…Ditto the rest of the West Coast

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Let’s stop pretending that it’s just a coincidence Donald Trump has golfed five of the last eight days as Northern California continues to burn at the cost of more than 40 confirmed dead, 99 missing, thousands of structures reduced to ash, hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and first responders and social services stretched beyond mental and physical capacities, some fighting blazes or helping residents while their own homes burn. No tweets (thank goodness) and this terse statement he made just prior to greeting the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins: “…(We will) be there with you in this time of terrible tragedy and need.”

That’s absolutely the least he could do and even that seemed like a strain.

Why? Because he wants us to die.

Doesn’t like our kind. Doesn’t approve of our ways. Doesn’t much care to know how we do it. He has, as a businessman, as a celebrity, as a candidate and as a president, been so routinely rejected and roundly rebuffed by the Golden State that he would like nothing better than for us, our money, our electorate, our curve-setting power and our tasty swells to disappear for good, evaporate.

Meantime, after being forced to evacuate his own home, we’ve got Guy Fieri stepping in and providing leadership through example… and delicious burnt ends.

I remember once upon a time, somewhere along the campaign trail last summer, old line conservatives comparing Trump to Ronald Reagan. Both were celebrities before they were politicians. Both possessed some kind of political outsider charisma and charm and staying power and both were considered relative rubes when they entered the political arena, men who could generate a lot of buzz but likely to not be taken seriously.

On the surface, maybe. But scratch just beneath and you couldn’t come up with a more disparate pair of animals than Trump and Reagan—and most of it boils down not only to substance over style, but good vs. evil. While Reagan was a legitimate star of both big and small screens, Trump settled for cameos in soft porn and sequels (inserting himself into movies shot on his properties as… himself.)

While Reagan was a self-made son of a itinerant alcoholic shop clerk who moved his family from town to town in northern Illinois escaping bill collectors and landlords, Trump’s father was the landlord who chased people of color from his Queens tenements and got arrested at a Klan rally.

Reagan worked his way through college, got a job as a local sportscaster and found his way into film and later politics. Trump lied and cheated his way through school, dodged the draft, was given what amounted to an honorary undergraduate degree before assuming control of the family empire, hitching his wagon to the shadiest of advisors in Roy Cohn, who taught him the dark arts of burning bridges, suing enemies into submission and taking advantage of the little guy. Over the past three decades, Trump has been involved in 4,095 lawsuits. That’s an alarming one lawsuit every 2.6 days of his adult life.

These lawsuits include branding, trademark, defamation, contract disputes, casino-related. campaign-related, employment, golf course, tax and government, personal injury, real estate-related and sexual harassment claims. He is not one of, but THE most litigated-against man in the country. The country he happens to be attempting to run.

Reagan, a man of letters who read voraciously and kept meticulous journal, accounting for every day in office, vs. Trump who stumbles through words scrolling through a teleprompter like someone who’s trying to read aloud the ingredients of Mountain Dew.

Reagan, the man who evoked the shining city upon a hill—a place of rampant tolerance, opportunity and forbearance—a man who didn’t believe in building fences or walls, but working on our mutual problems had this to say in a truly Californian way about the neighbors we welcome across borders.

…Versus a man who grabbed xenophobic middle America by the pinky white flabby mass of miserable turkey necks and shook them into a white nationalist fervor with the chants of “Build a Wall’ in the places where no immigrants dare to… or even want to live.

Reagan was a product of halcyon mid-century California: Los Angeles and its fecund endless pastures that touched on the shores of Malibu, rows of bungalows perfumed in hyacinth and tucked among the citrus groves in Orange County, the wide open spaces of the as-yet untouched Central Coast. In his later years, when I worked as a clerk at a map store in Century City, I used to see Reagan on his daily cordial past the Brentano’s books and the farmers’ market, plucking cherries from their baskets, shaking hands of proprietors and embracing children. Cameras were off, secret service hanging back. Agree or disagree with his politics or what he set in motion, but he was a kind, empathetic soul.

Reagan was also essentially California, bright, optimistic, full of hope and varnish and a little bit of fiction—and always looking to improve on yesterday with a better tomorrow.

Trump is decidedly anti- our values because, frankly, he couldn’t make it here. Developers don’t want him (he has no investments in California), legitimate businesses don’t deal with him and Silicon Valley and Hollywood wants nothing to do with him. Trump’s number-one priority has always been his business and he has no business being here.

Since Trump took office, he has visited stayed east of the Mississippi visiting his base and rallying them with his cries of doom and destruction in Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia. Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee and New Jersey, In fact, he’s only come into our timezone twice and that was for a poorly attended rally in Arizona and a photo op in Vegas in the wake of their tragic Oct. 1 shooting massacre.

California nation’s most populous state, with 39 million residents, and the wealthiest, a $2.4 trillion GDP in 2015. Our economy is ranked 6th in the world behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom and slightly above France, Brazil… and Russia, where the Trump organization has a “pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” in the words of Donald Jr., is a distant 12th.

Because of our population and power, we are traditionally one of the first stops for an incoming president. We are the nation’s bellwether in policy and promise. For his part, the only acknowledgement that we exist thus far in his term is Trump’s dismissal of us as “out of control.” Contrary to what he claims in light of his staggering loss here, that he did not campaign in California, Trump did visit the Golden State on the campaign trail. Last summer, he made stops in the Bay Area and Central Valley, the prior sparked violence at his San Jose rally in June. Only in the Central Valley, California’s Bible Belt rife with Evangelicals, did Trump’s time go smoothly.

All modern predecessors have made California a priority stop within the first six months of taking office. In May 1977, Jimmy Carter visited Fresno to address the drought. Reagan came home to vacation at Rancho del Cielo, a 600-plus-acre spread in the Santa Ynez mountain range just above Santa Barbara in July, 1981. George Bush visited San Jose in April 1989. Bill Clinton couldn’t wait to get to Silicon Valley in February 1993. George W. Bush took time to stop in Los Angeles in May 2001 and Barack Obama twice visited California during his first seven months of office.

If Trump has done one thing, besides demean and ignore California, it’s threaten us. One of his first actions after taking the highest office in the land was to say he would remove federal funding if California voted to become a sanctuary state. “If we have to, we’ll defund,” he said. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California.” The federal government spends some $367.8 billion a year on California and economic studies show that’s between 78 and 99 cents on the dollar what Californians pay in. So while we are giving/getting a proportional amount (as opposed to the aforementioned states Trump has visited—all of them but New York on the take.)

His ill-advised immigration plans from the wall to the Muslim travel ban to whatever the fuck the white supremacist mouthpiece in the White House du jour Stephen Miller was talking about in August, wants to put an end to all that.

By May, barely one in four residents here said they approved of the job he was doing, according to a poll conducted in by the Public Policy Institute of California. The support for Trump in California is shrinking faster than his cerebral cortex as he continues to degrade and denigrate necessary dissenters like our former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, current governor Jerry Brown and former attorney general, current freshman senator Kamala Harris. These folks along with outspoken lawmakers like Ted Lieu, Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff are thorns in Trump’s side. They speak frankly and plainly about the fate of a union that needs us to be whole. When that doesn’t appeal to the current occupant of the White House’s better judgement, they acknowledge that California and Californians will continue to create commerce, protect its residents and stand up against the tyranny coming from the Oval Office, perhaps at grave cost.

It was obvious when Trump spoke off the cuff in August of unleashing “Fire and Fury” against North Korea that he knew they would point their cannons directly at his own worst enemy, California. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he said. “They will be met with the fire and fury that the world has never seen. He [Kim Jong-un] has been very threatening beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”

Here’s an idea: Trump and his supporters, including the Twitter bots, lie-peddling Breitbart hate- and fear-mongers, billionaire oligarchs, corporate bad guys, white supremacist bro-trolls, Fox & Friends propagandists and puffy, miserable whites who vote against their own interests in hopes of getting separate drinking fountains again, can all go live on Guam, North Korea’s purported practice target.

Guam residents, come on over and you can help us rebuild our democracy, our standing in the world and the planet… And while we figure out how to get back to normal with a California-first attitude, Trumpists can face down the scorched Earth results of all their rhetoric, misdeeds and hatred as they continue to live their best lives as living, breathing, post-fact, tolerance-, healthcare- and education-free Onion headlines.

Oh, and as for not giving a shit about us during our time of need, on behalf of the almost 40 million strong whose lives are now threatened by your baseless carelessness as we deal with daily self-inflicted crises as well as our own actual emergencies the best way we know how—on our own—we say, fuck you. Thank you.

Andrew J. Pridgen has a book coming out Nov. 24, 2017. Yay.

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