A Fresno Love Story

By Stan Santos

Editor’s note: This is political satire. The statements made in this piece, including the quotes, are from the author and do not reflect those of the characters involved in “A Fresno Love Story.”

Betty said, “How could he do this…and in public?”

Michael said, “She’s a home wrecker!”

Randy said, “He’s not getting another dime!”

Chuck said, “He didn’t talk to me first!”

Howard said, “The other guy’s far worse. Get over it!”

Rich said, “He’ll come back; it’s a gratuitous fling.”

Blong said, “When I’m done, I’ll come back home.”

Ashley said, “Actually, I am just using him.”

The team of social scientists known as Phil, Riko and Maggie read the polling and declared, “To survive in this town, you have to sleep with the enemy.”

The two Henrys said, “Can we destroy him now?”

Stan said, “They clearly share a codependent addiction to gambling.”

What began as the perfect story for Fresno Democrats, Progressives and Labor has turned into a tale of betrayal, and perhaps, redemption.

Fresno City Council Member and Board of Supervisors District 1 candidate Blong Xiong. Photo by Howard Watkins
Fresno City Council Member and Board of Supervisors District 1 candidate Blong Xiong. Photo by Howard Watkins
Mayor of Fresno and Republican State Controller candidate Ashley Swearengin. Photo by Howard Watkins
Mayor of Fresno and Republican State Controller candidate Ashley Swearengin. Photo by Howard Watkins

Blong Xiong, poised to achieve the impossible, is an ideal candidate with roots in the growing Southeast Asian community of the Valley. An immigrant with a “pulled himself up from his bootstraps” story and perfect inflection, he had universal appeal. With a background as a small business owner, investigator and two-term City Council member, you could see him talking comfortably with someone from Guanajuato or Hanford. At a recent luncheon of Hispanic realtors with one of the Henrys present, he talked about water. At a meeting of communications workers, he said that if he had not left his country of birth, he would now be a farmer!

Then came Ashley. She is the model California conservative: White, attractive (some say “hot”), with the Iron Maiden ruthlessness of a Margaret Thatcher (the former British prime minister who won a landslide reelection victory after demolishing the Argentines in the Falklands War, at a cost of more than 900 lives).

Swearengin is also a cold calculator with contrasting political positions. She will devour the children of civil servants while supporting high-speed rail. She will pay out millions of City dollars in wrongful death lawsuits and over homeless encampments while balancing the budget with the skill of a circus high-wire artist. A perfect choice for state controller!

When did it happen?

Did their eyes meet across the dais during the fight over the garbage collectors? Was a spark ignited in their hearts, or was it more like a light bulb going off in the political hemispheres of their brains?

Researchers have determined that Democrats show significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness. Meanwhile, Republicans show significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in the body’s “fight-or-flight” system.

So when did his insula connect with her amygdala and cause both of them to lose their minds, driving them deeper into their shared abyss of victory by any means?

There are also those who feel this drama was the product of “path of least resistance” calculations by a campaign manager who doesn’t know how to go out and do the hard work and capture the hearts of marginalized families who, despite being the overwhelming majority of Valley voters, are so tired and traumatized with their surroundings that they have lost hope.

getty.images.brain.light.bulbThe rule was “No Democrat supports a Republican in a statewide race against a local candidate.” If Blong wins, will he thank Ashley and SEIU, or the Democrats and the Labor Council? Did his campaign manager do an accurate cost-benefit analysis and weigh the negative effects on his election efforts? Finally, will it open the floodgates for other candidates to cross the line? The campaign was hobbled, but quickly regained momentum.

Others feel that it was Swearengin who took the gamble and will certainly lose the support of the Tea Party. Will that really hurt her in the long run? Or will it actually boost her credentials as a model California conservative? Win or lose, Swearengin has launched her product image as a “new Republican.” She is willing to calculate and make deals with liberals, if she can minimize risk to her side and maximize damaging divisions to the other.

In November, activists hope that folks will turn out and vote their hearts, although history has proven that the greatest enemy to change is apathy, with barely 1 out of 4 voters going to the polls. It is only a matter of time before the Valley electorate is overwhelmingly Democrat, progressive leaning and reflecting the ethnically diverse population of workers and poor. Today, they are learning the hard lessons of politics, loyalty and making the tough choices.

Win or lose, Blong has lifted the Hmong community to new heights, and they will have their place at the table. Activists will curse him or thank him and the wounds will heal. In the meantime, while the debate rages, working and poor families in marginalized communities live on the edge, waiting for their time to come.

*****

Stan Santos is an activist in the labor and immigrant community. Contact him at ssantos@cwa9408.org.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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