How much of a hold does the oligarchy have on California’s political system? I guess there are a lot of ways to answer this question. But let me give you one that’s closest to my heart and my professional interests. Take this as a little postcard from liberal California.
About a week ago I got this press release from the Office of Governor — Gavin Newsom. In it, a governor of a major state with an economy bigger than most countries in the world and a reputation for being forward-thinking and at the cutting edge of liberal politics, announced that he’s gonna do an event at Caltech, a private university in Pasadena. What so big and important about this event that the governor feels the need to travel 400 miles south from his political lair in Sacramento?
Well, as his announcement’s subtext made very clear, Governor Gavin’s was going to Pasadena to spit shine some shoes. Yes, ma’am!
“Philanthropists” is an interesting way for the Governor of California to describe one of the most powerful forces in farming in the state — a billionaire family that owns something like 300 square miles of Oligarch Valley land, has its own toxic corporate farm worker town, and, from their ridiculous mansion in Beverly Hills, has been on a destructive quest to eviscerate the state’s river system and plunder its aquifers, helping fuel a mass extinction in the San Francisco Bay Delta…all so they can grow and export pistachios, a fringe snack food that people around here barely eat.
But then calling these rapacious oligarchs “philanthropists” is exactly the point. Governor Gavin was going out to Pasadena to do some public relations work: to lend his name and image and the respectably of his public office to Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s ongoing effort to rebrand themselves as do-gooders and environmentalists, rather than the industrial-scale destroyers of the environment that they are.