Last week, I was invited to a lavish soirée cum wine and gourmet treats at the swank Malibu manse of Wendy and Wayne Hughes Jr. to hear a talk by PJM’s own Victor Davis Hanson. (Hey, someone has to do it.) In attendance were such worthies as former Governor Pete Wilson, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, LA Councilmen Bernard Parks and Mitchell Englander, and scholars Andrew McCarthy, Robert Kaufman and Kevin Starr (author of the multi-volume history ‘America and the California Dream’) — all this arranged by Claremont Institute Fellow Larry Greenfield.
Victor brings out the heavies — and for good reason. In recent years he has emerged as one of the few public intellectuals we have — and one of the very few of those worth listening to, not just for his well known classical scholarship, but perhaps more importantly because he is a fifth generation California farmer, a true man of the soil who has “been there and done that” to an extent that justifies that tired cliché. This land is his land…. Or was. Soon enough it wouldn’t be anybody’s anymore.
But sipping cabernet by the pool, it was one of those warm nights that created the illusion that California still was heaven on Earth — even if we all knew Mama Cass’s dream was long gone. Our home state was a mess, beyond anything we had ever imagined. And the cure didn’t look imminent.
Victor sang the swan song. California, which had been blessed with the greatest agricultural valley in the world, magnificent ports, majestic mountains, plus a ton of other resources, plus what was once the greatest public university system on the planet, plus a diverse international immigrant population of extraordinary talent, plus, plus, had already made the next earthquake irrelevant. It was falling into the sea by itself.
Victor counted the ways: We had the highest paid teachers in the country but one of the worst public educational systems. We spent more on prison inmates than we did on students K-12. 40% of the country’s illegal aliens (5-7 million people) lived in our state, stressing our social programs to the limit while sending billions home to their countries of origin, lost to our economy forever. What was once the world’s premiere highway system has gone rotting while billions are spent on high-speed railroads no one wants or needs. California was near bankrupt. Fiscal and moral insolvency were everywhere. We destroyed ourselves in a “therapeutic society,” which cared more for the delta smelt than it did for the survival of its own people — or their employment.
Well, yes, yes and yes. The litany went on and on. Nothing much new here, but Victor said it extremely eloquently, as he does so often on these pages.
The question is, what is to be done? And is it too late?
Well, of course not. Lots can be done on multiple fronts, but as Victor pointed out, we’re not doing it. It looks as if it will take the final implosion — a truly failed state — before anyone does anything.
A case in point is our current governor Jerry Brown — elected on the hint that he (not the Republicans) was able to fix things, because he could reason with all the unions, the entrenched fiefdoms clinging to their perks and pensions. He was our “Nixon in China.” Or so he implied.
What a lie. He has done nothing of substance, not even approaching what Andrew Cuomo is attempting in New York. California has been left aborning, headed to be that failed state, our own Portugal.
Jerry should resign in favor of Victor Davis Hanson. Of course, he won’t. Jerry himself is a prime example of that therapeutic culture, a perfected version of its own inverted soul. Called a zen governor, he is no more zen than Donald Trump. He’s just another Hollywood hustler — only his hustle is politics. You just act groovy and say the right things and everything’s cool — only it’s not. Not anymore.
I’d vote for Victor if he ran. The problem with our culture, and our state, is that he won’t.