California Steps Back from the Brink

In yesterday’s primary elections, California took a small step away from the brink. San Franciscans recalled one of the most notorious “progressive prosecutors”—ultra-lenient DA Chesa Boudin—while in Los Angeles, voters made billionaire and former Republican Rick Caruso the front-runner for the November mayor’s race.

These are encouraging developments for anyone who wants a return to sanity in the Golden State, though they fall far short of what conservatives hoped would be a red wave. Nothing better illustrates the lack of a conservative or even centrist counterpoint in California than its not particularly popular governor, Gavin Newsom, winning 56 percent of the vote in an open primary with extraordinarily light turnout. Michael Shellenberger, a skeptical and reality-based progressive, generated lots of positive coverage for his stinging critiques—but alas, few votes, as he polled below 4 percent. The leading Republican, the barely known Brian Dahle, could not break 17 percent.

Why wasn’t voter reaction stronger in a state that most here think is past its prime, becoming ever more unequal and crushed by high taxes and regulation? It’s called political monopolization. Democrats control every statewide office and seem assured of a veto-proof majority in both houses. They dominate local media. They are, in effect, the only party with power and reach statewide, and, notes analyst Dan Walters, they now operate in increasingly stealthy fashion, with few worries about Republican or media scrutiny.

Read the rest of this piece at City Journal.

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 Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.