California at Twilight
How then does the California coalition work, and in some sense work so well?
The coastal elite offers an agenda for more welfare funding, scholarships, class warfare, public unions, diversity, affirmative action, open borders, and amnesty, and in response the interior voter signs off on everything from gay marriage, solar and wind subsidies, gun restrictions, mass transit schemes, and the entire progressive tax-and-spend agenda. Most of this coalition never much sees one another.
The young Mountain View programmer keeps clear of Woodlake. He even has only a vague idea of what life is like for those who live in nearby Redwood City and make his arugula salad at the hip pasta bar in Palo Alto. In turn, the Redwood City dishwasher has an equally murky sense that the wealthy kid who works at Google does not wish to deport his uncle -- and so the two become unspoken political partners of sorts. One of the state’s wealthiest cities, a gated Atherton, is juxtaposed to one of its most Latinate communities, Redwood City. But they might as well be Mercury and Pluto. Or should we applaud that the owner of the manor and his grass cutter vote identically -- and against the interests of the guy who sold and serviced the Honda lawn mower?
In the flesh, the energetic people I associate with during the week in Silicon Valley and see on the Stanford campus and on University Avenue are, it must be said, innovative folk, but soft apartheidists: where they live, where their kids go to schools, where they eat, and whom they associate with are governed by a class, and de facto racial, sensibility that would make Afrikaners of old proud.
The liberal aristocracy is as class-bound as the old Republican blue-stockings, but saved from populist ostracism by what I have called the “hip” exemption -- liberalism’s new veneer that allows one to be both consumer and critic of the Westernized good life, to praise the people and to stay as far away from them as possible. Mitt Romney is an outsourcer; Google’s offshore holdings are cool.
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Is there hope? Can there be honesty about our crises and courage to address them? If there is not to be assimilation and integration at the rate as in the past, then I sometime fantasize that a new conservative movement of second- and third-generation upper middle-class, over-taxed Mexican-Americans will demand competitive schools for their children without the fantasies of Chicano studies and coastal global warming indoctrination.
They will push for energy development, beefed-up law enforcement, and reasonable taxes and power rates, and so lock horns with the coastal elites, well apart from abortion, the death penalty, and the constant alternative lifestyle agenda. Some already are heading that way; more would if the borders were closed and the old forces of the melting pot were not impeded.
Or maybe change will come from the other end of the surreal coalition. I talk to young, high-end yupster couples and wonder how they can vote for 40% federal income taxes, 11% state income taxes, Obamacare, and payroll and Medicare surcharges on their hefty incomes when increasingly they don’t use the public schools. Or if they have children, they pay exorbitant prices for private schooling and coastal housing that anywhere else would be laughable. I don’t think Menlo-Atherton High School, or the average paving on any residential street in Palo Alto, or the security on Willow Avenue, or the square footage of the typical Menlo Park bungalow is all such a great deal for losing 55% of your income to the local, state, and federal redistributionists.
Will Howard Jarvis return, with Birkenstocks and ponytail?
Would some young visionary see that just a few ecologically correct new dams, and a well-run development of the Monterey shale formation, would enable vast new increases in California energy and agriculture -- food and fuel are what sustains mankind -- and launch another Gold Rush?
Then I wake up and accept that contemporary California is a quirk, one governed by a secular religion, a non-empirical belief system that postulates that natural gas is bad because it produces heat and that dams that store precious water are unnatural. So far the consequences of such thinking rarely boomerang on the cocooned fantasists.
We are like the proverbial spoiled third-generation progeny of the immigrant farmer: the first-generation toiler lived in a hovel until he bought his 80 acres with paid cash. The second remodeled the old house, had a nicer car than a tractor, doubled the acreage, but took the weekend off and had less money in the bank than did his dad. The third fantasized and puttered about in his hiking boots, went through the inheritance, mortgaged the land -- and was as glib and mellifluous as he was broke.
California is a tired idea.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast.
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