Leading California Democrats Try to Govern. National Democrats Don’t Like That

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

California Democrats will never be woke enough to match national Democratic leaders.

As the California presidential primary approaches, the gap between Democrats who run California and those who seek to run the United States is growing.

Gov. Newsom and other leading Democrats in Sacramento keep spending low and build rainy day funds. The leading presidential contenders are competing with each other to spend trillions on new programs, without making clear how they’ll pay for it.

Newsom has stayed away from endorsing the split roll ballot initiative—out of a desire for compromise on taxes, and to keep business groups as an ally—even as the presidential candidates clamor to back the initiative.

The governor and legislative leaders may be bold in their stated intentions on subjects from climate to child care, but their actual plans are relatively small, and nowhere near the ambition of the presidential contenders.

This dynamic makes the presidential primary dangerous for those who might be called the Governance Democrats. Being responsible looks weak these days. Will those Californians who can’t match the presidential campaigners pay a price?

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