Gavin Newsom says California is “America on fast forward.” Heaven help America.

Newsom was referring to what he believes are the effects of man-made global warming while taking in the damage of the North Complex fire last month. But his comments are consistent with the long-accepted notion that the state is America’s lodestar. Its present is a window into the future of the rest of the country.

So here’s a strong suggestion for the states that have not yet fallen into California’s blind plunge into a dystopian future: Resist. 

While blue states are eager to follow California’s policy mistakes because their elected officials are convinced this state has the answers, there’s also a growing threat in red states from Golden State refugees who load their voting habits into the moving van right next to their furniture when they leave. They flee California for Texas, Nevada, or Tennessee where housing is affordable, taxes are low, and free enterprise is promoted rather than restrained. Yet many continue to favor the public policies that made California so unlivable they had to leave, apparently unaware that its “progressive” codes, rules, statutes, ordinances, and decrees created the conditions they escaped. 

“California expats,” for example, “are helping turn Texas into a battleground state,” says CalMatters. The Washington Examiner reports that Colorado “has turned from a blue-leaning battleground to a safe Democratic state” while Arizona might go for Joe Biden come Election Day. According to William Frey of the Brookings Institution, Florida and North Carolina are also at-risk (our characterization, not his).

To imagine a nation that is like California think of a country in which workers are stripped of their freedom; housing is beyond the reach of, or is an extraordinary burden on, the average family; consumer choice is denied; an “ectopian future” driven by “green extremism” awaits; today’s taxes are never enough; and charter schools have been tried, convicted and sentenced to die. Visualize a hostile environment where the middle class is no longer welcome; government-erected barriers have left the working class and minorities with scarce opportunities; and virtue-signaling legislation shuts out reasoned public policy.

Who would want to live under a regime in which relief from pandemic lockdowns is based on local bureaucrats’ satisfaction “that ill-defined racial quotas have been met,” and taxpayers might be required to pay reparations for the transgressions of others who lived more than a century ago? Where wildfires rage, excessive energy costs steal, and crumbling, congested roads cost us in time and money? 

While the California Dream still lives for the wealthy and politically connected, it’s no longer attainable for many. A 2018 poll found Californians are “pessimistic about the existence of the California Dream, defined as the idea that the American Dream is more attainable in California than in other parts of the country.” A solid majority – 55% – “of Californians say the American Dream is actually harder to achieve in their state than elsewhere in the United States.” Nearly two in three – 64% – “say they would advise young people in their communities to leave to find more opportunity elsewhere.” 

Then a year ago, Stacy Torres, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California at San Francisco, declared in the Washington Post that “The California dream is over.” She cited “anger, distrust and bitterness from Californians already struggling to meet basic needs in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, (and) staggering gas prices,” “apocalyptic scenes of tent encampments” of the homeless, as well as a diminishing “confidence in institutions and essential services” as evidence. 

The tribulations that accompany living in California are widely known. Yet other states and even Congress are enthusiastically trying to emulate Sacramento’s gig-economy-crushing Assembly Bill 5, the state’s smothering environmental policies, its wars on plastic and cars, and countless other policies that exasperate, overwhelm, and wring out ordinary people.

Should the United States of, say 2025 or 2030 looks like the California of 2020, where will those who need to escape the burdens created by blue state policies go for relief? Canada? Australia? Switzerland? Sanctuary will have to be found outside the country because simply moving to another state, the only option for so many who’ve left this state, is of no use in a nation that’s been California-ized.

If America is the land of opportunity, then California was at one time the most fertile ground in the world. But the soil has been contaminated, fouled by politics, arrogance, and condescending elitism. Other states shouldn’t be thinking “it can’t happen here,” because it can.


Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.