The party of the rich have ruined California

The party of the rich have ruined California. By Joel Kotkin.

Even before the pandemic, California already had the highest poverty rate and the widest gap between middle and upper-middle income earners of any state in the US. …

Today, class drives Californian politics, and Newsom is peculiarly ill-suited to deal with it. He is financed by what the Los Angeles Times describes as ‘a coterie of San Francisco’s wealthiest families’. Newsom’s backers have aided his business ventures and helped him live in luxury — first in his native Marin, where he just sold his estate for over $6million, and now in Sacramento.

California’s well-connected rich are predictably rallying to Newsom’s side. At least 19 billionaires, mainly from the tech sector, have contributed to his extraordinarily well-funded recall campaign, which is outspending the opposition by roughly nine to one.

There is little hiding the elitism that Newsom epitomises. In the midst of a severe lockdown, he was caught violating his own pandemic orders at the ultra-expensive, ultra-chic French Laundry restaurant in Napa.

And Pelosi, last week:

Newsom insists California is ‘doing pretty damn well’, citing record profits in Silicon Valley from both the major tech firms and a host of IPOs. He seems to be unaware that California’s middle- and working-class incomes have been heading downwards for a decade, while only the top five per cent of taxpayers have done well. …

Much of this can be traced back to regulatory policies tied to climate change (along with high taxes). These policies have driven out major companies — in energy, home construction, manufacturing and civil engineering — that traditionally employed middle-skilled workers. Instead, job growth has been concentrated in generally low-pay sectors, like hospitality. Over the past decade, 80 per cent of Californian jobs, notes one academic, have paid under the median wage. Half of these paid less than $40,000. …

In terms of educating poor students, California ranks 49th out of America’s 50 states in education-performance tables. …

Increasingly, as the electorate realizes what has happened, the great re-alignment is not going so well for the left:

Newsom’s backers from the media, business and the powerful public unions see the recall as a ‘nightmare’ for the progressive agenda. The Nation even calls the recall ‘a national disaster’.

Yet despite the media spin, ordinary Californians are plainly uneasy with the state’s direction, particularly as crime rates rise.

Perhaps the best illustration of discontent has been the massive domestic outmigration. Since 2000, the state has lost nearly 2.7million net domestic migrants … Even before the pandemic, according to the Edelman survey, roughly half of Californians were considering an exit. …

There are certainly signs of rightward movement. Last year voters defeated new tax proposals — which were heartily endorsed by Newsom’s public-union and tech-industry allies — and an affirmative-action measure. Republicans even picked up four Congressional seats.

Future Republican gains rest largely on the change in attitude of Latino voters. Gustavo Arellano, a reliably progressive columnist at the LA Times, suggests that Latinos’ long-standing antipathy to the GOP is now shifting towards the progressive gentry.

If not this time, then next time:

While conservatives may be more motivated to vote, a successful mobilisation of less enthusiastic Democrats could still win it for Newsom. As left-wing warhorse Harold Meyerson suggests, Newsom must ‘scare’ Democrats to the polls by stoking fears about a resurgent Trump, climate and the pandemic. Giving out $600 or more extra in Covid stimulus payments to voters around the time of the election might also work. …

There is a growing gap between the Democrats, backed by Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and vast swathes of their own historic base. A close call or a recall victory would send a stinging rebuke to the Democratic elites.

So goes California, so goes the USA, then the Anglosphere, then the rest of the west. Stay tuned.