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Newsletter: 1990s California would have been kinder to Trump

Trump arrives in California
President Trump inspects the border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego County on March 13.
(K.C. Alfred / TNS)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 17, 2018. If you find yourself caught in the worst Los Angeles traffic of your life Sunday, I apologize: I’ll be among the 20,000-runners plus clogging the streets during the L.A. Marathon. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

In the annals of President Trump’s tortured relationship with California, this past week will probably go down as one of the more surreal ones. The president, whose administration just sued the state over its immigration laws, on Tuesday started his first visit to California since his inauguration 14 months ago, and he didn’t waste much time before trashing our governor and asserting, bizarrely, that many of us here were just begging him to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Unsurprisingly, Trump was poorly received by the locals when he attended a fundraiser in Beverly Park and spent the night downtown in the tallest building in the western U.S.

As recently as the 1990s, California was a much different place — one that surely would have been more receptive to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. In his Los Angeles Times op-ed article, USC sociologist Manuel Pastor reminds us just how far California has come since the days of the punitively anti-immigrant, unconstitutional Proposition 187:

California foreshadowed the nation's current anti-immigrant turmoil in 1994, with Proposition 187, a ballot measure intended to strip public services from anyone in the state illegally. Demographic anxiety and economic fear bubbled beneath the restrictionist measure: The decline in good-paying manufacturing jobs in the state between 1990 and 1994 was nearly the same as the decline in (now Trump-sympathetic) Michigan between 2007 and 2011.

Even as the economy was sinking, one business model was on the rise: profiteering from political polarization. Local talk radio fanned the anti-immigrant (and anti-tax) flames in Los Angeles in the 1990s. Thousands of immigrant marchers protested 187, some carrying flags of Mexico, El Salvador and other Latin American countries. The middle ground crumbled.

California likely had to pass — and come to regret — Proposition 187 before the state's reactionary paroxysm could end. The measure's draconian policies, caught up in court battles, never went into effect. But the bruising debate it generated wore on, until social and economic realities began to make it clear that dividing the population by race and nativity was doing more to extend the state's problems rather than solve them....

California has been through the anxious, mean-spirited and divisive rhetoric and policy-making now gripping Washington. We're here to say that there's no need to repeat our mistakes. Building bridges rather than walls has paid off: California is a state of resistance, but it's also a state of resilience, and the nation would do well to take notice.

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Xavier Becerra’s message to Trump: We’re not in the deportation business. On the occasion of Trump’s visit, California’s attorney general reminds the president that while the state and the administration both agree that public safety is their No. 1 priority, how they seek to ensure it is dramatically different: “We believe our communities are safest when we have trust between our law enforcement and the communities they serve. We need the public, including immigrants, to be our eyes and ears — to report when they witness a crime or are victims themselves. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is trying to puncture that trust by taking us to court.” Washington Post

Trump drained the swamp — and moved it to Beverly Park. Remember when Donald Trump the candidate cast himself as a self-funded political upstart who didn’t need the moneyed interests to support his campaign and expect something in return? You might not if you know he spent much of his visit to California in Beverly Park, dining with wealthy patrons who paid $35,000 just for the price of entrance and $100,000 to take a picture with the president. The Atlantic

A forgotten hero stopped the My Lai massacre 50 years ago. On March 16, 1968, Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot, landed his aircraft between advancing American forces and cowering Vietnamese civilians who had just seen more than 500 of their fellow villagers brutally slaughtered. UC Irvine historian Jon Wiener writes of an interview he did in 2000 with Thompson, who died in 2006 at the age of 62. L.A. Times

Cutting off the public’s beach access to appease a billionaire would be unconscionable. Tech billionaire Vinod Khosla doesn’t want rif-raff scurrying through his San Mateo County property on their way to the majestic Martins Beach. Problem is, that beach belongs to the public, and the California Coastal Act compels Khosla to provide access to it. Khosla now wants the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in, potentially dealing a devastating blow to California’s Coastal Act. The court should decline to take up the case, says The Times Editorial Board. L.A. Times

What would the late Andrew Breitbart say to Steve Bannon? The former, who died suddenly at the age of 42 in 2012, would surely be disgusted by the veiled racism of the former White House advisor who ran the right-wing news site bearing Breitbart’s name, writes Jonah Goldberg. L.A. Times


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