Three hundred years ago, a map of North America dedicated to John Lord Somers, Baron of Evesham, depicted California as an island, separated by water from the North American land mass. In a rhetorical sense, the state of California stands as an island today—politically and ideologically and in other ways—separated from more mainstream attitudes throughout the greater United States. Whether that holds true will be tested in the highly charged political year of 2020.
California has shown no sign of changing its attitude toward President Trump. Whether the rest of the country follows along, measured by the Electoral College, will be calculated next November.
But before that, a temperature on California attitudes will be tested in the hotly contested Democratic presidential primary. As California has taken great strides to the left politically over the last number of years, will the state’s Democratic voters show support for the leftward sensibilities by endorsing the most progressive candidates vying for the presidency? And, if one of the candidates who champions a universal health care proposal prevails in the Golden State, will that spur the legislature and the governor to move that issue forward with more vigor than has been displayed so far?
Other California moves have not yet been totally embraced by the majority of the country. Is that due to change in 2020 or will California hold fast and remain an island.
California has boldly moved forward on tech privacy issues, restrictions on the gig economy and renewable energy. While California has been acknowledged as a leader in all these areas, leaders usually have followers. There are signs that changes are coming nationally, but how far will California get ahead of the pack? How many will follow?
California has already moved to change the judicial system with past initiatives limiting incarceration, the governor declaring the end of the death penalty on his watch and the legislature dramatically altering the bail system. But will those items continue through 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom won’t change his mind about a death penalty moratorium, but voters will have a say in altering previous decisions on incarceration and overturning the legislature’s action on bail.
The state, which pioneered the modern tax revolt with the adoption of Proposition 13 more than 40 years ago, will certainly garner national attention on the tax issue if voters decided to make big changes to that measure that are offered on the ballot.
California has set itself apart from her sister states in many ways. Actions and votes in 2020 will see if other states follow, or if Golden State voters backtrack, or if the state remains an island.
Perhaps the cartographers of long ago were prescient in their depiction of California.