California Attorney General, Rob Bonta (official)

Several years ago, while working with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color through PolicyLink in Oakland, California, I had a front row seat to the inner workings of one of the most exciting times in California politics.  This meant that I got to cross paths with everyone from both Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom (as Lieutenant Governor) as well as Kamala Harris (as Attorney General) Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, who at the time represented my Assembly District in Oakland.  What struck me about AG Bonta was a combination of earnestness and accessibility.  Having witnessed him in listening sessions with local youth, I got to experience how well he listened, how much insight he had and the fact that his deep, deep compassion for human beings sits at the center of his political and legal mind. Maybe this is because of his background as an immigrant and a person of color; maybe he learned this in school.  Regardless of any personal opinions one may have about his political dealings, Rob Bonta is someone I have personally witnessed as a straight up good guy.

Ron DeSantis however, is another story.  I do not know him.  I’ve never met him.  I’ve never seen him publicly interact with anyone who looks like me (in fact, I’ve never seen him interact with anyone who wasn’t white).  His policies are atrocious and bigoted with little rationale beyond scoring conservative political points.  Inclusive of his many short comings, I find great irony in his resistance to the history of race and oppression being taught in Florida schools because so much of that history intersects with the different forms of human trafficking.

Only the most ignorant of people would not be able to understand that the coerced and or forced capture and transportation of human beings against their will or without their knowledge for profit (monetary or political capital) is literally trafficking.  This is what happened to enslaved Africans; it is what happened to Jews during the Holocaust; it is what happened to Native children removed to “Indian Schools”; it happens to vulnerable women and children around the world and more.  Shockingly, it is what is now happening with migrants entering the US at the southern border.  DeSantis, and equally culpable migrant runner, Gov. Greg Abbott will deflect from the truth of their actions, stating that they are somehow acting in these people’s best interest by moving them along to “sanctuary cities”, but the truth is that if you put someone in a bus, or plane against their will, or without their full understanding of where they are going, it is an act of kidnapping.  If there is financial compensation involved, it is an act of trafficking.

DeSantis and Abbot do not condemn these actions and they’ve tried to distance themselves from the facts, but the paper trails lead, most pointedly to DeSantis and his Florida government.  Although I recognize that we are a country of laws and that one is innocent until proven guilty, no one asked the migrants who have become pawns in this disgusting political show and I somehow believe that the laws of the land that entitle DeSantis to a full investigation should not outweigh the laws of humanity or human decency.  His involvement in any part of this display needs to disqualify him from any public office, let alone the Presidency of the United States.

If DeSantis is willing to participate in this kind of action, what’s to say he won’t try to cook up something just as draconian for transgender people in Florida…or worse as President for the country?  What’s to stop him from locking up women seeking abortion care and shipping them off to Minnesota?  If you teach CRT will you be packed off to New Zealand?  Will he bus Mickey Mouse back to California?

Rob Bonta, besides being a good guy is also a brilliant and highly detail oriented legal professional.  I trust that he will put his Yale degree to better use than DeSantis is putting his.  I also trust that he will blend that technical knowledge with his lifelong commitment to justice and humanity. He will find the legal facts but he won’t forget the people impacted by them.  The lottery of birth location is challenging to witness here because if anyone should be able to run for president its Bonta and not DeSantis.



Woke vs. Broke

If the Republican Party is any indication of the state of things within the conservative movement, there are some real problems for folks on the other side of the cultural aisle. The most cohesive position that folks on the “right” seem to be able to take is in opposition to what they regularly refer to as “woke” culture (see Ron DeSantis[1]).  This involves making it illegal to refer to someone as “Latin-x”[2], attacking drag queens as “groomers”[3] and exporting asylum seekers to other states[4].  Oh, and let’s not forget the biggest bogeyman of them all… “CRT” (Critical Race Theory[5]) that seems to find itself at the center of almost as many legislative agendas as anti-transgender bills and policies[6].

Conservative Republicans want a big tent as long as they can control and anticipate who is coming inside…and what they do once they are there.

A lot of this anti-woke rhetoric came to full flower during the worst of the resistance to the emergent Black Lives Matter movement and echoes the ignorant media point-scoring narratives spewed by the former president and his biggest supporters.  But therein lies the rub.  With so much to complain about, there is precious little that we actually know of what conservatives want.  They don’t want abortion…but who does? Progressives want the right to determine the decision to have one without government intervention (i.e. small government…but not so small it fits in a uterus). They don’t want immigration of rapists and drug smugglers…but who does?  Progressives want a clear and legal path for migrants and asylum seekers to have a way to participate in our country without adding to their trauma (i.e. fair and humane government based on reason and facts).  They don’t want heterosexual cisgender identity to be compromised…but who does?  Progressives just want a place for those who sit outside of that definition to have a way to be recognized as fully human (i.e. actually living into the 14th Amendment…you know the big tent).  In truth, the Progressive agenda and what progressive Democrats have clearly stated they want to see in our world sounds an awful lot like the lost goals and ambitions of conservatives of a bygone era.

This is the problem.  Conservative Republicans want a big tent as long as they can control and anticipate who is coming inside…and what they do once they are there.  The other problem is that the Republican party, as the political advertising arm of conservatism, has been operating inside its tent entirely without a platform since 2020[7].  Its last platform, adopted in 2016 was less of a battle cry and more of a death wail[8].  Despite starting with its declaration about “American exceptionalism”, it paints a picture of America as a failed experiment, due in part to the work of the (so far) only black president.  There are unmistakable shades of D.W. Griffith’s “A Birth of a Nation” (1915) in the fear it works hard to conjure up.  Still, it is the last time that politically active conservatives have come together to plainly state what their agenda is.  In the absence of a platform, this means that anyone who is willing to generate a cult of negative messaging against anything perceived as progressive or inclusive or “woke” becomes a de facto conservative hero.

Enter Rep.(?) George Santos and Rep. Ryan Zinke.  George Santos (a.k.a. Anthony Devolder…and probably any number of names) is a serial liar and truly has no place being anywhere near the governance of a sandbox, let alone the United States.  He is a myth of his own making yet the most vocally conservative of conservatives in the House (among them Matt Gaetz[9]) have embraced him with open arms making his failings out to be harmless standard practice.  These aren’t lies, they are “embellishments”; everyone does it…most of all Democrats!  Next up, Ryan Zinke, recently delivered a speech in the House of Representatives (now that it is actually open for business) that speaks of the conspiracy theory of the “deep state” as proven fact.[10]  So, apparently, without a platform or an agenda or any clear sense of what one is for one can now just make it up, out of thin air and fearmongering if you are in charge…and want to stay there.

Note: this is at least part of the mentality that justified slavery…

…and what created the myth about women being incapable of voting.

…and intentionally exterminated swaths of native people.

…and developed eugenics (at Harvard)

…and well, the Holocaust.

These kind of lies for political gain only have traction because they are pasted on a blank backdrop.  But any student of how race and empire has worked in global colonial histories, particularly the United States, knows that this is also the primary tool of white Christian hegemony as a tool of conquest.  If the most powerful force in the room is entirely invisible, it is nearly impossible to point a finger at it and accuse it of any harm.  Racism doesn’t exist…because we don’t see race; race isn’t real. I’m not racist!…but you still can’t come inside the tent.

I actually have nothing against actual “conservative” values.  What I have something against is the fabrication of a nouveau conservatism built in a vacuum of lies and political myths.  Admittedly, the position I come from as a proud progressive religious leader could be labeled as decidedly “woke”.  But I think it is much worse and proving to be significantly more dangerous that the current conservative movement is not just vacant of morals and values or any kind of agenda, but that it is ethically bankrupt and unrecognizably, and maybe irreparably damaged.

In a word, it is “broke”.

[1] The Associated Press, “Judge Blocks Fla. ‘anti-Woke’ Law as Violating First Amendment,” accessed January 13, 2023,

[2] Ayana Archie, “Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Banning ‘Latinx’ from State Documents,” NPR, January 13, 2023, sec. Politics,

[3] “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Administration Targets Holiday Drag Shows,” December 29, 2022,

[4] Giulia Heyward, “Busloads of Migrants Dropped off near Kamala Harris’s Home on Christmas Eve,” NPR, December 25, 2022, sec. National,

[5] “Critical Race Theory FAQ,” Legal Defense Fund (blog), accessed January 13, 2023,

[6] Jayne Swift, “Gendered Racial Projects: Anti-Trans, Anti-CRT, and Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Gender Policy Report (blog), July 14, 2022,

[7] “Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform | The American Presidency Project,” accessed January 13, 2023,

[8] “2016 Republican Party Platform | The American Presidency Project,” accessed January 13, 2023,

[9] “Matt Gaetz Goes To Bat For Team George Santos And His Game Of Lies | HuffPost Latest News,” accessed January 13, 2023,

[10] “Ryan Zinke Rants That ‘Deep State’ Wants To ‘Wipe Out The American Cowboy’ | HuffPost Latest News,” accessed January 13, 2023,