California Not Always So Liberal
by Natasha Chart, Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 07:38:26 AM EST
There are good reasons you might have the impression that my home state of California is a very liberal place. For example, you might not know anyone who was alive before cultural conservatives started trashing Hollywood, aka, Babylon The Great, for destroying the country's morals. For another, it can be observed that San Francisco, the Northern Auxilliary Babylon, if you will, is well within state borders. Also, it's been going Democratic in the presidential election for ages now, the Democratic Speaker of the House is from there, and there are two Democratic Senators.
Important additional things to remember about it though, are that it's also ... the original home of the John Birch Society (which I perversely enjoy reminding people about), gave the nation two quite famous Republican presidents in the latter third of the 20th century, has a little over 1/10th the entire country's population and GDP, and is the country's top agricultural center.
By which I mean to say that it's a large and diverse state with its share of deep conservative roots.
There's also a good bit of immigrant and minority representation; populations of people who know that the GOP (and especially the California GOP) loathes them with a deep and abiding fervor, but are not otherwise more socially liberal than a random sample of the general public, even if they usually vote for Democrats. They're often quite religious. They know they're loathed (by some) because California (see the point above re the John Birch Society) is also home to a fair few White people who are bigoted and xenophobic to the point of frothing lunacy, though they may try to keep it under wraps.
The latter would include the neighbors in my former Silicon Valley burb, where a retired public safety official and crew rallied the gentry to oppose a small charter school for at risk, mostly minority, youth starting up at the church on the next block. (I may have written about this before, but it bears repeating.) They held demonstrations, wrote letters, generally made pains of themselves, until the church relented and decided not to host the students. The kids were, it was said, only going to grow up to be drug dealers and prostitutes anyway. They sent around flyers after asking for donations for a nice gift for a local woman who'd spearheaded the organizing.
That happened in California. Moreover, it happened right around the time reality shows like 'Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire' and 'Who Wants to Marry a Midget' started coming out. Which is to also say that it happened right around the time California had another statewide referendum on gay marriage, and my head nearly exploded from wondering how turning marriage into a game show was okay, but letting the gays do it just took all the sanctity out of the process. As BPK90 wrote in the comments to this excellent diary about why Blacks shouldn't be scapegoated for Prop 8, that vote was 10 points worse than this years' vote, with the anti-marriage vote at around 61%.
So what happened? Why couldn't California have been 12%-13% less homophobic this year than it was eight years ago, instead of only 9-10% less homophobic? I don't know for absolute certain, but here's my take:
First off, all the usual conservative and conservative-leaning constituencies didn't just evaporate like the dew after the state started giving its electoral votes to Democrats. As we all know to our sorrow, the electoral college is no respecter of nuance. Those voters are still there, still send lunatics like Dana Rohrabacher to Congress, and many of the non-Babylonian regions of the state continue to vote as majorities more like the South than like Northeast.
Second, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, aka Mormons, engaged in a massive political outreach and organizing campaign coordinated with certain Catholic groups and funded by people like the mother of the founder of Blackwater. And what did they tell people? Lies. They lied their buttocks off.
They told people who go to church, who love their church communities, who may find in those churches a respite of fellowship and respect from a cruel and unjust world, that their church's tax exempt status might be revoked if they refused to marry gay couples.
Now it would be nice if people just knew, automatically, where to look to find out if someone is either a lying scumbag or is mistakenly passing on a malicious story that some unscrupulous lying scumbag told them. Unfortunately, plenty of people don't have that kind of time, and there wasn't enough response capacity to counteract the lies.
The truth is, Proposition 8 was going down. And then someone found a lie that stuck and people to fund getting it out.
The respective churches are now complaining about erroneous information leading people to target them for protest. In fact, there are even angry Mormons, who didn't think this was an appropriate use of their place of worship. (Which just goes to show that no group is a monolith.)
Now the LDS church is saying that it's their right to participate in the democratic process. Well, no, it isn't.
Churches are explicitly prohibited from engaging in political campaigning if they want to remain tax-exempt, so perhaps that's not something they want to claim they did. Their members and officers, in their personal capacities, are free agents and do have that right. But not a church. That's why they get to avoid both taxes and public scrutiny of their affairs. So when they say this ...
It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.
... While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.
... I read a public admission that the LDS church has used a tax-exempt status from which it can raise unsupervised, unregulated sums of money from corporations, community organizations, foreign nationals, from anyone at all in any amount, to direct coordinated voter contacts for the purpose of expressing a political opinion that as an organization they are prohibited from sharing.
Shorter version: The LDS church, or any other church, is welcome to have whatever opinion it likes on gay marriage. They are prohibited by law from expressing official opinions about candidates or ballot questions as related to any topic, including gay marriage.
In fact, I'm pretty sure that funding and coordinating phonebanking counts as a strong expression of political opinion.
... The church has been a pre-eminent supporter of the ballot initiative and, at the request of the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, its members have been phone banking from Utah to push for its passage Nov. 4, The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.
"However, the church has since determined that such phone calls are best handled by those who are registered California voters," [church spokeswoman Kim] Farah said in the statement issued Friday. ...
Note that whatever you might want to say about the Mormon church, they are not a majority Black institution. They didn't even integrate the priesthood until 1978.
I expect that a lot of people got swayed by propaganda that threatened their churches, put out by a church acting like a political organization. It's hard to make good decisions when you're getting garbage information, it doesn't necessarily equate to innate bigotry.
Lastly, I know people are hurting over this vote. Not just those in the LGBT community, either, but all of us who wish for our loved ones and friends the rights that the rest of us take for granted. I am so sorry. I know there's a fear that if this could lose in California, it's over for a long, long time. Which is exactly why I wanted to make the point that California's liberalism is in process. But though the state might not get a full point less homophobic every year, year after year, I think they'll come around. This will come back and eventually, sooner or later, marriage equality will win. The kids, they're all right.
But until that happens, taking the hurt out on African Americans, some of whom are also members of the LGBT community, is both misguided and a good way to set back progress by still more years.
There's nothing the corporatist aristocrats love more than seeing traditionally oppressed groups go after each other, inflicting further hurt, further separation. It's the divide and conquer attitude that gave us the Southern Strategy, and got some of the nation's poorest Whites voting against programs that would have helped them and their neighbors, all because they were taught by political opportunists to fear and hate Blacks.
How'd that work out for everyone?very particular rules about how public lobbying campaigns above a certain threshold are reported. (via) Someone better prepare those documents very, very carefully, because church spokespeople have publicly admitted to quite a lot of coordinated activity and in-kind donation, and if any of that activity was in conjunction with the Yes on 8 mailers that used Obama's image, they may in fact be guilty of having crossed the line into electioneering.