweets since the election, but then neither has Trump. Maybe Pishevar is sitting back and studying how Trump does what he does before moving forward. Maybe we all should.
Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp” of corporate and Washington interests, yet he is filling his Cabinet with millionaires, billionaires and Beltway insiders. Trump won by energizing working-class white people down on their luck, but his treasury secretary pick – former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin – made his fortune, in part, by foreclosing on the homes of people just like those who lifted Trump to an Electoral College victory.
On Friday, the Associated Press told the story of such a person – Teena Colebrook, 59, of San Luis Obispo – who voted for Trump but then felt “her heart sink” when Trump tapped Mnuchin to direct America’s fiscal policy.
“OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on (Colebrook’s) Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income” the AP reported.
“The combination of OneWest’s profitability, government guarantees, and foreclosure activities drew the ire of activist groups like the California Reinvestment Coalition. It found the bank to be consistently one of the most difficult to work out loan modifications with even though OneWest never drew a major response from government regulators.”
When Colebrook couldn’t get a loan modification to ease her financial distress, she was out on the street. Mnuchin and his partners later sold OneWest bank for $3.4 billion.
“I just wish that I had not voted,” Colebrook told the AP.
But the truly revealing line in the AP story about Colebrook was this: “She had voted for (Trump) on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington, D.C.”
Catch that? She voted for a self-described billionaire because she thought he would slay the “moneyed elites.” In other words, she believed what she wanted to be believe about Trump despite the obvious irony: a billionaire ridding us of billionaires? Hmmm.
For now, Colebrook’s story is like the drip of a faucet next to an operating fire hose.
Trump tarred Hillary Clinton for committing crimes not seen “since Watergate” for mishandling classified emails while secretary of state. She was never convicted, much less charged with a crime, but the “Watergate” comparison stuck in the news media and social media. Earlier this election season, I had a lengthy discussion with a Trump-supporting Facebook friend who promoted that falsehood on my page. What was truly hilarious? Even as my friend dutifully repeated Trump’s Watergate talking points, he had no idea who John Dean was. And he didn’t care that Richard Nixon’s former lawyer, and a key Watergate figure, said in a New York Times op-ed that Watergate comparisons to Clinton were ridiculous.
No matter. My friend believed what he believed. As Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes said last week on National Public Radio when discussing the unfounded statement Trump made on Twitter that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in November for Clinton: “(P)eople that say facts are facts – they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way – it’s kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts. And so Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd – a large part of the population – (is) truth.”
That’s why it’s possible for Trump – despite everything he said about Clinton – to consider former Gen. David Petraeus for Clinton’s old job of secretary of state. Petraeus actually was convicted of sharing classified information with Paula Broadwell, his former mistress and biographer.
Contradiction? What contradiction? Trump screamed endlessly about governmental bailouts on the campaign trail and some people ate it up. Last week, Trump orchestrated a bailout for Carrier, an Indiana air conditioning manufacturer. Trump framed it as a win for the common worker because 800 Carrier jobs bound for Mexico would instead stay put. Hiding in plain sight were the 1,300 Carrier jobs that are still going to Mexico – and a $7 million government subsidy for Carrier that was orchestrated by Trump in exchange for fewer than 1,000 jobs.
Phil Mattingly, a CNN correspondent traveling with Trump, said on Twitter that he tried to explain the government bailout behind Trump’s Carrier celebration to friends of his who supported Trump.
“Dude, stop. Don’t want to hear it,” came the reply.
When words lose their meaning, when they are willingly distorted and believed rather than being disseminated and questioned, that’s what makes it all possible.
What are Trump and “Calexit” but different sides of the same coin? Supporters of either cause see enemies instead of fellow Americans and put personal orthodoxies and biases above all else.
The more uninformed and insular we become, the more crazy becomes possible. Where is it all going? Not to answer a question with a question, but how about this: What has history taught us about what happens when facts are rejected and people devote their energies to that which divides us?