Issues & Insights

Don’t ‘Californicate’ The Rest Of America

Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

California was once a shining exemplar of everything a state should be — inventive, creative, energetic, freewheeling, fast-growing and conservative. No more. Today, it’s a giant welfare economy run by far-left kleptocrats and union shills who can’t even keep the lights on. As hundreds of thousands of Californians flee the once-Golden State, the rest of America should ask itself: Will they bring their politics with them?

Put another way, will California’s broken model be adopted by much of the rest of the country, turning reliably red states blue and seeding the nation with high taxes, more rules, corrupt politicians, and slow growth?

We hope not, but given the 2020 election, it’s not an idle question. California’s political class is widely regarded as among the most corrupt, irresponsible, hypocritical, hard left and incompetent of any comparable group of state politicians in the country, which is saying a lot.

The troubles have been on full display this week.

A week after imposing sweeping new restaurant closures across much of the state and telling Californians not to gather in groups for Thanksgiving, California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted on Monday that he attended a birthday party for an old friend at an ultra-swank Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry.

Never mind that the party for his buddy, himself a lobbyist, also included a bunch of medical industry lobbyists. The photos show not only more people in attendance than allowed under state guidelines, neither the governor nor his wife were wearing masks.

Newsom called it a “bad mistake.” A better term might be rank hypocrisy, as Newsom himself admitted: “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house … the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Nice words, but Newsom isn’t alone in his two-faced behavior. This week, a handful of California legislators are enjoying an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii, where they’re attending the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort.

The Associated Press says the event “includes policy discussions and schmoozing with corporate sponsors.”

“Organizers booked about 50 rooms and have about 120 people staying at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui’s southwest shore,” the AP reported.

In short: One set of rules for average Californians, who have just had a new, strict lockdown imposed, and another for the state’s political elite.

These are just the most recent examples of the misrule and mismanagement of California, which has become a de facto one-party state under the Democrats, who were way ahead of the national curve in turning the state’s elections into fraudulent farces that encourage cheating which systematically benefits their party.

Faced with such poor governance, many Californians have said, “Enough!”

With taxes soaring, quality of life plunging as violent crime and homelessness surge, home prices out of reach, nonsensical government regulations spreading, an increasingly heavy-handed government and a slumping job market, California now ranks 47th out of 50 states on the widely followed Economic Freedom Index issued annually by Canada’s Fraser Institute.

As their future prospects dim, many longtime and even native Californians are leaving for better times in neighboring states such as Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

More recently, the departing have moved even farther away, relocating in Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. It’s a “reverse Beverly Hillbillies” migration.

From 2007 to 2016, some 7 million Californians (gross total) left the state, most of them middle-class or upper-class in income. In 2018 alone, the number of economic and quality-of-life refugees surged by nearly 700,000, and the flood appears to be continuing today.

Here’s the problem. It’s one thing to move from a state because it’s going in the wrong direction. It’s quite another to move and not understand that you had something to do with it.

Looking at California’s surrounding states, once bright red in their political hue, there’s an increasing amount of purple and even blue. Former Californians who didn’t like what happened in their state have held on to their foolish leftist voting habits and beliefs, and repeated the pattern elsewhere.

In short, Cali, not to mention New York and other high-tax, high-regulation states that punish businesses and citizens alike, are hemorrhaging citizens to more-friendly states around the country.

The trends in California are especially ominous. As City Journal’s Steve Malanga pointed out in a piece earlier this year dubbed “Calculating the Californication,” a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, found that 52% of those living in California were considering moving elsewhere.

Among those, more than 71% blamed soaring housing costs and 58% cited high taxes, while almost half pointed to the state’s increasingly radical left, toxic political environment — everything from the “cancel culture” and rampant political correctness, to a reliance on green energy, a crackdown on religion, the release of violent felons, and a decaying, union-run education system that teaches kids to hate America but not basic skills.

As evidence of the latter, one need only point to a recent headline: “Huck Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Other Classic Books Banned In California Schools For ‘Racism.’ ” Any wonder that a majority of confused, ignorant young people now embrace socialism and its ideas, while rejecting the greatest wealth- and freedom-creating system ever?

As for those who are leaving, numbers don’t lie.

“Conservatives and moderates are the most unhappy with the state and most anxious to leave,” says Malanga. “Liberals, by contrast, are mostly staying put, and some think life in California is just great. Only 38% of Democrats said that they were considering leaving, compared with 55% of independents and 71% of Republicans.”

As Michael Anton wrote in his recent book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return,” which details California’s dystopian government and dysfunctional political culture:

In barely one generation … California was … transformed into a left-liberal one-party state, the most economically unequal and socially divided in the country, ostensibly run by a cadre of would-be Solons in Sacramento and in the courts, but really by oligarchic power concentrated in a handful of industries, above all Big Tech and Big Hollywood.

The middle class — what’s left of them — continue to flee high taxes, higher costs, cratering standards of living, declining services, deteriorating infrastructure, worsening quality of life, and an elite that openly despises them and pushes policies to despoil and dispossess them.

It isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely where California is now. Other states should be concerned. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds observes, some tax refugees from California and other “migrants from high tax states might bring their political attitudes with them, moving to new, low-tax states for the economic opportunity but then supporting the same policies that ruined the states they left.”

American states, beware. Take in as many Californians as you wish. But don’t accept California’s far-left, utterly broken governance and cultural model. It’s not “progressive” in any true meaning of the word. And once adopted, it will ruin your own state.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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39 comments

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  • The answer to your question is yes. Just look at what has happened to Colorado. Just look at how solid Red States like Texas are now Purple moving to Blue

  • As an ex-Native Son of the Late Great State of California, having left San Diego in 1974 to join the military, I’m sickened at what has happened to the “Golden State.” I’m glad to have grown up there when I did, but you couldn’t give me house or the wages I need to live there as an enticement to return.

    • Also born and raised in San Diego. We left in the summer of ’75 after my junior year of high school. It was great then, Reagan was Governor, Pete Wilson was Mayor and California was the best state to live in.

      Our folks just got tired of the rat race and wanted something a little slower so we moved to a small town in Western North Carolina. Man, talk about culture shock.

      Mike G.

    • Have you read the book? I read it in high school in early 70s.
      Great book.
      Left in 2002. Miss great Mexican food and family. Not much else.

  • Mexifornia is a lost cause. Still awaiting The Big One that disconnects the state from the mainland and it sails West into the Pacific.

  • California is also a living example of what happens when you abolish the Electoral College. The urban coast is dominated by insane leftists who want every environmental regulation, and any other regulation they can dream up. The coasts are wealthy and don’t mind paying $3.59 for gas or having poorer Californians buy them another Tesla, or insane electricity bills for a service that is unreliable and gets shut off when the wind blows too hard. They have the bulk of the population, and wouldn’t spend any time in the Central Valley unless at a swanky resort.

    This state, which is already bankrupt and is just waiting for the collections agent to show up at the door, just passed a $7 billion bond measure to throw research money at stem cells. This is on top of an earlier $3 billion one that just expired and was designed as an up yours to George W Bush back in the day.

    All this and so much more–fight for $15!–while the Central Valley is filled with poverty and damaged by almost every regulation and tax the coastal elites can think up.

    Because their voice is drowned out by the coasts, they suffer. They barely even get a seat at the table, and are never listened to. It’s all for people’s own good, you know.

    Look at Gov Newsom’s Reopening Task Force and who is on it. Fat cat after fat cat: union bosses, environmental activists, failed politicians–Grey Davis!–and big corporate CEOs with lots from the tech industry. There’s not one small farmer, small business owner, shop clerk, office drone, short-order cook, gardener, or any just normal person. Not one person on that task force is likely to have missed a paycheck this year, makes less than $300k household income, has a net worth under several million, or can’t compensate at home for their kids not getting an education for a year–Newsom moved his entire family to a district with a private school allowed, by him, to stay open. How many normal Californians can pick up their entire household and move just to find an open school?

    In California, average Californians have no voice. The coasts are so dominant, they can do whatever they want and never pay the slightest attention to how the rubes suffer from the elite’s actions.

    • Hello Ann I lived in LA , then the the Central Valley for a while, and finally escaped to rural WA State. My small town (2500) is surrounded by forest but suddenly cattle ranches and farmland is giving way to subdivisions with a hundred houses on tiny lots. Most of the newcomers are from Seattle or CA and have blue Biden signs. The one that bothers me says “respect others”

      Your post is absolutely true

  • It’s what happened in New England. Taxachusettes residents fled/flee to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. They brought/bring their politics with them and recreated/are creating what they were/are fleeing.

  • It’s happening here in FL, which until 2 weeks ago had the best business climate in the country. Then all the refugees from other states voted for a $15 minimum wage by mid-decade. Goodbye, job growth. Hello, kiosks and remote ordering.

  • Been watching it happen to AZ for the last 40 years. Now we have Democrat mayors of our largest cities, A Democrat SOS in charge of our elections and two Dem senators.

    • Exactly! AND they voted in that stupid Red for Ed “Invest” in Ed prop as well! They don’t think they’ll be affected by it because, well, “it will only affect small businesses earning over $400K”…We’ve been here 22years, and I wish we were in a position to move!

  • I take offense to your article . Stop bagging on all Californians !
    Not everyone here is a democrat !
    There are plenty of GOD fearing , hard working , conservative people here .
    Yes , we have been over taken by a great Evil ,
    aided by the news media , LIKE YOU !

    • There are more patriots in California than people realize. They are unfortunately victims of the leftist monolith and illegal voting apparatus. After what we are learning from other states regarding Dominion voting machines, mass infusion of fake votes and ballot harvesting, it’s entirely possible that California was one of the first states to have their voices and votes stolen. Not to mention, the MSM works overtime whispering in their ear. People are starting to wake up in California and Trump Rallies in Hollywood speak volumes. California may be a lost cause with so many moderates and conservatives leaving the state. Let’s hope it’s not too late to take our country back because California is the blueprint for the left.

  • You’re missing the point with this article. The problem is corruption and election rigging, not the generally good and often great people of California. If you fail to see this point, yes, you will be californicated

    • Actually Richard, There is a lot that can be done. Generations of Americans being soft, ridiculous consumer pig zombies has made you blind as to what can be done. Despair and pure hatred will light the way. You can count on that.

  • I’m surprised you didn’t hold The Northernmost Suburb of Southern California, Formerly Known As Oregon as an example. Thanks to being utterly swamped with Commiefornians over the years, Oregon hasn’t had a Republican majority or governor in 30 years. Instead, we get Kate “Who’s your nanny” Brown and Ted “It’s not a riot until they attack my condo” Wheeler and a downtown in the largest city in the state that looks like San Francisco. The problem is, the Commiefornians take their BS ideas with them, because anything bad that happens is never their fault- it has to be someone else who is responsible.

  • Californians have all but ruined Arizona. They flee California’s high taxes, onerous regulations and astronomical cost of living and then vote in the same people and policies that destroyed their home state. As an Arizonan, I ask that you please stop! Do not inflict upon us the same bull s*** that you are trying to escape.

  • For the love of all things good, don’t come to New Mexico! It’s worse than California! Our little midget tyrant is closing grocery stores in rural areas.

  • . Texas is a lost cause and White Texans are oblivious to it. About 10 years go I told a Texan, who was proud of his solidly right-wing state, that that was guaranteed to change, that Texas was very soon going to be another California, another liberal state. He didn’t believe me. Funny how people can have such trouble seeing something coming just because it’s different than everything they’ve experienced before. I even told him why, namely that for decades Texas has been getting swamped with Mexicans, and therefore it was destined to turn into a liberal, Democrat, hand-out state. Demographics is destiny. People forget that California used to be solidly Republican too. It changed for the same reason.

  • You are spot on. It’s like a cancer that spreads. I was born and raised in Washington State. I have seen the changes you’ve laid out so well. You couldn’t elect JFK here if he was a Republican. It used to be that everyone was friendly here – you could spot a relocated Californian by their unfriendliness. Not any more. Now we’ve become overrun by them – logging vastly curtailed, gun control expanding, Seattle’s insane “Summer of Love” occupation, Green policies expanding, etc., all funded by taxing the hell out of every source available. I’ve lived here 67 years, and I don’t belong anymore.

  • Universal suffrage, anywhere, anytime, is a disaster. You relocate to a new state that you have only superficial knowledge of, you don’t know the people, the land, the way of life… You haven’t lived there, raised kids there. You’re not invested at all in the community. You had nothing to do with building it.

    OK, welcome. But voting in local and state elections or running for local or state office is off limits until you have actual, bona fide residence for at least five years.

  • The interior of the state is red and even in the bay you will find conservatives. The problem is we are impossibly gerrymandered and the wine and cheese crowd controls everything. California is a microcosm of what the rest of the country is becoming. I don’t plan to move but if I ever do, I’ll add a Red vote to whichever state. Personally I think all states should enforce a rule that you must reside there for a period of 3 years for 8 months out of the year before you qualify to resister to vote. It will be proven by looking at a utility bill and bank statements showing where you by goods. It may give new arrivals some time to think about the superior state they moved into.

  • As a native San Diegan, I take great pride in California. Our booming economy that helps the leeching red states stay afloat, our abundant agriculture that nourishes the bottom-feeding conservatives, and our social safety net that assists the red crybabies across the state.

    To the rest of America, you’re welcome!

    • It’s the same hubris that will be the downfall of the Democrat party. And the hypocrisy of the “why work when you can collect a check” generation started in the 50’s and 60’s and was accelerated by the “greatest president of all time” and his free phone giveaway. The democratic sheep are low IQ in this state and the blue base is composed of non English speaking or limousine liberals with money to wipe their asses and a view of compassion as progressive as Dick,Cheney.

  • I left ten years ago, and will never regret it. However, I can see why people may not be willing to leave even though they know something isn’t quite right. I grew up in California when it was still “The Golden State”, but these changes took time, and one can’t see the full extent of the damage until you’re outside looking in. However, I’m in Florida, and can already see the writing on the walls here as well so I’m getting ready to move once again; this time I’m leaving the country…

  • Too late. There was an Oregon bumper sticker in the 80’s that said that.
    America us already Californicated.

    What we are trying to do now is unscrew it.

  • Just exactly how do politicians in neighboring red states not “accept California’s far-left, utterly broken governance and cultural model” if the migrants bring it with them? Can they disenfranchise the new citizens? Can they ignore and segregate their votes?
    Once the newbies start voting like they did back home it is only matter of time and numbers before they manage to turn AZ etc into blue hell.

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