Many Californians forced out of their liberal complacency

Trump’s plans for immigration reform have sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley

High school students marching to City Hall in Los Angeles last week to protest at the election of Donald Trump. Many are Latino youths who fear their families could be split up through mass deportations of immigrants. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

High school students marching to City Hall in Los Angeles last week to protest at the election of Donald Trump. Many are Latino youths who fear their families could be split up through mass deportations of immigrants. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

 

In California we live under the shadow of the knowledge that an earthquake could occur at any moment, a ground-shaking devastation that could destroy the very foundation of our lives. It is something we usually push to the back of our minds, convincing ourselves it could not really happen, because living in constant fear would not be practical.

But with the election of Donald Trump as US president, a rumbling, political earthquake has shaken the inclusive, progressive world of California to its core.

The magnitude of the new political reality has forced many Californians out of their liberal complacency, and now they must acknowledge the deep chasms dividing the country.

Before the election few here believed in the possibility of a Trump presidency – the Silicon Valley “bubble” that powers the state is not only economic but also social and political. But even within California itself there are divisions between the so-called coastal elites and those living in rural areas – the inland, northern parts of California went decisively to Trump.

According to the latest count, however, Hillary Clinton won 61.5 per cent of the vote in California; this rises to 73.3 per cent in Santa Clara and 76.3 per cent in San Mateo, the heart of Silicon Valley, and to a staggering 85.5 per cent in San Francisco, the home of liberal counterculture.

In local ballots California also went against the tide of Trumpism by voting to legalise recreational marijuana, increase gun control and raise taxes on the wealthy.

Anger and shock

Anthony Rendon

Alongside the anger and shock, the protests and petitions, there is a huge amount of fear.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state is home to more than 10 million immigrants, accounting for one in four of the total foreign-born population in the US. About 27 per cent of these are undocumented.

In addition to Trump’s plans to deport up to three million illegal immigrants, he has vowed to block federal funding for sanctuary cities, so-called because of policies that protect undocumented immigrants. San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and LA are all sanctuary cities, and the entire state of California passed a law in 2013 limiting state co-operation with federal immigration authorities.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee moved quickly to reassure residents that the city would continue to protect them. “We have been, and always have been, a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love.”

Several mayors and police chiefs across the state have also sought to assure immigrants that their policies would not change.

Plenty of blame

There has also been plenty of blame to go around, with accusations that Facebook and Twitter inadvertently helped bring Trump to victory by enabling fake news to proliferate across their networks. In recent days Facebook and Google have banned sites that promote fake news from their advertising services, while Twitter has added new measures to crack down on hate speech.

Such gestures may seem like too little, too late, but resistance to the new order is growing. Some Californians are even calling for the state, which has the sixth largest economy in the world, to secede from the US altogether.

Dubbed “Calexit”, the once-fringe independence movement has experienced a huge surge in interest, trending on social media and supported by Silicon Valley elites including Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar and Design Inc chief executive Marc Hemeon. Pishevar has in recent days softened his stance, calling instead for a “new federalism” in which local governments would have more control while remaining “bonded together” as the US.

Social divides

As Californians continue to sift through the rubble of this election result, a beacon of hope may well be Democrat Kamala Harris, California’s newest senator. Of Indian-Jamaican heritage, she is the second black woman and first Indian-American person elected to the senate. “Do not despair,” she told her followers on Twitter. “I will be in the senate fighting for you and your rights.”

Already Harris is being tipped as a potential candidate for the 2020 presidency. As the political aftershocks continue, her tenacity in representing the rights of immigrants and minorities may be the solid ground that California needs in the coming days, months and years.

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