Thirty-five years ago Tracy Kidder electrified readers with his “Soul of a New Machine,” which detailed the development of a minicomputer. Today we may be seeing the emergence of another machine, a political variety that could turn the country toward a permanent one-party state.
Already anointed by The New Yorker as the “head of the resistance,” Gavin Newsom could well think he’s also king of California politics. He can both sell himself as the model of progressive virtue and also lord of the world’s fifth-largest economy, home to three of the world’s most powerful and influential companies.
California, along with New York, epitomizes what the French Marxist economist Thomas Piketty has aptly called “the Brahmin left,” which trades in digits, images and financial transactions. The other side, “the merchant right,” trades in more tangible goods such as cars, steel, oil, gas and food.
Yet here’s the rub: The vast majority of Californians are not entitled Googlers from Stanford who can spend their time obsessing about the climate or the meaning of their sexuality. The Brahmin model has worked well for the top earners, and their offspring, but most Californians were left out of the boom.
The Other Guys are gaining on us
The rest of the nation thinks it has our number and is calling it. Data compiled by EMSI and Mark Schill over the last year reveal some key metropolitan regions, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, are falling behind in terms of job creation with competitors such as Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas and Salt Lake City. The Bay Area economies, which ranked in the top five over the last decade, notched 15th and 16th last year. Even tech and business service growth, although strong down the peninsula in Silicon Valley, is now much more rapid in the sunbelt hotspots.
California’s Republican Party was once a force to be feared, not only in the state, but across the country. Nowadays, it’s at most a mild irritant and sometimes a convenient whipping boy for the Democratic progressives, who run the state almost entirely. Nothing is working much for the GOP this year. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Cox, has little charisma, no discernible local roots, and no compelling message. He sneaked into the runoff election because too many Democrats vied for the job. He’ll be thrashed by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, likely by a wide margin. As governor, Newsom will probably preside over a legislative super-majority that will marginalize the Republicans even further.
Read the entire piece at City Journal.
Joel Kotkin 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, was 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 is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.
Once upon a time, the California Republican Party was a fearsome political instrument, forging the ground for two presidents. But today the California GOP is fighting rearguard actions to save its last remaining seats in once solidly Republican strongholds as Orange, San Diego and even in inland California, potentially costing them upward of seven House seats.
The party is now so pathetic that a top party official crowed that GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox might be “within 10 points” to the inevitable winner, Gavin Newsom. No doubt the architects of the earlier glory days like Stuart Spencer, Mike Deaver or Pete Hannaford would find this situation unbearable.
Long a hotbed of new technologies, California insists on seeing its transit future in the rear mirror. Rather than use innovative approaches to getting people around and to work, our state insists on spending billions on early 20th century technology such as streetcars and light rail that have diminishing relevance to our actual lives.
California’s roads may be among the worst in the country, but the state seems more than anxious to spend billions on transit systems that are losing market share. Despite spending over $15 billion on trains since 1990, Los Angeles transit market share and ridership have dropped. As one member of the California Transportation Commission notes, the state’s planners largely ignore the role of technologies — including home-based work, ride hailing and autonomous vehicles — that offer the best hope for resolving our transportation woes.
We may be celebrating — if that’s the right word — the tenth year since the onset of the financial crisis and collapse of the real estate market. Yet before breaking out the champagne, we should recognize that the hangover is not yet over, and that a new housing crisis could be right around the corner.
This is particularly true in California, which took one of the biggest hits in 2008 as its sky-high prices collapsed, causing enormous problems in areas including the Inland Empire, where incomes are lower and the economy was largely built around new housing construction. The urbanist punditry helpfully came out in force to declare such areas as “the next slums.”
California is the great role model for America, particularly if you read the Eastern press. Yet few boosters have yet to confront the fact that the state is continuing to hemorrhage people at a higher rate, Read more
If there’s an award for environmental virtue signaling, California would win the prize. Yet for all the constant self-promotion, shameless grandstanding and endless moralizing, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the impact, and failures, of our current green obsessions.
Take the recent fires that Gov. Jerry Brown, predictably and with little evidence, blamed squarely on climate change. If he wanted to find the immediate culprit, he might be better off looking in a mirror. Earlier this year the Little Hoover Commission placed primary blame for increasing ferocity of fires on poor forest management practices, largely at the behest of the powerful green lobby. Saying that this echoes Donald Trump is true, and guaranteed a Pavlovian reaction from the progressive press, but even the blusterer in chief is occasionally right.
One of the last regions settled en masse by Europeans, California’s trajectory long has been linked to its partners across the Pacific. Yet these ties could be deeply impacted by President Trump’s immigration and global trade policies, as well as resulting blowback by the authoritarian regime in Beijing.
In recent decades, California has become something of a China junkie. With China on the route to what some predict will be hegemonic power, there’s a set who eagerly wish to promote the idea of “Chinafornia.” The pattern of dependency can be seen in how our industries depend on China for their production. For some companies, like Apple, China provided the capacity to produce products cheaply without suffering heavy GHG impacts in state. China’s coal-based pollution allowed these congenitally “virtue signaling” firms to retain their “green” street cred.
When he takes office this January, as seems inevitable, Gavin Newsom, a self-styled futurist, will inherit an economic legacy that could be turning sour. After a rapid expansion that seemed to make all things possible, Newsom may face challenges for which he may be poorly prepared. Read more