The political geniuses on the other side of the country tend to be besotted by a cartoon version of California. You know how it goes on “the left coast.” Californians spend their days getting stoned, snacking on tofu, nerding out on Instagram and plotting a socialist utopia.
Hey, dude, pass the arugula.
We are a blue state, for sure. Unlike folks in some parts of the country, most of us believe that gay people should be able to marry, women should be able to choose and the Constitution promises equal protection for everyone, including women, people of color and people who may not have been born in this country.
We also believe that America ought do something about climate change before Florida becomes a marine sanctuary or farmers are left in the dust. Who wouldn’t want to try and stop an ongoing catastrophe?
And wanting to sell wine and other products around the world (and remain the fifth-largest economy on Earth ), we believe in free trade — which used to be considered a conservative, pro-business idea.
If these things make us a liberal state, well, OK.
But the politics of California has always been more complicated than that.
Consider, for example, state voters’ ongoing love affair with Proposition 13.
We just marked the 40th anniversary of the anti-tax measure, which would become the precursor to other initiatives designed to limit the ability of government to raise taxes and make other changes.
For the occasion, a poll commissioned by the Public Policy Institute of California showed a majority of adults (57 percent) and an even larger majority of likely voters (65 percent) believe Proposition 13 is “mostly good” for California. Even 55 percent of the Democrats like the measure. There’s a reasons two generations of Democratic legislatures have left it alone.
Meanwhile, early polls suggest that state voters in November may decide to repeal a recent increase in the state gasoline tax. Californians like to complain about the condition of their roads and highways, but it’s not clear they’re willing to pay for improvements.
So this is California, too — a state that embraces proposals to limit the size and authority of government.
Some of these restrictions make it harder for California to solve its problems. It’s not difficult to list the inequities, inefficiencies and general wrongheadedness associated with the restrictions imposed by Proposition 13.
But if you think this is going to change, you need to get out more. A Public Policy Institute of California poll last month found that fewer than four in 10 state voters said they trusted state government do the right thing.
While California remains a Democratic state, no one should underestimate the contributions of the official Republican Party, which seems content to cling to ideas that offend the majority of voters. If it wants to remain irrelevant, the GOP has found a winning (or maybe, losing) formula.
In the past 20 years, only two Republicans — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner — have won statewide office. Schwarzenegger now compares his party to the Titanic, and Poizner is running for insurance commissioner again, this time as an independent.
For them, the calculus is simple: According to a new analysis, there now are more voters who decline to state a party preference than voters who register Republican.