Yet as they consolidate control, California Democrats must face some profound contradictions, as the Marxists would say. The gentry—tech oligarchs, real estate speculators, and venture capitalists—stand comfortably with the left on symbolic race, gender, and environmental issues. But these party bankrollers could be hard-pressed if they face the prospect of higher taxes to pay for a state single-payer health-care system, massive housing subsidies, and Governor Brown’s choo-choo, not to mention the state’s ever-soaring pension costs. As Amazon is learning in Seattle, progressive politicos have figured out where to find the biggest piles of cash. Aggressive taxation of tech companies is already becoming a trend in Silicon Valley.
A stronger, motivated grass-roots Left could constitute the greatest immediate challenge to Governor Newsom. Many Californians, particularly millennials and minorities, face a lack of high-wage jobs, soaring rents, and essentially insurmountable barriers to homeownership. A majority of Californians, according to some surveys, express dissatisfaction with the state’s bifurcated economy. The disappearance of upward mobility makes these voters susceptible to embracing such things as rent control, higher minimum wages, free college, and free health care. They will support ever higher taxes on businesses and on generally white, affluent Californians. The call for new spending will become more problematic once the state comes back to earth from its Silicon Valley and real-estate inflation highs, which for now keep the operating budget in the black.
At some point, Newsom and the Democratic nomenklatura will have to deal with pervasive conditions of diminished opportunity, racial polarization, and fiscal weakness. When these realities eventually impinge, the state’s progressive rulers may find themselves on the defensive, and—if confronted with a plausible opposition—vulnerable, at long last.
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