[Source: The 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.
Interior California votes to slit its own throat
The interior parts of California already rank near the bottom, along with Los Angeles, in terms of standard of living — by incomes, as opposed to costs — in the nation. Compared to the Bay Area, which now rules the state, the more blue-collar, Latino and African American interior, as well as much of Los Angeles, account for six of the 15 worst areas in terms of living standard out of 106 metropolitan areas, according to a recent report by Center for Opportunity Urbanism demographer Wendell Cox.
Given the political trends here, it’s hard to see how things could get much better. The fact that most new jobs in Southern California are in lower-paying occupations is hardly promising. In contrast, generally better-paying jobs in manufacturing, home-building and warehousing face ever-growing regulatory strangulation.
Sadly, the ascendant Latino political leadership seems determined to accelerate this process. In both Riverside and San Bernardino, pro-business candidates, including San Bernardino Democrat Cheryl Brown, lost to green-backed Latino progressives.
For whatever reason, Latino voters and their elected officials fail to recognize that the increasingly harsh climate change agenda represents a mortal threat to their own prospects for upward mobility. Before this week’s election, California policy makers could look forward to Washington imposing such policies on the rest of the country; now our competitor regions — including Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas — can double down on growth. Expect to see more migration of ambitious Californians, particularly Latinos, to these areas.
California’s increasingly bifurcated future
California is on the road to a bifurcated, almost feudal, society, divided by geography, race and class. As is clear from the most recent Internal Revenue Service data, it’s not just the poor and ill-educated, as Brown apologists suggest, but, rather, primarily young families and the middle-aged, who are leaving. What will be left is a state dominated by a growing, but relatively small, upper class, many of them boomers; young singles and a massive, growing, increasingly marginalized “precariat” of low wage, often occasional, workers.
The interior, starting in eastern Los Angeles and Orange County, will increasingly resemble the East L.A. district of Tom Steyer’s sock puppet, state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León: deindustrialized, impoverished and generally falling apart. Rather than move up into the middle class, interior Democrats are consigning their own people to dependence on government largesse — for jobs, for housing, for relief from artificially inflated energy costs and, if some of the tech barons like Elon Musk get their way, for their basic sustenance.
This social structure can only work as long as stock and asset prices continue to stay high, allowing the ultra-rich to remain beneficent. Once the inevitable corrections take place, the whole game will be exposed for what it is: a gigantic, phony system that benefits primarily the ruling oligarchs, along with their union and green allies. Only when this becomes clear to the voters, particularly the emerging Latino electorate, can things change. Only a dose of realism can restore competition, both between the parties and within them.
Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org).
Source: The Orange County Register
November 13, 2016