Victor Davis Hanson is a resident scholar at the Hoover Institute and lifelong Californian from the Central Valley. He recently spoke at a conference of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association members. For the naïve who want an optimistic presentation about how great California is, VDH is not your guy. He gives an accurate, if depressing, view of the current state of the state. In both his writings and speeches, he assesses just how far California has deteriorated; from homelessness, poverty, cost of living, crime, taxes, business climate, etc., ad nauseum.
The decline of California has, as most know, led to an unprecedented exodus out of the state. So much so that for the first time in its history, California has lost representation in Congress. In addition to the two million people who have already left California, far more are seriously considering it. Facebook now has a group called “Life after California” with rapidly growing membership.
But most Californians are unlikely to leave, at least anytime soon. They will stay either because they are willing to tolerate all that is wrong here, or they are not able to leave. A Central Valley farmer isn’t going to pick up his orchard and move to Texas. Neither is the retired couple who want to stay close to family members, including grandchildren. But simply because tens of millions will stay in California does not mean they are oblivious to its ills.
Those deciding to stick it out here in the formerly Golden State are constantly on the lookout for some faint signs that things might get better. Last week’s primary election returns might provide such a sign, although it would be foolish to believe there has been a political sea change.
Crime and Homelessness
First, the good news. It now appears that voters in the most liberal city in America have had it with rising crime. Given that you can count the number of Republicans in San Francisco on two hands, the rejection of the city’s District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, certainly wasn’t a partisan fight. San Franciscans of all political stripes simply felt unsafe on city streets as tens of thousands had their cars or homes broken into. It doesn’t take a conservative to want serious criminal acts to result in serious criminal penalties, including incarceration.
The similarly Soros-backed district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón, wasn’t on the ballot, but it appears he is in deep trouble as he tries to deflect a recall of his own. Also, L.A. mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, previously a Republican and now registered in the Democratic party, is headed to a runoff against progressive Democrat Karen Bass, currently in Congress and previously Assembly leader.
As in San Francisco, crime and homelessness are top issues. Throughout California, even within Democrat-on-Democrat races, the more moderate candidates seemed to be outperforming their more progressive counterparts, although many races remain too close to call.
Return to Sanity?
Whether California’s election results represent a meaningful shift away from radical progressivism or merely a blip in the relentless leftward movement in California is the subject of a national debate. Even the New York Times wrote that the recall of Boudin was “a stark warning to the Democratic Party.”
It is way too early to predict a significant return to sanity in California, and November’s election results will be more telling. But for now, even a slight movement toward responsible politics is a welcome change.
As the Chinese proverb reminds us, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. For more information, visit www.hjta.org.