This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.
It’s been a half century since Ronald Reagan shocked California, and the nation, by beating the late Pat Brown for governor by a million votes. Yet although the Republican Party is a shadow of its mid-20th century form, there are some clear signs that growing discontent — including among independents and many Democrats today — with the regime forged by Brown’s son Jerry, with which so many progressives are deeply enamored.
In 1966 Reagan used the term “Ya basta” (“Had enough?”) to tap on voter displeasure on issues from the Watts Riots, disturbances at Berkeley, resistance to growing state bureaucracy and elevated levels of taxation. As historian Gene Kopelson has suggested, Reagan even penetrated Mexican-American communities, winning a larger share of their traditionally solid Democratic vote than previous GOP candidates.
Roots of discontent
As in the 1960s, California’s economy appears relatively buoyant. Yet the state’s post-recession resurgence has been greatly skewed to one region — the Bay Area — and benefited a relatively small group of people. The rest of the state largely has stagnated economically, with no appreciable income growth adjusted for costs. With weakness in higher-paying blue- and white-collar sectors, three out of five Californians express dissatisfaction with the current economic “boom,” as well as the rampant growth of inequality in the state.
Even in the Bay Area, there has been a surge in homelessness, and reduced incomes for Latinos and African Americans. Rather than an engine of upward mobility for locals, the tech economy workforce is made up of over 40 percent non-citizens, many not much better than indentured servants. Housing prices are now out of reach even for Google engineers; roughly three-quarters of millennials in the Bay Area are considering an exit, largely due to unaffordable housing.
Similarly, young people in Los Angeles, notes a recent UCLA survey, are the most dissatisfied with life in the Basin. Poverty in South L.A. remains as intractable today as it was at the time of the 1992 riots. The Central Valley and the Inland Empire remain economically distressed, with elevated levels of poverty and a lack of good paying jobs.
A Republican resurgence?
Even under these circumstances, an immediate Republican resurgence is unlikely. The middle-class, middle-aged people who would vote for the GOP are precisely those who are leaving the state. Immigrants, and most importantly, their children, represent a growing constituency that appears repelled by Trump-style xenophobic conservatism.
Gavin Newsom, the state establishment candidate, is likely to be the next governor, an even more witting ally of the junta of oligarchs, greens and party hacks than his predecessor. But, surprisingly, Republican John Cox, a conservative businessman running for governor, may outdistance former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place. It may be a pitiable measure by Reaganite standards, but it’s an advance over not even qualifying for the November ballot.
Republicans may get some unintended help from the increasingly intemperate Resistance. The push for sanctuary cities is not a winner in many communities, and slightly less than half of Californians oppose the Trumpian crackdown on undocumented immigration.
The most important well-spring of discontent, surprisingly, is among traditionally been loyal Democrats. The recent defeat of San Francisco State Sen. Scott Wiener’s gambit to strip zoning power from localities offended wealthy, and usually Democratic-leaning, suburbanites in places like Redondo Beach and Marin County. But it also was out of favor in many in minority communities, many of whom feared it would accelerate gentrification by replacing older, less expensive structures with new, less affordable ones.
The combination of affluent suburbanites and inner-city residents — including in Los Angeles, San Francisco and even Berkeley — proved this time more than a match for the green social engineers of Sacramento and their oligarch paymasters. Just this week a group of 200 civil rights leaders filed a lawsuit against the state’s climate enforcers, the California Air Resources Board, for policies that they claim discriminate against minorities and poor people.
Where from here?
This rising discontent won’t displace Newsom and other gentry progressives off their current perch in the short run…
Read the rest of the article at The Orange County Register.