Orange County Register
America may have trended toward the GOP, but California seems determined to find its own direction. The only question is, simply, how much more progressive the Golden State will become, even in the face of a far more conservative country beyond the Sierras.
This election confirmed, if it was needed, the death spiral of the state’s Republican Party. Thanks, in part, to Donald Trump — and his magnetic anti-appeal among Latinos, women and the educated — the GOP did even worse here in the presidential race than in 2012, when it couldn’t muster 40 percent support, and has lost several legislative seats, allowing the Democrats to re-establish their coveted two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly — and possibly in the Senate as well.
The progressives also won most of the major propositions — most critically, the extension of a high income tax rate on the state’s affluent population through 2030. We may have more freedom to smoke pot, but it won’t be so easy to start a business, buy a house or build a personal nest egg, if you are anything other than a trustifarian or a Silicon Valley mogul, or are related to one.
Go any direction you want, as long as it’s to the left
Since the late 1990s, California has been moving leftward, with a bit of a bump from the Schwarzenegger recall election. By morphing into a liberal Democrat, the Terminator helped terminate the GOP as a serious force. Add to that the damage done by the residue of Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187, which permanently alienated the rising Latino electorate, and the GOP seems destined to further decline.
The only hope for sanity has been an alliance of the Republican rump with moderate Democrats, many of them backed by what’s left of traditional California business. But, increasingly, inside the party, it’s been the furthest Left candidates that win. In the Democrat-only Sanchez vs. Harris race for the U.S. Senate, the more progressive candidate triumphed easily, with a more moderate Latina from Southern California decimated by the better funded lock-step, glamorous tool of the San Francisco gentry Left.
Gradually, the key swing group — the “business Democrats” — are being decimated, hounded by ultra-green San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer and his minions. No restraint is being imposed on Gov. Brown’s increasingly obsessive climate change agenda, or on the public employee unions, whose pensions could sink the state’s finances, particularly in a downturn.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.