The Liberal Class Has Failed Santa Ana


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The Liberal Class, a shell of its former self, is failing Santa Ana miserably from all angles. As there is a push to have Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez resign for comparing gentrifier Irving Chase to Adolph Hiter, obvious questions remain. She championed the anti-PBID cause for all of one month before effectively removing herself as a credible protagonist whether she stays or goes. The Santa Ana City Council is all-Latino and all but one are Democrats. Why was Alvarez the only one to speak out? Why for only one month? Where were the other Democrats standing up for the mostly Latino small businesses who are being squeezed economically? Once upon a time, Liberals pretended to care about the working class community. Now that term has disappeared from their vernacular as they downright co-sign mechanisms of their disenfranchisement when they aren’t complicit in silence. The PBID battle is merely one example.

The Liberal Class includes critics of the City Council. Their preoccupations are illustrative as well. At the contentious PBID meeting where Alvarez stuck her foot in her mouth, there were bad feelings that a plaza in downtown Santa Ana wasn’t renamed after Harvey Milk. The first openly gay San Francisco supe who was violently murdered is definitely worthy of our collective remembrance as we try to construct a world in which many worlds fit. We should also remember that a collective of kioscos named El Faisan specializing in Mexican imports and Western Wear occupied the space until their lease was not renewed. The plaza was renovated with hundreds of thousands of dollars in city money to aesthetically look Mexican – you can’t make stuff up like this, really! In a climate of gentrification, that is definitely something to have taken note of, but only silence was heard from the chattering classes. In the end, the plaza was christened after the city name. Considering all that it really symbolizes in all its ironies, it is the only appropriate moniker. Harvey Milk should be remembered in a space that dignifies his memory.

The Liberal Class of earlier decades, especially during the times of the Great Depression, also at least understood the potential of the arts in society to shape it in a progressive manner. Others knew better of its efficacy in developing a critical consciousness. These days, art has been reduced to that of a smoke-screen spectacle, a brand for a city afraid of its own true identity. The brand is supposed to make the Liberal Class feel good about itself, to feel pride that its youthful entrepreneurs don’t imbibe from the banality of corporate culture failing to realize that Brave New Urbanist models are in many ways just as predictable, homogenizing and problematic in their implementation. Within the demographics of the city, the art and cultural traditions of the Latino people are being reduced to opportunistic tokenism. It is a cynical form of multiculturalism at best, wielded around to deflect the uncomfortable racialized dimensions of gentrification. In short, it is another form of escapism. Reality and cognitive dissonance are too difficult to face. Crass opportunism via Faustian bargains, too tempting.

Perhaps most delusional is the idea that the Brave New Urbanist project provides benefits for all. It’s a simplistic formula that has been disproved in other cities. The Liberal Class, which sold out long ago, says to itself and to the public that new businesses will produce increased tax revenues and that will be to everyone’s advantage. But the Liberal Class has already forsaken the “old” businesses and cares not for their fate. They are the forest trees in the way of the logging company’s “progress.”  The Liberal Class fails to critique the free market fundamentalism espoused by the gentrifiers. The simplest line of critical questioning would quickly unveil that the “invisible hand” of “inevitable change” is not at play. Instead, subsidized master-planning and collusion between propertied interests and many Liberal politicians in city government is what is really going down. Furthermore, for every Gas Lamp District, there is an Eastside San Diego. Complementing Long Beach’s Pine Avenue and downtown hotel tourist industry, there is highly concentrated poverty, especially among children. This is of no concern to the missionary zeal that says otherwise in its unfounded “do-gooder” fantasies.

‘Business as Usual Suspects’ wield power and influence. The Liberal Class seeks to cozy up with them, offering only the faintest of critiques from time to time amounting to nothing less than carnival acts so as to create the illusion of friction. This is what mummified politics looks like. It’s time for the wrapping to come off.


About Gabriel San Roman