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Interview: Heather Mac Donald on California in Decline


MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking today with Heather Mac Donald, a contributing editor of City Journal magazine, and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She’s also one of several contributors, including PJ Media’s own Andrew Klavan and Victor Davis Hanson, to the new publication by City Journal magazine titled, The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It. And Heather, thanks for stopping by today.

MS. MAC DONALD:  Thanks, Ed.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Heather, perhaps the best place to start is with the most open-ended question.  California -- how did it all go so wrong?

MS. MAC DONALD:  Well, Ed, there's still much that's right, of course.  I mean, it is one -- I think it is one -- I think it's the most beautiful state in the country; as a native, I'm obviously a little prejudiced, but I think it is a exemplar of identity politics, for one thing.  There's too many institutions that are convinced that the most important thing about its residents is their racial or ethnic national origin identity and -- and increasingly, of course, gender and sexual identity.  And we see that playing out in university admissions, in ideas about crime and policing and immigration policy, and I think that's a betrayal of what California used to mean, which was a real meritocratic ideal, that anybody who came, through hard work could really move ahead and the -- the state welcomed talent and achievement and did not worry about disparate impact or racial proportionality.

MR. DRISCOLL:  In May of 2009, I wrote a blog post titled “Golden State Mobius Loop,” in which I quoted George Will’s take on California the year before Jerry Brown replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. And then pasted in below it a quote by Ann Coulter from 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for the recall election to replace Gray Davis. And stylistics aside, they seem like they’re the same column. Why is Sacramento unable to learn from its mistakes, as it continues to augur the state further and further into the ground?

MS. MAC DONALD:  Well, you obviously have very strong union politics now, and I do feel, unlike many of my fellow conservatives who I highly respect, that the demographic revolution in the state, with an increasing Hispanic population that has been driven overwhelmingly by illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America is going to be locking in a redistributionist politics there for a long time, and this last summer in California was really quite extraordinary to see one aspect of the rule of law after another dismantled by the California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown in order to ease the experience of -- of illegal aliens within California on most obsessed, not just in California but across the country, with the fate of a program called Secure Communities, which should be a no-brainer for -- even for the most vociferous illegal alien advocates.