SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The words “Golden Dawn” do not mean nearly as much to Greeks in the United States as they do to their counterparts who live in Greece, but one prominent Greek-American in particular – former California State Treasurer and 2006 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides – has actively sought to make Americans – Greek and non-Greek alike – aware of the rise of that political party, which he deems “a matter of great concern not only to Greece, but also to Europe and the United States.”
So is Golden Dawn, which proclaims itself to be a pro-Greece patriotic party, really neo-Nazi and a criminal organization? “The Greek government has rightly identified Golden Dawn as a ‘criminal organization,’ and this neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant entity has no place in the democratic affairs of Greece or the European Union,” Angelides told TNH. “It is tragic that Golden Dawn has become a dangerous, destabilizing force in Greece – the birthplace of democracy and a nation that fiercely resisted Nazi aggression and suffered terribly under a brutal occupation. Golden Dawn’s rise is a reminder that the forces of hate, which prey on economic desperation, are a constant threat that must be confronted and repelled without reservation or hesitation,” he said.
Though he did not predict whether the threat is actually fleeting or long-term, Angelides said “we must take the view that the threat is real and dangerous until it has been eliminated. To effectively combat the scourge of neo-Nazism in Greece, it will require a full political and educational effort as well as economic reform and recovery, including an end to the devastating policies of austerity that have been imposed by the European Union on Greece.”
Angelides is encouraged that as more Greek-Americans learn about Golden Dawn, they speak out against it. “I have been heartened by the fact that many Greek American leaders including Congress members Dina Titus, John Sarbanes, and Gus Bilirakis, and many other elected, civic, and business leaders, have spoken out strongly about the threat,” he said. “I commend efforts like the Hellenic American student-led “Oxi” campaign
(https://www.hellenext.org/2014/05/say-no-to-the-new-nazis-in-greece-a-student-led-campaign-2/) to combat the pernicious threat of neo-Nazism.”
Third parties in the United States do not have nearly the impact they do in other countries, such as Greece. And speaking of American politics, who – besides Hillary Clinton, whom just about everyone mentions as an inevitable candidate – does Angelides see emerging in both major parties as candidates for the 2016 presidential race? “It is always difficult to predict the political future,” he prefaced. “Each day, week, or month can bring dramatic change to the political landscape. But, clearly, if Hillary Clinton decides to run, she will be a formidable candidate. I have known Ms. Clinton for two decades and have no doubt she would make a strong and effective president.” What about on the other side of the political aisle? “As of yet, I do not see any potential Republican nominees who stand out from the pack.”
Though Angelides left California’s Treasury in 2007, it is apparent from his command of the issues that he continues to keep a close eye on politics, both at home and abroad. He was not elected governor in 2006, but would he seek to run for office again? “I have been honored to have had the chance to serve the people of California and the nation in both elective and appointive public office,” he said. “It was a privilege to serve as Treasurer and as Chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which conducted the nation’s official inquiry into the causes of the financial crisis that devastated our economy.” With refreshing candor not often shared by those potentially seeking office, Angelides added that “at the right moment and in the right circumstances, I would welcome the opportunity to return to public service, although I do not have specific plans at this time.”
Immigration is an issue that will likely be prevalent in both the 2014 midterm elections and in the presidential race two years later. It is a national issue, and certainly California, because of its size and geographical location, would probably be affected by immigration reform legislation as much as any other state, if not more so. What needs to be done to bring about immigration reform? “We are a nation of immigrants and a strong society and country in no small part due to the talent and energy that immigrants have brought to our shores for generations,” Angelides began, he himself a recent descendant of immigrants on both sides of his family. “The current system needs to be reformed so that we have a system of legal immigration that works well for our nation’s future. Over the decades, we have made changes to our immigration system to reflect changing conditions and we need to do so again. Unfortunately, bipartisan reform efforts have been stymied by a minority of hard line politicians who have been resistant to reasonable and thoughtful resolution of this issue. The stalemate must be broken for the good of our society and economy.”
Angelides’ mother, Eleni (née Papadopoulos), was born and raised in Alexandria Egypt, where her parents had relocated following their flight from Smyrna in 1922. In 1949, Eleni “came to the United States in 1949 to pursue her education. My father, Gerasimos (Jerry), was born and raised in San Francisco. My yiayia on my father’s side was born in Skala on the island of Cephalonia and came to the United States in 1920. My pappou, from the village of Paneriti, near Corinth, immigrated here in 1907, returning briefly to Greece to fight in the Balkan War of 1912.
“I consider myself lucky to have been raised in a family that has always been proud of our Greek heritage and that embraced the values of family, hard work, educational achievement, faith, and community that have defined Americans of Hellenic descent.
“I remain grateful to all the Greek-Americans around the country who supported me when I ran for and was elected as State Treasurer of California and when I was the Democratic nominee for governor. The support I received from my fellow Hellenes was truly remarkable and a source of inspiration to my family and me.”