California omens and Washington gridlock

See update for October 11, 2021, at end of post.

I have been mostly silent about the recall campaign against Governor Gavin Newsom in California. California became a state too much enamored with artificial idiocy[1] and money[2] for me. I am no longer a California resident and Californians are no longer my people, so, to some degree, it’s really no longer my business.

But the Democrats nationally would do well to heed the voices in Maria La Ganga’s article in the Los Angeles Times about how California Democratic voters view the recall attempt against Governor Gavin Newsom.[3] They won’t. Newsom’s lockdown-violating dinner at the French Laundry in Napa Valley[4] wasn’t just about the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was about Democratic Party politicians who are completely insulated from and cannot imagine what life is like for the people whom La Ganga quotes, let alone for the homeless (none of whom La Ganga quotes). It was profoundly about class, with the rich, utterly unconcerned about how they might pay their medical bills, moving about and socializing freely as usual, while the poor either worked anyway on the frontlines, often with inadequate protection, or stayed home, jobless and without an income.[5] This is about more than hypocrisy. It is about that hypocrisy mixed with sheer terror.

And no, I’m not and I expect a lot of people are not interested in hearing employers whine about a “labor shortage” that’s really about a living wage shortage, a decent working conditions shortage, and a decent prospects shortage,[6] when even the minimum wage should be $26 per hour,[7] where every penny less than that paid to workers constitutes a form of theft, with restitution due. This is a labor market that is bogus even in the best of times;[8] the pandemic has merely laid it all undeniably bare.

I won’t soon forget the homeless encampments the size of small villages I saw around the San Francisco Bay Area, the not-so-recreational vehicles being lived in on the Stanford University (its own municipality) side but not the Palo Alto side of El Camino Real and along parks in Mountain View. And I am even more horrified to move to Pittsburgh and see what seems like increasing numbers of homeless here, where there is actual winter, where housing is considerably less expensive, where so many homes are abandoned to rot.

Meanwhile, Democrats have failed to extend an eviction ban meant to help limit the spread of COVID-19, blaming the Supreme Court, when it was Congress that failed to act.[9]

While for politicians, it’s always someone else’s fault, ordinary people are suffering. They worry for their children. They worry about how they’re going to make it through the month. And the rich and powerful, whether Democratic or Republican, don’t fucking care. Consider these issues:

These are all issues that more than matter to people but are left to the “politics as usual” of the filibuster, of so-called “moderates,” of fucking Republicans. It’s a list that’s much too long and the Democrats aren’t convincingly progressing on any of it.

It was when, in 2005, I looked back at the Democratic Party platform for the 2004 presidential campaign (John Kerry lost against George W. Bush), that I realized that, except for abortion, I was looking at a Republican platform. This was a choice between shades of evil. When I have voted—there’s really very little point[10]—since, it’s been third party.

Because I’m suffering too, unable to find a real job even with a Ph.D., driving my ass off seven days a week for Uber (and, rarely, Lyft),[11] facing an existential despair with death as the only end in sight. Too many people share some version of my pain.

The risk that Newsom faces is that Democrats—yes, Democrats—have abjectly failed to give far too many people a reason to vote for them.

Update, October 11, 2021: With 99 percent of the vote counted—apparently this isn’t done yet—Gavin Newsom convincingly defeated the recall attempt. Painting too broadly, much of far northern California, the Sierra Nevadas, and the Central Valley voted against him; he did better than I expected across southern California (south of the Tehachapis) and won most of the coast.[12] I deal with the proposed State of Jefferson, helping to explain the vote in much of far northern California, and the Central Valley in a subsequent blog post.

All that said, Democrats nationally do appear to have a serious problem with voters owing to their failure to deliver on at least some of the issues I listed above. How this plays in 2022 and 2024, of course, remains to be seen.[13] After all, Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party[14] in a two-party system remains far beyond reprehensible. But if, as I would recommend, one focuses on actions rather than words, Democrats are still failing to give me a reason to reevaluate the conclusion I reached in 2005.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Farewell, California, I’ll miss you and I won’t miss you,” Not Housebroken, April 9, 2019,
  3. [3]Maria L. La Ganga, “Democrats fight California recall but say party must do better: ‘Don’t just sit there,’” Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2021,
  4. [4]Taryn Luna, “Photos raise doubts about Newsom’s claim that dinner with lobbyist was outdoors amid COVID-19 surge,” Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2020,
  5. [5]Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020,; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020,; Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020,; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020,; Olivia Goldhill, “Coronavirus prevention is far more accessible for the rich,” Quartz, March 16, 2020,; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020,; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020,; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020,; David Harrison, “Lack of Savings Worsens the Pain of Coronavirus Downturn,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2020,; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020,; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020,; Paul Kane, “Congress deeply unpopular again as gridlock on coronavirus relief has real-life consequences,” Washington Post, August 1, 2020,; Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020,; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020,; Heather Long, “The recession is over for the rich, but the working class is far from recovered,” Washington Post, August 13, 2020,; Leila Miller, “Low-wage workers face retaliation for demanding COVID-19 safety measures at work,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2020,; Antonio Olivo, Marissa J. Lang, and John D. Harden, “Crowded housing and essential jobs: Why so many Latinos are getting coronavirus,” Washington Post, May 25, 2020,; Andy Sullivan, “Americans too scared to go to work risk losing unemployment aid, experts say,” Reuters, April 23, 2020,; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020,; Kyle Swenson, “Ten bucks left, no place to go: How the pandemic and a broken unemployment system are upending people’s lives,” Washington Post, August 1, 2020,; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020,; David Wallace-Wells, “America Is Broken,” New York, March 12, 2020,
  6. [6]Anna Bahney, “Minimum wage workers can’t afford rent anywhere in America,” CNN, July 15, 2021,; Abha Bhattarai, “Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work: ‘My life isn’t worth a dead-end job,’” Washington Post, June 21, 2021,; Sarah Chaney Cambon and Danny Dougherty, “States That Cut Unemployment Benefits Saw Limited Impact on Job Growth,” Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2021,; Burgess Everett, “8 Democrats defect on $15 minimum wage hike,” Politico, March 5, 2021,; Fiona Greig et al., “When unemployment insurance benefits are rolled back: Impacts on job finding and the recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program,” J.P. Morgan Chase and Company Institute, July 2021,; Jenn Ladd, “‘This is a real job’: Philly’s restaurant workers dissect the labor shortage, and contemplate a different future,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2021,; Justin Lahart, “Jobs Are Hard to Fill, and Ideology Makes It Hard to Understand Why,” Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2021,; Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021,; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021,; Heather Long, Alyssa Fowers, and Andrew Van Dam, “Why America has 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings,” Washington Post, September 4, 2021,; Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “States that cut unemployment early aren’t seeing a hiring boom, but who gets hired is changing,” Washington Post, July 27, 2021,; Gene Marks, “Rude customers are a drag – but can we small business owners do more?” Guardian, July 25, 2021,; Bryan Mena, “Unfilled Job Openings Outnumber Unemployed Americans Seeking Work,” Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2021,; Anna North, “The death of the job,” Vox, August 24, 2021,; Joe Napsha, “Western Pa. business owners lament: Where have all the workers gone?” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 5, 2021,; Matt Petras, “In the continuing pandemic, businesses need workers, but are jobs meeting the needs of residents?” Public Source, August 12, 2021,; Richard V. Reeves, “Capitalism is failing. People want a job with a decent wage – why is that so hard?” Brookings, April 29, 2019,; Greg Rosalsky, “Is There Really A Truck Driver Shortage?” National Public Radio, May 25, 2021,; Eli Rosenberg, “These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more,” Washington Post, June 10, 2021,; Michael Sainato, “Companies claim there’s a labor shortage. Their solution? Prisoners,” Guardian, July 20, 2021,; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021,; Alina Selyukh, “Low Pay, No Benefits, Rude Customers: Restaurant Workers Quit At Record Rate,” National Public Radio, July 20, 2021,; Francisco Velasquez, “How much money a single person needs to earn to get by in every U.S. state,” CNBC, August 25, 2021,
  7. [7]Dean Baker, “This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity,” Center for Economic Policy and Research, January 21, 2020,; Dean Baker, “The $26 an Hour Minimum Wage,” Center for Economic Policy and Research, August 19, 2021,; Rachel Pannett, “Minimum-wage lessons for the U.S. from the other side of the world,” Washington Post, July 26, 2021,
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Factory farmed humans,” Not Housebroken, May 17, 2021,; David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, June 10, 2021,; David Benfell, “That merit should yield at least a decent living,” Not Housebroken, July 9, 2021,; David Benfell, “The wages are injury enough; the insult in some ways even worse,” Not Housebroken, August 14, 2021,; Patricia Cohen, “Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment,” New York Times, November 1, 2019,; Martina Hund-Mejean and Marcela Escobari, “Our employment system has failed low-wage workers. How can we rebuild?” Brookings, April 28, 2020,; George Packer, “We Are Living in a Failed State,” Atlantic, June 2020,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “To be an international human rights rogue and to spread the contagion,” Not Housebroken, August 13, 2021,; Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle, and Katy O’Donnell, “Democratic push to extend eviction moratorium fizzles in the House,” Politico, July 30, 2021,; Jonathan O’Connell et al., “Evictions are about to restart as tenants wait on billions in unspent rental aid,” Washington Post, July 30, 2021,; Katy O’Donnell, “‘Down the drain’: Millions face eviction after Biden lets protections expire,” Politico, July 31, 2021,; David G. Savage, “Supreme Court blocks Biden’s extension of eviction ban,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2021,; Matt Stieb, “What Happens Now That the Eviction Moratorium Has Expired?” New York, August 2, 2021,
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016,
  11. [11]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,
  12. [12]Washington Post, “California governor recall election: Voters reject recall of Gavin Newsom,” October 10, 2021,
  13. [13]Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “‘Frustration is at an all-time high’: Behind Biden’s falling poll numbers,” Washington Post, October 11, 2021,
  14. [14]Aaron Blake, “The GOP’s fanciful defense of Trump’s DOJ plot,” Washington Post, October 7, 2021,; Olivier Knox, “How The Simpsons explains the GOP’s latest Trump defense,” Washington Post, October 8, 2021,; David Montgomery, “What Wyoming Really Thinks of Liz Cheney,” Washington Post, October 7, 2021,; Tina Nguyen, “Javanka ’24: Will They or Won’t They?” Puck News, October 7, 2021,

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