My colleague from the philosophy department was becoming increasingly angry. He was trying to be polite, but it was clear that he was raging inside. After a few minutes, he smiled a very strained smile and excused himself.
Our conversation was about California, or to be more specific, California governance. As readers can imagine, he was bullish on how the Democratic Party governs the state, California being perhaps the most one-party state in the USA. Every statewide election has gone to a Democrat in the last decade, and Democrats have a supermajority in the state legislature, which means that there is no meaningful Republican opposition and whatever the Democrats want, they get.
Not surprisingly, California governance is squarely progressive. The unions representing government employees effectively run the legislature, and as a result, pay, benefits, and pensions for those workers increasingly are straining the state budgets. (Steven Greenhut, a libertarian journalist based in California, has documented the unsustainable growth of government in that state for nearly two decades.) Yet, the state continues to march politically and economically in the progressive direction as though the laws of economics didn’t matter.
For the most part I have observed progressive California from far away, but my life took a different turn a few years ago, and the state is becoming my new home. I married a retired nurse from Sacramento in 2018, and because of health issues with her adult daughter, she has to remain in that city, something not in our original plans. Because my school’s campus either has been closed or severely restricted during the covid-19 lockdowns, I have spent most of the past year working from my wife’s home.
Living and working in California has offered me the opportunity to observe California progressivism up close, and it has been an interesting experience. Yes, the state where I officially reside, Maryland, is famously one-party and progressive, but the progressivism of California makes Maryland’s legislature look almost red state by comparison and surreal in some ways.