Fight over ‘commies’ shows ongoing Capitol silliness
For some reason, it seemed funny (to me, but not my manager) to watch suburban shoppers peruse reading material with such great insights as, “The same limitless creative energy of the masses is also visible in the army, in their fighting style and indomitable will.”
It was stupid, but my stunt led me to do some serious reading about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Soviet Union’s Great Terror, Cambodia’s killing fields and the unimaginable mass murders, gulags, purges, executions, deprivations, wars and famines that were part and parcel of the world’s various communist experiments.
Since then, it seemed obvious to me that anyone embracing that philosophy was inexcusably ignorant or an advocate for evil. Forty years later, following the fall of the Soviet empire, there’s even less of an excuse for anyone to find anything funny about what took place.
Yet leave it to California Democrats to trivialize the matter by introducing an unnecessary and symbolic measure that revives a Cold War debate — and for some Republicans to take the bait eagerly. In particular, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced — and the full Assembly passed — Assembly Bill 22, which will forbid the state from firing public employees because they are members of the Communist Party.
The bill doesn’t really do anything. If it becomes law, the state could still, theoretically, fire government workers for knowingly being a member of a “subversive organization” that advocates the violent overthrow of the government. The bill removes the specific reference to the Communist Party so that de facto membership isn’t a firing offense. Bonta said the change is needed to reflect modern realities.
There’s no evidence the state government has fired anyone for party membership in recent years. The Communist Party isn’t exactly a thriving organization, largely because of the atrocities referred to above. The only place one might find Marxists these days is in the professoriate, and I doubt if any academics are bona fide members of the party. This change will affect no one.
Frankly, it’s nearly impossible to fire any public employee for any reason these days. And most important, perhaps, is the threats to California come not from state workers and legislators who want to overthrow the government, but from mainstream patriotic officials who want to make it a better place. In their zeal to improve society, they are passing laws, hiking taxes and imposing regulations that crush what remain of our liberties.
California faces grave threats, none of which come from the Communist Party.
The floor debate was bad theater. “This bill is blatantly offensive to all Californians,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, in typically overstated fashion. Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, reminded us that North Korean and Chinese communists are “still a threat.” Yes, I suppose, but not many North Korean communists apply for jobs at, say, the Department of Industrial Relations.
Democrats routinely accuse Republicans of engaging in divisive social battles such as gay marriage and abortion to stir up the base. Yet, in my years writing about the state Legislature, I’ve seen far more examples of Democrats trying to revive hot-button social debates for political reasons. The worst example was in 2014, when the state Senate passed a resolution condemning “xenophobic Proposition 187 and its corresponding campaign” and singling out Pete Wilson for opprobrium.
Prop. 187, the 1994 initiative that banned the provision of most public services to people in the state illegally, had long been killed by the courts. Wilson hasn’t been governor since 1999. Republicans seethed at the gratuitous floor speeches, which dredged up old bitter feelings for no real purpose — other than, perhaps, energizing Democratic voters for coming elections. At the Register, we opposed that poorly designed initiative at the time, but there was no excuse for reviving the issue two decades later.
These days, Democratic leaders seem to spend more time taking symbolic stances against the Trump administration than trying to fix California’s well-documented fiscal and regulatory problems. For their part, Republicans haven’t figured out how to wield any real power with their dwindling numbers, so they busy themselves sowing fear over immigration and crime concerns.
Or they mischaracterize the rare instance when Democrats do something worthwhile. After the Legislature passed a law that treats the victims of sex trafficking as, well, victims who need social-service help rather than prison sentences, Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, alleged in the national media that California had just legalized child prostitution.
I used to think there was some opportunity for legislators to pass a few practical reforms. That was naïve. Democrats and Republicans would rather argue about long-dead initiatives and the specter of commies in government than do the hard work of reforming the state.
Image by ccmakarov