Published in April of 2018.
Is California the US on fast-forward?
If we want to understand where our country will be in the years to come should we look to the California of today?
That California provides a glimpse into America’s future is the conclusion of USC sociologist Manuel Pastor. Depending on your political leanings, this is either very bad or very good news.
Pastor’s case that California’s present in the rest of the country’s future is persuasive. By the middle of this century, the demographics in the US will largely mirror those of today’s California. Like California, the US will be a majority-minority - with no single racial/ethnic group accounting for more than half of the population.
Pastor views the election of Trump as an echo of California’s earlier flirtation with the Governator starting back in 2003. Schwarzenegger, like Trump, rode into office on his celebrity and on the fears of an aging white population.
Celebrity politicians are just one of the bad ideas that California first developed and then ultimately rejected, but not before exporting to the rest of the country. Among the born in California ideas that Pastor recounts are draconian sentencing laws, the blaming of immigrants for every imaginable economic and social problem, the efforts to slash property taxes.
By the time of Jerry Brown’s second stint as governor, the first being from 1975 to 1983, California had largely moved past all of these policies. Today, California is a firm blue state, one that leads the nation in its commitment to promoting clean energy and of raising the minimum wage.
Pastor does not claim that the US will follow California purely based on demographics. Instead, he believes that the rest of the country should follow the lead of the political activists who fought for the progressive economic and political gains that succeeded in changing the Golden State.
State of Resistance is mostly a history of how Californian’s engaged in the political organization necessary to turn the state from an anti-immigrant and anti-tax haven to the more enlightened place that he believes the state to now be.
Is Pastor right? Is California our future?
An alternative scenario is that our future lies in Texas. It is the Lone Star state that will overtake California in population size by the middle the century. Texas remains committed to low taxes and low regulations. Where California is prohibitively expensive to buy or rent a home, Texas housing remains mostly affordable.
I have to admit that the cost of living in California would give me pause before taking any job - and particularly any academic job - in the state. Everyone that I know who lives in California seems to spend about every cent they have on housing. Or they have many roommates, tiny places, or long commutes.
State of Resistance is a very good book. Filled with convincing arguments that are backed by data.
It would have been a better book, however, if Pastor had spent more time looking at Texas as a counter-argument for his California-centric predictions.
Do you buy the argument that the politics of the nation will eventually resemble those of California today?
Can you recommend any other good books on the history and future of the Golden State?
What are you reading?