Early this month the New York Times‘ Thomas Fuller wrote up a round of interviews with prominent men from the old-school power structures of Northern California inland towns. He portrayed them as speaking for a “Great Red North” (red as in Republican) that feels unrepresented by California state government, viewing it as dominated by urban liberals.
Casey Michel, a writer focused on right-wing nationalisms, almost immediately noted that one interviewee in the article, Mark Baird, was not identified as a leading figure in the State of Jefferson secessionist campaign. A proposed statewide ballot initiative to remove California from the Union is again in early qualification stages with the California Attorney General’s Office.
Newspapers covering rural northeastern California in the first half of this year have reflected not only small-government and anti-environmentalist politics, but also fears of losing Affordable Care Act subsidies in rural towns, criticisms of the White House budget proposal, and reporting on news such as wildfires fought with state mutual-aid and prisoner labor programs, an April water dispute between Klamath Project farmers and the Klamath Tribes, and fears of immigration raids shared by Northern Californians targeted due to their immigrant status, and also by farm labor employers.
The aggrieved right-wing voices that Fuller encountered are real. At the Pollard Flat diner above Shasta Lake on I-5 there’s a wall covered with right-wing, gun-celebrating, sexist and anti-Clinton bumper stickers — some of them edgy enough that after consideration, I decided not to reproduce them here. The same diner, as of June, displayed the flyer shown here for a Jefferson statehood fundraiser. The flyer, with its conspicuously blond child holding a U.S. flag, was real enough.
But northeastern California is a varied place. Fuller heard from one side of a region that does have other sides. Rather than take the words of local big men, it’s important also to look for voices of people who hold quieter, subtler kinds of stakes in rural small towns, whether or not they are customarily offered the privilege of speaking for their region.