If you’re looking for the person, group or organization that most shaped California in 2018, consider this:
Jerry Brown purposely goes where the president won’t and invites leaders from around the world to San Francisco for a landmark summit on climate change.
Nancy Pelosi leads her party to a smashing election day victory and stands poised as a counterbalance to President Trump and his policies.
Gavin Newsom romps to an easy win in the governor’s race and prepares to take California in a more progressive direction.
Kamala Harris, just two years out from her time as the state’s attorney general, now is seen as a leading candidate for president in 2020.
Orange County, the conservative bastion where Ronald Reagan famously said “good Republicans go to die,” swept out all four of its GOP members of Congress and now is “Democrats-only” when it comes to being represented in Washington, D.C.
The state Senate has a two-thirds Democratic majority with two seats to spare, three-quarters of the Assembly members are Democrats and, as it’s been since 2010, no Republicans need apply when it comes to holding statewide office.
And don’t forget the state’s 8.5 million registered Democrats who helped put those politicians in office, as well as those who’ve been willing to donate their time, treasure and expertise to boost Democrats across the country.
California’s Democratic voters and politicians had an impact that stretched far beyond the state’s borders in 2018 and not only on individual issues like immigration, clean air and the environment.
Last month’s election made it clear that a state that’s home to 12 percent of the nation’s people — and even more of its wealth — is mad as hell and not going to take this anymore.
There will be plenty of evidence of that in the year to come, but for 2018, California Democrats are my choice for Californian of the year.
That’s not to say there weren’t other influential people and groups.
There was plenty of talk about the homeless in 2018, with politicians across the state making promises that this will be the year that the problem – and hopefully some solutions – will take center stage.
But housing woes don’t just affect people living on the streets. With the economy booming in places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley and other metropolitan areas, not only would-be homebuyers, but also renters are being priced out of their communities. More and more Californians are forced to move to the distant exurbs to find a place they can afford to live, where they face exhausting commutes to where the jobs are.
Today’s stratospheric housing prices may be fine if you’re a 20-something tech worker with a fat paycheck and no family, but it’s not so good for the waiter, cop, teacher or bus driver with a couple of kids and a need for more than a studio or one-bedroom place to live.
The “underhoused” is a problem that hit the state hard in 2018 and it’s not going away soon.
Not every California Republican was a loser in 2018. Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy not only was an easy re-election winner, but his GOP colleagues also picked him to take over for Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as the Republican leader in the House.
Of course, Ryan’s top-rung job as speaker morphed into McCarthy’s new and far less powerful gig as minority leader after the Democrats took back control of the House and slashed California’s GOP delegation in half, from 14 to seven.
McCarthy now is left battling to get the president’s programs past a hostile Congress, as well as playing defense against Democrats anxious to battle the president over, well, just about everything.
But he’s also one of the only Republican power players left standing in California, which makes him the go-to person when is comes to directing federal largess to the Golden State.
If California leaders want something from Trump, they’ll likely have to play nice with his point man in the state, which gives McCarthy a surprising amount of clout in an increasingly blue state.
John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California and national politics.