Every election cycle, California voters provide new evidence this is close to a one-party state. It’s been 14 years since a Republican won any statewide office and 28 since it had a Republican U.S. senator. The last two Senate runoff elections both featured two Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats have established super-majorities in California’s U.S. House and its state Senate and Assembly delegations. The state Senate split could be 33-7 after this election.
But every election, Californians also show with their proposition votes that they are more moderate than the lawmakers they elect. This was on dramatic display this week. Voters appear to have rejected a massive tax hike on major commercial and industrial properties that was embraced by virtually the entire Democratic establishment. Voters decisively rejected a proposed state law championed by Assembly member Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, that would have allowed state government to once again consider affirmative action in decisions on college admissions, hiring and the awarding of contracts. Voters also decisively approved an exception to a state law authored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, deciding to classify gig economy drivers as independent contractors. They also rejected an expansion of rent control rules.
Make no mistake: California is a progressive state whose residents widely believe in climate change and largely believe in reproductive rights, who value immigrants and diversity, and who embrace criminal justice reform at both the local and state level. But on pocketbook issues and questions of government authority and personal freedom, many voters have a libertarian streak. If more politicians figure this out, California will have better and broader policy debates — even if only among Democrats.