California may be the country’s most important and influential state for technology, culture and lifestyle, but has become something of a cipher in terms of providing national political leaders. Not one California politician entered the 2016 presidential race in either party and, looking over the landscape, it’s difficult to see even a potential contender emerging over the coming decade.
We are a long way from the California dreamin’ days of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and even the early Jerry Brown era. Today we approach national politics largely as spectators – and our rich residents as donors – to storms brewing in other regions.
In contrast, New Yorkers clearly have the moxie to rise. Ted Cruz even lambasted “New York values” in his to-date failed attempt to derail Donald Trump. Just watch Trump and his new consigliere, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in action, they’re quintessential New York egomaniacal tough guys.
The Democrats also have a big New York imprint, with the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, a former New York U.S. senator and current resident. Her diminishing challenger, Bernie Sanders, is an aged Jewish boy from Brooklyn.
And, waiting in the wings, with his billions and his ego ready to propel him, sits former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Some East Coast observers see him as a potential running mate for Clinton, which certainly would make fundraising less important.
But it’s not just New York’s political culture that has shaped this election. The biggest non-Trump drama of the race has been the bitter conflict between two Florida politicians, the departed Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, now the rapidly fading hope of establishmentarian Republicans. Texas, too, has expressed at least the more doctrinaire aspect of its political culture in inflicting Ted Cruz on the electorate. Even the Rust Belt has had its moment, in the quixotic, but at least fundamentally decent, campaign of John Kasich.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.