In my series of posts about the specter of political violence seeping into conventional politics, one examples was in San Luis Obispo, California. San Luis Obispo isn’t Santa Monica or Marin. But it’s very much not one of the northern or rural counties in the east of the state that are very Republican and might as well be in Idaho or rural Nevada. It’s sort of middle of the spectrum – used to be fairly Republican but in recent decades has been more Democratic in national politics.
As I noted back on May 21st, San Luis Obispo is one of a number of California counties were county registrars and other voting officials were getting harassed or recalled by Trump partisans pushing The Big Lie and claiming local voting officials might be part of it. Sometimes the same groups are pushing both Big Lie activism and also recalls based on COVID policy.
In San Luis Obispo readers I heard from said the climate was particularly intense and some feared it was going to spill over into violence. The local situation had an additional dimension that the County Clerk-Recorder was an Asian-American man named Tommy Gong. So a lot of the Big Lie stuff turned on accusations that Gong was working for the People’s Republic of China or similar racist and nonsensical stuff. (Remember that the Arizona ‘audit’ is analyzing ballots for evidence they contain bamboo which is in their minds a sign of Chinese infiltration.) More ominously Gong received a growing number of death threats.
Now in what the local paper calls a “surprise move” Gong is resigning and leaving the area, about a month after a raucous county Supervisors meeting where a lot of this disinformation and threats and conspiracy theories are aired. Gong told the local paper his decision was mainly about wanting to be closer to his family in the Bay Area. But he considered that the recent climate of threats “probably played a factor” in his decision to leave the area. Here’s an interview with Gong about the climate of hysteria and racist intimidation he’d been at the center of since the 2020 election.
No one got physically injured here. And I assume being closer to family played some role here. But it’s a good example of how Big Lie activism is percolating and growing across the country – not just in new laws in GOP controlled state legislatures but in these sorts of violence or threats of violence tinged efforts even in pretty politically sleepy counties you wouldn’t expect.