The state of California prides itself on being a progressive beacon for the rest of the United States. It is, for all practical purposes, a one-party dictatorship with Democrats keeping an iron grip on the state legislature. The Assembly consists of 61 Democrats and 18 Republicans while the Senate is composed of 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans.
The congressional delegation is even more lopsided with 45 Democrats and just seven Republicans. Just 24 percent of California voters are registered Republicans.
So political arguments in Calfornia are between bug-eyed radicals and more establishment radicals. And despite the most radical government in the United States, the activists believe the establishment radicals are too moderate for their tastes.
“There’s a division between establishment Democrats, who are Democrat partisans first and foremost, and progressives, who are activists first and foremost,” said Eric Schickler, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “On a lot of issues, they’re on the same page, but in terms of how far to push reforms, what your vision of political change is, I think we have both positions represented pretty well in the state and we see some of that reflected in the Legislature.”
“That’s going to limit the extent to which liberals get all of what they want,” Schickler added.
Radicals as establishmentarians? In California, believe it.
Democrats captured two-thirds of the seats in the California Legislature in 2018, creating supermajorities that have the power to raise taxes and override a governor’s veto. Since then, they passed progressive laws mandating access to abortion pills at state colleges, capping rent increases and challenging the Trump administration’s overhaul of how schools deal with sexual misconduct.
But other progressive measures have failed, and this year’s legislative session disappointed many housing and police reform advocates.
In other words, radical but not crazy. It’s small comfort. Dismantling society and refashioning it in the “progressive” image takes time and they appear to have plenty of it. The Republican Party in California is little more than an internal debating society. The media rarely quotes them. If they need an opposing viewpoint, they find a less radical Democrat to give it.
Everyone has an idea of how the GOP can make a comeback in the state. Perhaps they could start by not trying to be Democrat-lite and actually offer serious conservative alternative proposals to the radicals. But for the moment, they are a mere echo of Democrats.
Is this the fate of America if Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats capture the House and Senate? And will the national Republican Party meet the fate of the California GOP?
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, said it’s natural for progressives to be impatient, and that they should use their impatience to continue fighting through multiple rounds on issues, as they did before same-sex marriage became a nationwide right.
“What is considered an outlier progressive position today is probably going to be mainstream Democratic thinking in five years, and could be the law of the land in eight or 10 years,” Wiener said.
The activists are not deterred by defeat. They don’t sit there and whine about how unfair it all is. They get up off the canvas and get ready for the next round, vowing to work harder.
Unless conservatives learn this lesson, we won’t recognize the United States of America in 10 years.