Which historic metaphor for a region and worldview facing looming collapse works for California? Journalist Claire Berlinski once dubbed San Francisco “a Weimar City.” At his PJ Media column, Victor Davis Hanson likes to compare 21st century California to ancient Rome and modern Greece. Perhaps though, Joel Kotkin has the right metaphor, asking at his New Geography Website, “Is Perestroika Coming In California?”
When Jerry Brown was elected governor for a third time in 2010, there was widespread hope that he would repair the state’s crumbling and dysfunctional political edifice. But instead of becoming a Californian Mikhail Gorbachev, he has turned out to be something more resembling Konstantin Chernenko or Yuri Andropov, an aged hegemon desperately trying to save a dying system.
As with the old party bosses in Russia, Brown’s distinct lack of courage has only worsened California’s lurch toward fiscal and economic disaster. Yet as the budget woes worsen, other Californians, including some Democrats, are beginning to recognize the need for perestroika in the Golden State. This was most evident in the overwhelming vote last week in two key cities, San Diego and San Jose, to reform public employee pensions, a huge reversal after decades of ever more expansive public union power in the state.
California’s “progressive” approach has been enshrined in what is essentially a one-party state that is almost Soviet in its rigidity and inability to adapt to changing conditions. With conservatives, most businesses and taxpayer advocates marginalized, California politics has become the plaything of three powerful interest groups: public-sector unions, the Bay Area/Silicon Valley elite and the greens. Their agendas, largely unrestrained by serious opposition, have brought this great state to its knees.
Read the whole thing, which ends on a somewhat hopeful note — Kotkin believes that “for the first time in a decade, there’s hope that the whole corrupt, failing California political edifice could come crashing down, providing a renewed hope for recovering the state’s former greatness.” But if any state can continue to ignore reality even as its doom approaches, it’s this one.