The “Left Coast” mostly bore his name mid-term, although occasional signs of dissent could be seen. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom won big and the GOP had no major statewide successes. California Comptroller candidate Lanhee Chen, the rare Republican endorsed by virtually every major newspaper, barely did better than his hapless GOP running mates in a loss. In Oregon, Christine Drazan failed to make it to the governor’s mansion, despite Portland’s ongoing collapse and a spirited race. And in Washington, speculation of a closer-than-expected Senate race has proven false.
The Golden State’s electoral evidence remains incomplete. California has taken an ultra-permissive approach to voting, including mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting. The state’s electoral system ensures that close races — most importantly, the Los Angeles mayoral race between progressive Karen Bass and former Republican Rick Caruso — remain up in the air for days after election night. .
For now, Caruso appears to hold a narrow but shrinking lead. If Bass wins, she will have overcome the results of Caruso’s $80 million spending spree, corrupt city governance, proliferating homelessness and multiple celebrity endorsements. And if Caruso hangs on, he’ll be crippled by a seemingly even more left-leaning city council.
San Francisco, of all places, may be in better shape. After recalling a far-left district attorney and three school board members earlier this year, voters elected moderators (parents) to the board of oversight. But otherwise, the signs of change are limited. California’s paltry GOP delegation looks likely to shrink by at least two seats. The Republicans remained competitive in Orange County, the Inland Empire, and the Central Valley. But they are not a factor in the most populated urban coastal areas. A similar pattern applies to Oregon, where some suburban areas and small towns could still swing to the GOP.
Is radical West Coast politics spearheading the nation’s future? The region has long anticipated major technological, cultural and fashion trends. But it breaks down. Rather than leading the post-pandemic recovery, California has lagged in job creation, lost business at ports, and seen increasing emigration. Business relocations continue to rise, including among technology companies. California now ranks among the least popular places for migrants. Recent surveys suggest that affluent young professionals and parents are looking to leave. And demographic downturns are also underway in Oregon and Washington, as Portland and Seattle’s ambitions to become the next San Francisco persist, despite the apparent failures of that model of governance.
And yet, Tuesday indicated that West Coast progressives still face only limited opposition. Kate Brown, the outgoing governor of Oregon, was ranked as the state’s least popular chief executive, but a plurality of people still voted for her successor. Newsom’s endorsement is positive but far from overwhelming, but he pulled off a near landslide victory.
Many on the left argue that America’s future lies in nation building, as the Los Angeles Times proclaimed, “California again.” This includes an aggressive green policy and a desire to tackle inequality with massive redistributive programs. But such an approach is increasingly unsuitable for California, let alone the rest of the country. San Francisco is facing what a local magazine called an “epic real estate crash.” The IPO market is drying up. Even the biggest tech behemoths — Meta, Twitter and Seattle-based Amazon — have seen their stocks plummet. With wealthy people moving elsewhere, the Bay Area seeing lost tax revenue and problems in the real estate market, California will struggle to fund its ambitious social and climate plans. West Coast Democrats will soon have to choose between their cherished policies or higher taxes, which they need from their high-income professional base.
Only when economic reality can no longer be ignored will these states reverse social immobility, homelessness and rising crime. Embers of opposition linger, but the stubborn truth is that only a combination of deteriorating conditions and a revived Republican Party can bring about the course correction needed to restore the region’s promise.
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