Biden's California Successors Can't Be Trusted


Two Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris, are widely seen as the most likely successors to doddering President Joe Biden. But, as things stand, one has to wonder if the rest of America really yearns to become a greater California.

Embracing “the California model” may have worked when Ronald Reagan rode on his white horse, or even when Jerry Brown projected a future shaped by technology and space exploration. But with the current crop of leaders in charge, the model is a sure loser.

The facts are grim. Newsom and Harris may like to claim California’s preeminence as the hotbed of new ideas, racial justice, and economic progress, but that has little to do with reality. California suffers from the highest poverty rates in the US, tepid job growth and some of the country’s highest rates of unemployment. Once the supreme beacon for talented people from around the country and the world, it is coming to terms with its new problem of massive net emigration, an exodus that has increased sharply since 2019 — the year Newsom became governor — and was made worse by the pandemic. The state has, however, attracted one group: it now has 30% of the nation’s homeless population.

When it comes to education, California was once an admired leader. The state primary school system is now ranked consistently among the worst in the country. Despite being the “home” of social justice, the results are particularly poor for minority students. For example, Californian Hispanics, who make up roughly 40% of the overall population, do far worse when it comes to educational attainment than their Latino counterparts in Right-leaning states such as Texas and Florida. This has a huge impact on potential earnings in later life.

California is also a great example of how not to rebuild America’s shoddy infrastructure. The rebuilding of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has seen costs rise from an estimated $250 million in 1995 to $6.5 billion in September 2013. Or take the California high-speed rail line, which Newsom has refused to abandon despite costs that have escalated from $33 billion in 2008 to as much as $100 billion today.

How about climate policy, which has dominated the agenda under Newsom? It’s had negligible impact on warming but has done a fair job of undermining the prospects of the state’s largely Latino working class. Even without adjusting for costs, no California metro area ranks in the US top 10 in terms of well-paying, blue-collar jobs. But four — Ventura, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego — sit among the bottom 10.

These are the facts that naturally haunt either of these candidates. Newsom and Harris may be able to fool the star-struck reporters of the mainstream media into waxing about the state’s current status, but Californians know better. In one recent opinion survey, some 57% said the state was headed in the wrong direction, up from 37% in 2020. Four in 10 are considering an exit.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and and directs the Center for Demographics and Policy there. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Marshall Toplansky is a widely published and award-winning marketing professional and successful entrepreneur. He co-founded KPMG's data & analytics center of excellence and now teaches and consults corporations on their analytics strategies.

Photo: composite of photos of Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.