California: An Enemy Of The People

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

President Trump last week called his media critics an “enemy of the American people.”  The phrase “enemy of the people” has a long and sordid history that should concern those to whom it is being applied, especially if it becomes part of Trump’s approach to government.

The phrase can be found in literature going all the way back to Rome when the Senate declared Nero an enemy of the people in 68 AD.  It has modern meaning in the French Revolution when Robespierre used it to justify the Great Terror of 1793.  “The Revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to Enemies of the People but death.” 

In the 20th Century, Lenin refined the term to apply to the politically unreliable, and to justify their arrests.  “All leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the Revolutionary Court,” he decreed after coming to power in 1917.

During the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, being an “enemy of the people” assured certain death.  Stalin’s trials of his enemies took place in the morning, their executions in the afternoon.  In 1956, in a speech to the 20th Communist Party Congress delivered 61 years ago this week, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his crimes, “Stalin originated the concept “enemy of the people.”  This term automatically made it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man engaged in a controversy be proven.  It made possible the use of the cruelest repression, violating all norms of revolutionary legality, against anyone who in any way disagree with Stalin.”

So being an “enemy of the people” was the worst fate that could befall you.  Trump is highly irritated that the American media is printing materials leaked from his administration; he would be even more furious if he had read California newspapers over the past year where virtually every story was critical of Trump’s candidacy and since his election his presidency.

Thus California and it political and media institutions are likely to be enemies of the people during the Trump years.  We are already seeing this play out, thanks in no small part to the anti-Trump ravings of California legislative leadership that is begging him to come down on this state like a ton of bricks.

Just last week, Trump’s Transportation Department all but killed California’s high speed rail by withdrawing $647 million that was to go for electrification of the tracks from San Jose to San Francisco.  Without electrification, the trains cannot run, and the state has insufficient money for electrification on its own.  So no high speed rail to San Francisco.

Trump and Congressional Republicans are moving toward making Medicaid a block grant to the states and shifting Medi-Cal money away from California.  That will be a many billion dollar hit to the state.  Under the Affordable Care Act, California’s Medi-Cal spending has mushroomed; according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the state now spends $85.4 billion on Medical, with the Federal government picking up 57 percent of the tab.

California accounts for 16 percent of the nation‘s Medicaid spending, a far greater share than our share of the population.  For instance, Texas, our next closest state in size, spends only $39 billion for Medicaid.  The days of the rest of the nation subsidizing California’s massive Medicaid spending are over.

Finally, the new Trump executive orders on immigration mean a large jump in undocumented immigrants deported from California, which has far and away the largest number of illegal residents.  Sanctuary cities and legislative resolutions will have no impact on federal immigration enforcement in California, where immigration laws are the exclusive purview of the federal government.

Well, maybe this is not as bad as being an “enemy of the people” under Robespierre or Stalin, but in political terms, Trump has shown no hesitation to use fiery language against his political enemies.  It is only so long before that becomes part of his governing method as well.

California had better get used to being an “enemy of the people.”

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