As commentators broke down the midterm election results on election night and the next day, you could almost hear them dismiss California as the land of fruits, nuts and irrelevance. It’s easy to see their point. The rest of the nation looked at the mess we’re in and did something about it; Californians looked at an even worse mess and voted to make it worse.
You know the talking points: We re-elected every single incompetent, egotistical, out-of-touch politician that contributed to the mess – as of this point in the ballot counting, not a single member of the California congressional and legislative delegations was sent packing. What a stunning endorsement of idiocy! But it didn’t end there. Californians passed Prop 25, giving the Democrats complete control of the state budget, as an award for their effectiveness at destroying the state’s economy. And they ensured that the California would stay mired in recession when they voted for draconian economic mandates by voting down Prop 23.
So, as voters in nearly every other state set new courses, it’s easy to count out California as a powerful national influence. But it’s wrong.
Ever since Republican Hiram Johnson became governor of California in 1910 and told voters he spoke for the insurgents, defining insurgency as “opposition to the looting of the people by the unholy alliance between big business and politics,” California has been the nurturer of America’s Progressive movement. The state’s modeling of Progressive legislation and policies and the sheer number of progressives churned out by its schools and universities has given the movement staying power – so much staying power, in fact, that it’s unlikely Barack Obama would be president today were it not for California’s Progressives, right up to Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and, once again, Jerry Brown.
Sure, politicians, think tanks and campaign managers will be studying election results everywhere else to see how to capitalize on, or crush, the Tea Party’s influence, but just as surely, Progressives, environmentalists, social justice advocates and union bosses will be studying what happened in California, so they can replicate it in their state next time around.
Besides, California’s influence on government goes much deeper than mere elections. We kid ourselves if we think our elected politicians control the show. They come and go, but the bureaucrats, regulators and legislative staff are forever, and they’re where the rubber of government really hits the road. Because California trains so many Progressives and pushes them into government, the state will continue to influence America, even if voters are trying to steer a different course.
This was evident when federal eco-bureaucrats followed Californian’s lead when they started setting the new federal vehicle fuel economy standards, just as it was evident in the eleven states that recently announced they would blindly follow California down the trail to eco-economic lunacy by adopting our Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. Like California, they will force industry to switch to low-carbon fuels that just aren’t there or just can’t perform – if there were a ready alternative for carbon-rich gasoline, Californians wouldn’t be burning 45 million gallons of it a day.
Don’t count out California. It may be sinking into economic ruin, but plenty of states and municipalities continue to jump aboard, eager to follow our lead, no matter where it leads them.