Tuesday, Dec 27 – journalist Narda Zacchino

My guest this week — Tuesday at noon — is veteran journalist Narda Zacchino, whose new book pulls together the often randomized and seemingly disparate elements of the state’s recent history to tell a coherent and instructive story, perhaps even a polemic, one whose political lesson is even more starkly obvious to those who want to see it lately, with the rejection of President-elect You-Know-Who by the voters of California.  In California Comeback:  How a ‘Failed State’ Became a Model for the Nation, the former Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle writer-editor argues gently if persuasively that California has largely resisted, survived, and learned from privatization and anti-tax measures promoted by right-wing legislators and even the federal government, making positive and long-lasting decisions which have created and defined its success, especially as distinct from much of the rest of the nation.  The book’s many fans include former state librarian Kevin Starr, who writes about California Comeback:  “By crash year 2008, some observers, including myself, were speculating that an overextended and underfinanced California might soon become the nation’s first failed state.  In this fast-moving and informed tour de force of contemporary history, Narda Zacchino chronicles how and why California got so close to the cliff — and how it recovered itself during the third and fourth terms of its comeback governor, Jerry Brown.”   Among the charms of this smart and accessible contemporary history are Zacchino’s personal stories and helpful contextualization of the California story, not to mention its reminder of the struggles and, yes, compromises by public education advocates, labor and civil rights activists and the environmental community in so many dramatic instances of rightist assault on the state’s legacy of progressivism.  This book is one of the most fun and well-considered introductions or, for some, reviews of the past 40 years of California’s series of comebacks.  A must-read, both toward feeling better about US politics and arming ourselves against the race-to-the-bottom policy initiatives of Republican states and, yes, the Trump administration.