Democrat Phill Arballo is challenging incumbent Devin Nunes for district 22, a very conservative one (Photo courtesy Arballo’s campaign).

Why the November Election Is the Most Important of Our Lives

By Francis Horan

This year, many worst-case scenarios have become our reality. Global warming, police violence and our unorganized national health system are inflicting terrible damage. For both societal and environmental issues, California has demonstrated that our large state acts as an example and case study for the future of the nation.

The Nov. 3 election deadline is our final choice between limiting or exacerbating the damage that could define our culture for a century and our globe for a millennium.

In the Central Valley, the race between Devin Nunes (R–Tulare) and Democratic candidate Phil Arballo for the 22nd Congressional seat is a key. In that district, which neatly slices off the most affluent and conservative portions of north Fresno and Clovis to join a sickle-shaped slice of farm communities in the foothills and south valley, the Republican Party was considered untouchable until Andrew Janz came within a few percentage points in 2018.

During the impeachment hearings, Nunes claimed that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to rig the 2016 election for the benefit of Russia and Trump, that Robert Mueller and James Comey were secret Democrats, that Jeb Bush hired Michael Steel to help Hillary Clinton and that the FBI was bugging Trump Tower’s microwaves. Witnesses testified that he met with ousted Ukranian officials in a failed attempt to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

A Sacramento Bee editorial stated that “Devin Nunes has betrayed the truth, betrayed the trust of voters and, quite possibly, betrayed our country.”

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, Nunes came under sharp criticism for his early resistance to Fresno and California’s antivirus lockdown measures when he encouraged families to not socially distance but instead “go visit your local pub.” Over the summer, he spent a lot of time directing Paycheck Protection loans to businesses in his district and two coastal wineries in which he owns a stake but did little to ensure free testing or personal protective equipment.

Amid the current storm of wildfires, Nunes has denied the impact of global warming and its droughts, instead repeating Trump’s line that blames the state government for bad forest management. Of course, much of the current wildfire areas are within federal land.

Nunes has claimed the police brutality protests are a communist takeover of America, has spent years suing various Twitter accounts and the Fresno Bee in Virginia courts for slander while himself being sued for designating his occupation as “farmer” and is a favorite of the White-supremacist-connected Breitbart News, where Nunes’ energetic defense of Trump and criticism of prominent Democrats has earned him national attention. That attention can be quantified by the millions flowing to his campaign chest from “law-and-order” Republicans across the country.

Arballo is a financial adviser who has not held previous elected office but has prominently involved in community organizations such as the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Despite his small business background, Arballo faces an uphill battle with district voters who have been drawn to career politician Nunes’ description of his Central Valley farming roots. Esquire published that the Nunes family farm quietly moved to Iowa, where it extensively employs undocumented laborers.

Arballo’s platform focuses on a desire to help farm communities innovate, contrasted with Nunes’ focus on maintaining the rights of traditional agricultural corporations. Arballo has promised to help end the nation’s predatory immigration policies that keep immigrant families living in fear, a fear that rich employers use to keep their labor working for scraps.

Arballo has pledged to bring federal aid to all communities with drinking water tainted by those same industrial agriculturalists who are the beneficiaries of Nunes’ water policy. On energy, Arballo proposes renewable energy investment using inland California’s almost perpetual sun, when not choked by smoke, to create energy and jobs while lessening the asthma-causing Valley air pollution.

The November election is important not only for choosing our President and Congressional representatives but also for addressing 13 statewide ballot propositions, many of which have enormous potential impact.

Prop 16 seeks to end California’s existing ban on affirmative action. The current law states that California “cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” 

Proponents of Prop 16’s move to end that law cite scientific studies showing that the greatest indicator of income potential in America is still your parent’s income and say this shows that the imposition of legal equality alone cannot remedy generations of past inequality. In the event that Prop 16 passes, federal laws against harmful discrimination would still apply.

Passing Prop 17 would allow Californians on parole for felony convictions to vote. Currently, the state constitution requires that felons complete both their prison sentence and the entirety of their parole before they are allowed to vote.

It is unclear to what degree removing voting rights benefits the public as a deterrent against crime. Proponents of Prop 17 emphasize the moral benefit to civil liberties gained by allowing citizens who are trusted to live among society to vote on how that society is governed.

Prop 18 allows any 17-year-old who will be 18 in time to be eligible for the general election to vote in the primary for that election. California’s adoption of the top-two open primary system has increased the necessity for this change as the primaries no longer decide just political party endorsements but rather the two persons in each race who will be on the November ballot.

Prop 20 seeks to expand the list of felonies for which early parole is restricted and allow additional types of crime including credit card fraud, firearm theft and organized retail theft to be charged as felonies when the state so chooses. It would also add 51 crimes to the list of felonies for which early parole is restricted and mandate that parole boards consider a parolee’s marketable skills and “attitudes on crime” before allowing a release.

The proposition would institute mandatory DNA registrations for a wide range of convictions including shoplifting, grand theft, domestic violence and drug possession. Proponents say this is needed to ensure law and order, whereas the measure’s opponents say that California already incarcerates an exceptional percentage of its population in a prison system that is extremely expensive and often life-threatening to its inhabitants.

Prop 22, sponsored by Uber and Lyft, aims to undo a law that passed last year closing a loophole that allowed those companies to employ their fleet of drivers without giving them the rights and protections as employees. Proponents say Prop 22 will keep ride costs inexpensive. Opponents say Uber and Lyft’s abuse of independent contractor designations has created a toxic labor market where drivers can end up losing money by working due to wear on their vehicle, their liability for damage and lack of health coverage.

Prop 25 would replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trial. The sponsors argue that if a person is safe enough to enter the public, a cash bail system ensures the wealthy walk free while the destitute stay in jail. This proposition is vigorously opposed by the bail bond industry.

*****Francis Horan is a writer for the Community Alliance newspaper and the Fresno County Democratic Party. Contact him at frankhhoran@gmail.com.

  • 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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