Commentary: How Unchecked Progressives Turned California Dreamin’ into a Liberal American Nightmare

California liberalism
by Jeffery Rendall


Our plane’s tires screeched noticeably when we touched down in California last week, the conclusion of a journey that took us across the length of the country in a little more than five hours. Along the way I gazed out the window and tried to guess where we were at the moment, noting that from over 35,000 feet everything in the fruited plain looks surprisingly similar.

But not in California. My birthplace and home for the first twenty-seven years of life has changed markedly since I left for good in the mid 90’s. Back then I felt I needed to leave – the political home of Ronald Reagan was tilting decidedly left in political and cultural orientation and California’s government was only in its beginning stages of a transformation that would choke off conservative ideas and constitutional liberty in favor of pandering to the rapidly expanding illegal alien population and know-it-all establishment elites.

California was no longer California, it seemed. Sure, it still had all of the places and attractions I’d grown to love in my formative years (Disneyland!), but times were a-changing.

Today, thanks to the presence of the tech industry (which largely sprouted after I exited the Golden State) California continues to enjoy significant economic success, though just below the surface those nagging social problems persist. The upcoming election promises to elevate Democrat Gavin Newsom to the governor’s mansion (to replace Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown), but Republicans have a candidate who would do the state a lot more good – if he could only get elected.

Troy Worden wrote for Red Alert Politics (in the Washington Examiner), “In this year’s must-watch California gubernatorial election, Republican nominee John Cox has taken aim at the Left’s botched handling of the Golden State’s education system.

“Cox claims that money raised from Proposition 30, a large tax increase pushed by now-outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown and passed by a majority of voters in 2012, has been funneled into the pockets of administrators and faculty rather than invested in the education of California’s students. This is due to the excessive control politicians and teacher unions have on how money raised for education is spent, he claims…

“John Cox is pushing for the right solutions for California and the Left’s tired and failed education policies. Instead of throwing more money at a problem money can’t fix, we should, as a nation, agitate for cheaper, more innovative alternatives for getting children the education they deserve. This means taking the control of what students learn away from the irresponsible and ideologically motivated and electing those like John Cox.”

Worden doesn’t present Newsom’s own education proposals but it isn’t required. As a standard 21st century leftist Democrat Newsom no doubt believes in perpetuating the same policies that over time turned California’s schools into some of the worst performing in the nation. The L.A. area alone has been so inundated with illegal aliens that over 70 percent of the city’s Unified School District’s pupils are native Spanish speakers.

Growing up in the eighties I can vouch for one’s ability to get a halfway decent public education in southern California. These days I’m not so sure. Worden talks about the possibility of establishing more charter schools – and home schooling – and thinks a Governor Cox would be capable of incubating such positive changes.

With the makeup of the California legislature, however, it’s doubtful. Even if Cox could somehow be the first Republican to win statewide election in the state since…Arnold Schwarzenegger?… he likely wouldn’t enjoy much success in forcing real reforms to education or anything else involving a large government bureaucracy. Public employee unions dominate the landscape in the Golden State. To clean house you’d have to first wholesale change the elected bodies – or split the state into three (or six) smaller ones. We won’t get into that here.

Ask a hundred people for their thoughts on how to “fix” California and you’d probably get a hundred distinct answers in about fifty different languages (Spanish being the most highly represented). The Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson has written extensively about what ails the state (from first-hand observations, he still actually lives there) and the reputable conservative historian doesn’t sound optimistic about a limited government philosophy making a comeback on the Pacific coast anytime soon.

Hanson wrote in early June at National Review, “Conservatives know that the problem with California is not skin color, ethnic affinity, or race, but rather a juxtaposition of historically unprecedented great wealth on the coast and the culture it spawns — especially in high technology, government, finance, entertainment, and academia — with dire poverty in the state’s north and interior, some the result of years of open borders and illegal immigration. The result is a state in which the pernicious consequences of elite policymaking are never quite experienced by their insulated architects.

“Open borders are fine, but then so are their proponents’ gated communities and the growth in coastal private academies and prep schools, as the public schools score near bottom in the nation’s test scores. Water transfers are the obsolete projects of a bygone age, but not those such as Hetch Hetchy, vital to Bay Area survival. Expensive gas and electricity are good green policies, but their deleterious consequences fall most heavily on the distant inland poor of the much hotter and colder interior. The nation’s highest basket of income, sales, and gas taxes can be either avoided or easily paid by those who are most in favor of them…”

In other words California has devolved into the embodiment of the haves and have-nots. Take a tour of Hollywood and you’ll discover there are still areas where the rich and famous congregate and flourish – but cross the street (literally in some cases) and you’ll see those on the other side of the proverbial tracks – homeless persons, drug addicts, prostitutes waving down cars, directionless weirdos with piercings and paint you wouldn’t think imaginable on a human body.

That’s not to mention the living conditions of areas heavily populated by illegal aliens where all manners of filth and depredation are the norm rather than the exception. In his writings Hanson’s relayed tales of local police looking the other way to obvious law breeches simply because there’s no way to get convictions – or even to have the accused show up in court. These dens of ill repute appear to have no supervision or oversight from government authorities.

Is it a third-world country? Or is it just the “wild west” all over again — though these ghost towns are still inhabited by living souls barely teetering on the edges of existence.

If you stick to the main thoroughfares – or hug the coast – it’s easy to ignore all the problems in California. Real estate prices are astronomical in the state and the richest of the rich make their homes there. They’re the only ones who can afford it. They pay the confiscatory taxes and support socialist Democrat politicians without making a dent in their checking accounts. The sunshine and great weather comes at a price to everyone else though.

Of course the rest fend for themselves, especially the poor. The Golden State’s disappearing middle class is being squeezed by taxes and excessive regulations into near extinction. The entrepreneurial business sector is non-existent. No wonder all the U-Hauls are heading east.

It goes without saying the ultra-liberal Bay Area (where Newsom served as Mayor of San Francisco for seven years) is perhaps the worst example of urban blight. The humanitarian crisis in one of America’s most scenic and fabled metropolises is shocking (to some) and sad. It’s what liberal governance gets you.

In a piece called “Increasingly Putrid City by the Bay,” Steven Greenhut wrote at The American Spectator, “At least everyone is noticing its tawdriness. ‘Trash bags full of approximately 20 pounds of human poop were left on the sidewalk over the weekend in downtown San Francisco,’ the Fresno Bee reported on Wednesday. ‘It’s the latest — and perhaps most alarming — sign of the increased filthiness of one of the most popular cities in the United States.’ Those smelly, possibly leaking bags were left in the downscale Tenderloin, but large swaths of upscale areas now resemble an outdoor sewer with human feces, open-air drug use, and other signs of the breakdown of civic order…

“After decades of passing rent controls and tenants’-rights laws, I suspect that the city’s housing market is beyond repair. So is its civic culture, as the blight expands. The only thing that could change is if wealthy San Franciscans get tired of stepping in feces as they exit their multimillion-dollar row homes. No one wants San Francisco to resemble beige Irvine, but fewer open-air drug markets and tent cities might be nice. It’s hard, however, to focus on the nuts-and-bolts of clean streets when policymakers are busy using the city as what one GOP official terms the ‘utopian petri dish of America.’”

Petri dish yes, utopia no. Greenhut makes a good living off of writing about California’s problems, almost universally caused by its unrealistic and borderline crazy leftist political class. Americans from all fifty states get a little bit of an idea what the Golden State’s political climate is like by observing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (herself from the Bay Area) as well as doddering old loon Senator Dianne Feinstein (again, served as Mayor of San Francisco in the 80’s) and the new ultra-liberal flavor of the moment, Senator Kamala Harris.

You could advance a good argument that bad policies (rent control, hamstringing the police) alone are to blame for the deterioration of California’s cities, but I’d suggest the main cause is the complete disintegration of traditional American culture and personal responsibility. It’s no secret many of the toxic social causes that slowly ate away at the American fabric budded in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. San Fran was known as the “gay bay” long before it was non-politically correct to say so.

Don’t believe liberal policies and culture are corrosive? San Diego still clings to some narrow semblance of conservative thought and the furthest southern part of California has avoided the widescale erosion of quality of life. You can still walk downtown in San Diego without feeling like you’re in a liberal-fostered recreation of Mexico City – or Beirut. Maybe it’s due to the heavy presence of U.S. military (huge Navy base) in the region. Who knows.

California has a little bit of everything – if you look hard enough you can find it there. Except for maybe conservative limited government philosophies.

Needless to say a great many of California’s ills stem from our neighbor to the south. Mexico is more than happy to export a plethora of trouble north. The Golden State’s politicians won’t solve the issues. Could it be time to just invade?

Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall, “[N]o, we should not invade Mexico. There are no good military options, and none are necessary or wise today, but we may eventually have to choose between bad options. Mexico is failing more and more every day. We are not yet at the point of a military solution, but anyone who says that day can never come is lying to himself and to you. We need a wall, but more than that, we need the commitment to American security and sovereignty that a wall would physically represent. The issue is very clear, and we need to be very, very clear about it when we are campaigning in November. Border security. Period.

“Are we going to prioritize the interests of liberals who want to replace our militant Normal voters with pliable foreigners and establishment stooges who want to please rich donors by importing countless cheap foreign laborers, or are we going to prioritize the economic security and the physical safety of American citizens by securing our border no matter what it takes?”

Not if the impetus for building the wall has to come from California. Like Hanson and Greenhut, Schlichter still lives there, so he grasps much better than the eastern elites what the real problems are with border security and the rapidly worsening Mexican political situation.

Nothing like residing among liberal Democrat snakes to understand how severely they bite.

California remains the butt of jokes simply because its political leadership is granted free license to be as nutty as they want to be without fear of electoral rebuke. It’s a liberal politician’s dream; unfortunately for the rest of us California’s devolved into an American nightmare.











Reprinted with permission from

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One Thought to “Commentary: How Unchecked Progressives Turned California Dreamin’ into a Liberal American Nightmare”

  1. Terry

    For a native born son, I’m surprised that you’ve missed some key points. First, the initiative to separate the state into three new states. That was scheduled to be on the ballot next November, after having garnered the necessary number of petitioners. The California Supreme Court just this past week overruled that, stating that, if it succeeded, it would be “too disruptive.” Well, yeah, that was the point, to break the state up in order for it to be more accountable to the people. So California’s judiciary has just gone full oligarchy. The California Supreme Court has put forward that decision which is a direct (and blatant) violation of California’s state constitution that the government is by the people and for the people. Nope, not anymore. What is even more bitterly ironic, openly hypocritical in fact, is how the California communists love to tout “democracy” (versus our republican form of government), until, of course, the democracy does not vote in their favor; then, all bets are off and they go full dictatorship.

    Second, California is pursuing legislation that what will amount to a ban on the Bible; the thin end of the wedge is a prohibition against any individual or organization that seeks to convert, or offer instructional material, on gender dysphoria and aberrant sexuality of all sorts. There was no religious exception. So any reference to, or distribution of, the Bible’s proscription against homosexuality would be, in reality, a criminal offense.

    Third, there has been a movement in the “real” northern California (which is most assuredly NOT San Francisco and Sacramento) to separate from the state under Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. Twenty three contiguous counties have pledged their support. That area is deeply conservative but lightly populated and, as such, they filed suit against the state for lack of representation and dilution of vote. In yet another fit of judicial pique, the Eastern District Court sought to derail that initiative by denying them a three judge court to hear the matter. The organization is in the process of filing a petition, seeking a writ of Mandamus from the U.S. Supreme Court, directing the Eastern District Court to appoint a three judge panel. More information on this grassroots movement can be found at:

    So what relevance does any of this have to Tennessee or the rest of the country one might ask. If California wants to be its usual loopy self, why not just let them self-destruct? Well, for one thing, it’s filth is highly infectious. The communists and ecofascists have now fully taken over Oregon and Washington State, and they’ve established a growing toehold in Boise Idaho and turned Montana into a “purple” state. This is all part of a larger movement to “fundamentally transform” our nation from a capitalist patriarchy to a socialist matriarchy, i.e., a nanny state. “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg lays it out beautifully.

    Bear in mind too, that two of the most loopy politicians in California 9and that’s saying a lot), Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ( – as such, they oversee any and all U.S. intelligence operations. Then of course, there’s Rep. “Mad Maxine” Waters openly calling for violence against conservatives of any stripe, including government officials.

    The base strategy being pursued is to concentrate wealth, power, and population into the urban centers, eradicate the middle class, induce chaos, and then establish a police state to “restore” law and order. Anyone who doesn’t see that happening in Tennessee needs to take a look at Memphis and, to a lesser extent but increasingly so, Nashville. One of the key evaluative criteria I apply in deciding which political candidate to support is whether or not they seek to limit government to its enumerated powers and to return that government which remains closer to the people. I urge my fellow Tennesseans do the same, lest we fall prey to the same malaise as California.