by Victor Davis Hanson
California once was run by alternating conservatives and mostly centrist Democrats.
True, paleo-liberal governors like Pat Brown greatly expanded the welfare state. But they also believed in pushing integration, building freeways, dams, aqueducts, and power plants, while preventing forest fires, directing the mentally ill into state hospitals, and ensuring the state enhanced the housing, timber, oil and gas, nuclear, and agricultural industries.
So why and how would anyone deliberately destroy that heritage?
Why allow California to have the highest aggregate basket of income, sales, property, and capital gains taxes in the nation, the highest gas and power prices in the continental United States, and nearly the worst schools and infrastructure, the largest populations of homeless, welfare recipients, illegal aliens, and, soon, criminals?
Remember that the left-wing of the Democratic Party became hyper-wealthy through globalization and the tech revolution. Coastal universities like Caltech, Stanford, UC Berkeley USC, and UCLA became global nexuses of millions who flocked to California to learn business, engineering, science, math, and the professions.
University endowments were no longer measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars but in the many billions. Hollywood and professional sports now had a lucrative worldwide audience of billions.
The market capitalization of Silicon Valley was to be measured in the trillions of dollars, as the world bought iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks to Google, tweet, and use Facebook. The result was the greatest concentration of wealth in such a small space in the history of civilization.
Within 40 years, California had created a new plutocracy of Elois, whose wealth exempted them from all worries about the mundane problems of the distant and despised Morlock others.
The wealthier the long thin line from San Diego to Berkeley grew, the more the overseers felt they were nearing Utopia, at least in their own lives.
The new Democratic Party liked to redistribute money for the poor and so obeyed the orders from the rich. But they ignored old-fashioned infrastructure that once had allowed the middle class to drive quickly and in safety, ensured them water during droughts, curbed their forest fires, and allowed their children to leave school competitively educated.
Instead, reaction not prevention was the new mantra. Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom failed to thin out forests, build water storage, and allow affordable housing.
When those problems exploded, they reacted by citing climate change or some right-wing bogeyman as the culprit rather than government dereliction. They preferred utopian high-speed rail solutions to pragmatic problem solving. And they ensured none of their crackpot ideas ever affected themselves.
Why worry about affordable housing and electricity for the masses when all the right people had the means to live in the right ZIP codes without much worry about turning on the air conditioning or heat since there were rarely any scorching days or frigid nights in coastal paradise?
Why worry about open borders, when labor became even cheaper, and “they” were never seen in Malibu or Pacific Heights except as maids and gardeners?
Why worry that teacher unions, massive numbers of non-English speakers, and therapeutic education codes had sent California public schools to the near bottom of state comparative ranks—when there were more elite and prestigious prep schools than ever on the coast?
And why worry about producing lumber for houses, irrigated crops for food, or oil for gasoline, when the right Californians would always have the money to import their hardwood floors, arugula, and fuel from grubby others far away who would make or grow in silence what was needed?
Yet ideas eventually have consequences. Soon even the left-wing paradise on the coast was infected by the anarchy they had created for others less important elsewhere.
The homeless did not just defecate on the streets of Fresno, but soon preferred Venice Beach and Market Street in San Francisco.
Fires began to smoke out not just the brush of the inland foothills, but dared to near saintly Lake Tahoe, home to the right skiers and the chosen shore owners.
Soon thieves even attacked former U.S. senators in downtown Oakland and smashed the windows of Bay Area BMWs and Volvos.
The current California recall election is a choice between Gavin Newsom who embodies the woke, old-boy privilege of the Bay Area, and an alternative direction. Newsom is the epitome of the medieval mindset of the virtue-signaling elite who patronize the poor and drive out the despised middle class.
Gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder did not give us the current California. Indeed, he spent most of his life warning us where Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, and the rarified society of the coastal corridor was taking the state.
A careening California is heading for a colossal train wreck. Voters will have to pick between the incompetent engineer snoring at the wheel or the private passenger who rushes into the cab to get the engine back on track.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.
Photo “Larry Elder” by Larry Elder. Photo “Gov. Gavin Newsom” by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “California State Capitol” by Andre M CC BY-SA 3.0.