Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Donald in San Pedro, CA

Who would have thought that the real estate mogul turned reality star turned Presidential candidate would take a trip to the South Bay and talk up his Presidential campaign? Of course, The Donald has stamped his mark in the region already. He owns a golf course in Palos Verdes (once the most expensive real estate in the country, where residents got into a horizon fight, because he wanted the American flag standing tall. Ocean front views cost money, and residents will fight for it in city councils and courtrooms. Besides, why wouldn’t a Presidential candidate venture a visit to liberal Los Angeles, with one the largest media markets in the country, and a frequent stop for naval and sea trade operations? Governor then President Ronald Reagan made his mark in this port city, which consolidated with Los Angeles in 1909 (although the City of Angeles established its Harbor Commissions two years prior).

Boundaries of San Pedro as drawn by the Los Angeles Times
San Pedro, CA (Los Angeles Times)
Moreover, San Pedro, CA is living history. In the largest port in the United States, from its Gabrielino native populations to its rags-to-riches developer, pro-Union Democrat Phineas Banning, San Pedro residents have a strong self-consciousness about their city. Almost everyone who lives here was born here. In the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair, running for Governor as a self-avowed socialist (Bernie Sanders, anyone?) was arrested for speaking out against perceived corruption and inciting violence among dockworkers. The Ku Klux Klan once marched brazenly down the main thoroughfares of the city, and today, one of the most radical left-wing labor unions, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, dominates the shipping industry and local politics.

In 2002, already fighting a war against terrorism and embracing a shaken economy, President George W. Bush stepped in during a massive labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the ILWU. Invoking the Taft-Hartley Act, Bush  forced everyone to go back to work, ending the backlog of trade. Before Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, there was George Walker Bush forcing unions to behave.

San Pedro was also one of the most solidly Republican sections in Los Angeles County. Despite the strong Democratic Hahn machine (From LA County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn to his former mayor son James and ambitious daughter Janice), Republicans have won their fair share of fights. A San Pedro dentist named Gerald Felando unseated long-time Machine Democrat Vincent Thomas (after whom the San Pedro-Long Beach bridge is named). Felando faced 100-to-1 odds, with little money, yet shocked the political talking heads. LA City Council members from San Pedro were Republicans, too, including Joan Milke Flores, who nearly defeated “moderate” Democrat Jane Harman in 1992. Either way, it would have been the Year of the Woman in the South Bay. To this day, a common phrase among port residents: “In San Pedro, we vote Democrat, but think Republican.”  Hopefully they will start voting the way they think really soon.

Now, back to the Donald.

On the USS Iowa, a retired warship which has splashed ashore in San Pedro, making waves and surging pride for this South Bay community, Trump was supposed to deliver a national security speech. Most of his talks have turned into meandering, repeat-button “look at me” tirades, and without exception this one delivered on its failure to deliver. He kept talking about making deals. “I make deals.” Big deal. The Iran Deal is one of the worst. We all know that.

To his credit, he credited the warm invite from the Veterans for a Strong America to speak at the USS Iowa. He talked about offering subsidized private health care for veterans. Actually, that is a great idea. No warrior for the United States should suffer in silence or succumb to death waiting for health care. He slammed the current policy which grants taxpayer-funded health care to illegal aliens instead of American citizens. This country has seen what government health care does: nothing. If our nation’s finest cannot get adequate treatment or medical attention from a byzantine bureaucracy, what can ordinary Americans expect from a similar single-payer system? By the way, Trump remains a singular standout, supporting government run health care. My answer? “You’re fired!”

And yes, he wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and make Mexicans pay for it. How now? Some conservatives have suggested a tax on remittances from America to Mexico: a concrete proposal, to say the least. What would  Donald do?

Of course, there were protesters, who like Trump engaged in heated rhetoric and denounced his controversial comments about the rate of criminals crossing the border and wreaking havoc in American cities. This country deserves high praise for permitting such heated controversy among divergent political forces, and yet peace holds steady as the norm. The most disturbing protest centered on a state senator (just elected last year in a quiet special election), who exploited Trumps’ histrionic exploits to promote his unconstitutional resolution: divestment California from Donald Trump and Trump Enterprises. His legislation, all show and no go, is against the law.

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg
Donald Trump (Michael Vadon)

I could not attend Trump’s speech ($100 to $1000 a ticket, and I was working). Besides, I would like a Presidential candidate with a record of service, in government as well as private practice. I want someone who talks and walks conservative principles, consistently.

Despite my strong  and growing misgivings about Donald Trump (and more of my fellow South Bay conservative feel the same way about him), I have to admit: this showman knows how to show up opponents and put on a show. I look forward to attending and reviewing the second debate in Simi Valley, where record and character of his political competitors will show up the showman, and prove that indeed actions speak louder than words, especially when your words are heavy on patriotism and light on substance. San Pedrans understand as much about their politicians (many of whom are homegrown with stellar records and rhetoric), and hopefully this down-home expectation from South Bay, CA for our national leaders will permeate among all American voters in the months ahead.


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