That's the conclusion of an interesting piece of commentary published today in The New Republic. Penned by former Sacramento Bee editorial page editor Peter Schrag, the article argues that California -- the favorite punching bag of bad-government critics who assail its political and budgetary dysfunction -- is, gulp, the future of American politics.
It's an argument that sounds almost like willful nostalgia in these times. Sure, when former Gov. Pat Brown was building the state's infrastructure in the 1960s, or when his son, once and future Gov. Jerry Brown, was busy pioneering bold environmental polices in the 1970s, California seemed to be leading the way. But in the age of constitutional bans of gay marriage and sleepovers at the state legislature because politicians can't pass a budget on time, should any other state really look to us as a model?
Schrag makes a good case that the answer is yes. It's not so much that we in the Golden State are models of probity, he asserts, as that we've already endured forms of demographic and political upheaval that are convulsing other parts of the country and giving rise to such bizarre, ultra-conservative, ultra-white movements as the "Tea Party." (A movement, incidentally, that flopped in California even as it succeeded elsewhere.) Referring to Republican success in the 2010 congressional elections, Schrag writes:
The great sweep of 2010, in short, more likely marked the end of something, not the beginning. The nation's young voters, like California's, are far more comfortable in that new globalized world, accustomed to the ethnic diversity that they grew up with and are going to school with, more environmentally conscious, and untroubled by gay marriage. And of course, a sizeable portion of those young voters are immigrants or the children of immigrants -- Latinos and Asian particularly. They are the nation's future. And so, as ever, is California.