The changing face of the American electorate is etched all over the map of California. The Golden State may no longer be a partisan battleground, but it continues to be a reliable bellwether for the evolving national political landscape.
Even as President Barack Obama won a second term with an electorate that mirrored the demographic trends that have made California deep blue, Golden State voters chose to raise taxes to fund education and gave Democrats a two-thirds “supermajority” in both houses of the state legislature—meaning Democratic lawmakers will have the ability to raise taxes without a single Republican vote.
This willingness to increase taxes to pay for schools and other long-underfunded public services, coupled with California voters’ rejection of the GOP’s “no new taxes” mantra—up and down the ballot—could well echo across the nation, just as the passage of the state’s Proposition 13 ignited the anti-tax movement more than three decades ago.
Once upon a time, the Golden State was a Republican bastion. From 1952 through 1988, only one Democratic presidential candidate — Lyndon B. Johnson — carried California. It may have helped that a Californian — either Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan — was on the GOP ticket for seven of those 10 elections. Until former Governor Jerry Brown’s “Back to the Future” victory in 2010, Republicans had won 10 of the previous 15 gubernatorial elections.
How times have changed. In 2010 – a great year for Republicans nationally — Democrats scored overwhelming victories in California. Brown swamped billionaire business executive Meg Whitman and her prodigious spending, and Senator Barbara Boxer easily fended off a challenge from another wealthy GOP standard-bearer, Carly Fiorina. Democratic candidates took every statewide office, maintained their legislative majorities and held all their congressional seats.