By: Juan D. Coronado

Manuel Pastor’s State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future offers a vision for the future of the United States by looking at the California experience. He argues that California’s stable and integrated social order, which has a vital economy, a growing housing market, a successful education system, and a healthy-operative political system, is grounded on a public understanding that welcomes newcomers and seeks to advance forthcoming generations (p. 19). In this concise book, Pastor offers clear examples of the path that California has taken, and suggests that the rest of the country could follow in order to elevate civilization.
Using California’s history and progressive efforts, Pastor seeks to demonstrate how the Golden State can represent a future America, as the state has already experienced most of the disruptions that the country has been dealing with in recent times. In many ways, California leads the nation in progressive reforms that attempt to raise both living and environmental standards. Through historical, political, and social lenses, the author demonstrates how Californios have created a society that is exemplary for the rest of the nation while at the same time preserving the Constitution and American democratic values.
Pastor artfully demonstrates the widespread societal impact that investment in infrastructure and education brought to California and its people. Investments in expanding water resources led to the expansion of the Imperial and San Fernando Valleys. While the creation of Arroyo Seco Parkway, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge brought jobs during the Great Depression, they also served as models of innovation that further connected California communities (p. 27). The Hoover Dam, also completed during the depression, brought energy and water to southern California and led to economic growth. These investments in infrastructure cemented the way for the California Water Plan (1957) and the California Freeway System (1958).
Likewise, under Democratic Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, the Master Plan for Higher Education (1960) was created at the same time that there was a push for a state minimum wage that was “funded by the largest tax increase in a quarter century” (p. 33). The Master Plan for Education emphasized three systems: the University of California system (research and postgraduate education), the California State University system (less selective offering four degrees), and the California Community College system (open admissions providing a pipeline to other systems). Not surprisingly, by 1970, California became the second most educated state in the country (p. 33).
Despite the gains and improvements made due to these progressive reforms, White Americans disproportionately benefited from these changes in comparison to communities of color (p. 34). Attempts made to address discrimination and segregation were met with political backlashes. Conservative forces, especially among the state’s right-wing agriculturalists, sought to maintain aspects of Jim Crow that kept communities segregated and championed Proposition 14, which protected discriminatory property sales. This led to the election of Republican Governor Ronald Regan who exploited the bigoted uncertainties and fears of change among Californians. Progressive forces reacted in revolutionary protest to the subjugation their communities faced, and the voices of oppressed populations were echoed by California groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Community Service Organization, the Chicano Moratorium, widespread student activism throughout California universities, and the United Farm Workers.
Pastor draws parallels between Ronald Regan and Donald Trump in their ability to use dog whistle politics to comfort, coddle, and embolden a White American base that feels threatened by a perception that their privilege is slipping away (p. 39). He also uses the unconstitutional Proposition 187 which was passed in 1994 as an anti-immigration ballot initiative to foreshadow the current xenophobic and anti-Latino atmosphere the nation is experiencing. Pastor views the economic decline California experienced in the final third of the last century as having engendered anti-immigrant sentiments and nativist or nationalist periods, which often are tied to economic anxieties. Pastor also compares the crack/cocaine epidemic experienced in California during the 1980s and early 1990s to the opioid epidemic of today and ties these to economic stresses experienced by the population. Other parallels Pastor provides include relating California’s protests of yesteryear, such as the Watts Riots and the protests and riots provoked by the Rodney King beating, to today’s Black Lives Matter protests provoked by police killings of unarmed Black men.
Resistance to the election of President Donald Trump posed by California State Senator Kevin de Leon and California State Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, who vowed to stand against the backwardness of Trump’s agenda, is the motivation for Pastor’s clever title. Emphasizing what has worked and what has not worked for California, Pastor provides a useful blueprint from the lessons learned for the rest of the nation to consider implementing. This book provides a deeper understanding of the growth and the further incorporation of California as a state of the Union, while providing political and social lessons on how conservative and liberal reforms have affected the nation’s most populous state. Manuel Pastor makes an important contribution and is able to make California’s history relevant to the political and social discourses of today, when America’s democratic values, its Constitution, and humanity itself are every day threatened by a political regime and social order valuing profits above life.