Writing a column on a regular basis gives you a chronological record of how you’ve seen things unfold during the course of the year. My columns for **The Rafu,** 2020, have done this for me and it’s been interesting to re-read some of them.
I innocently started the year with the acknowledgement that there will be two major events that will take the limelight in 2020, the presidential election and Tokyo Olympics. I even joked about how the symmetrical layout of 2020 made for a fun design for those huge glasses you wear at New Year’s celebrations.
Then I wrote, “World leaders, including President Trump, down played the dangers and put lipstick on the pig. As it turns out the coronavirus is no swine flu.”
In another column I wrote, “In a crisis, the opportunity for the best or the worst of human characteristics can surface. Government on any level can only do so much. But whether we can “flatten the curve” of this coronavirus outbreak will fundamentally hinge on how we as people respond.” This not only applied to the pandemic but the other societal epidemic that reared its ugly head, systemic racism.
After the George Floyd murder stunned the world, I wrote, “The symbolism of having a white policeman killing an un-armed Black man by putting his knee (foot) on his neck epitomizes the historical arc of racism toward African Americans personified.” I also quoted my son Sei as he lamented, “We have to be better.” He was referring to people.
But because racism is systemic, Asian Americans were not immune and anti-Asian hate and hate speech joined the fray (again). The “Chinese virus’ and other racist tropes like “go back to where you came from” passed through the president’s lips and graced his Twitter account. I wrote in a related column that when confronted by this anti-Asian hate, “As a last resort, if in an untenable situation, show them you can speak English….and cuss them out!”
Neither the pandemic nor the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter phenomena were on my initial New Year’s radar. The Tokyo Olympics dropped off but the presidential election went on as scheduled and it took on historic proportions.
Yes, Joe Biden won the election with the most votes for president ever recorded. But it wasn’t lost on me that the second-most votes ever cast went to President Trump in his re-election defeat.
But at the end of the day, history repeated itself, as I quoted in another column: “Massive unemployment, businesses closing doors in masse, bread lines, soup lines and a Republican president, Herbert Hoover, who downplayed the crisis and didn’t act as needed, was thrown out of office. He was replaced by a Democratic president who seized the day and the bull by the horns.” This quote described the 1932 presidential election and now applies to President Trump like the ghost of Christmas past.
One last column reference is the one I wrote about California being a “nation state.” I praised the handling of the pandemic by Gov. Newsom and put forward a half-baked thesis on California being large enough and strong enough to go it on its own.
Gov. Newsom now faces a possible “recall” election because of the rancor caused by the post-Thanksgiving pandemic surge. This unlikely political reckoning is aided by several political missteps like the “while Rome is burning” dinner the Guv attended at the swanky French Laundry restaurant and the fraud debacle at the EDD, where millions of dollars of unemployment benefits were paid to people in jail.
But while trying to keep his political balance the governor also has at his disposal the “blessing or curse” situation of making a slew of high-level political appointments. Because of the domino effect caused by Sen. Kamala Harris being elected vice president the governor is in the position of naming her replacement.
With the replacement of Sen. Harris, the African American political diaspora proclaimed it only fair that the second African American woman U.S. senator in American history be replaced by an African American woman. The Latino/a political community claimed this an unprecedented opportunity for the Guv to appoint the first Latino/a U.S. senator from California, where they represent 40% of the state’s population.
If the governor appoints a Latino/a to the position he will suffer major political fallout from the Black electorate, a major segment of the Democratic vote, should he run for president in the future. If he selects a Latino/a he guarantees his re-election to the governorship of the State of California. Note, in California the African American electorate is 8+ percent of the population.
Well, he pulled the trigger and appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the open Senate seat. This appointment, an excellent one, was quickly followed by the nomination of Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber to the secretary of state opening (note: nominated because this appointment must be confirmed by the State Legislature). Dr. Weber, another excellent choice, will be the first African American to serve as California’s SOS.
Since the governor is on a roll, may I humbly submit that he appoint Congressman Ted Lieu to the state’s attorney general spot should Xavier Becerra become President-elect Biden’s health and human services secretary. Congressman Lieu is an attorney by trade. He served as a JAG, judge advocate general, in the military and has distinguished himself as a leader in Congress.
He would be an excellent choice!
Warren Furutani has served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, and in the California State Assembly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.