September 15, 2021 - 4:28pm

The lopsided defeat of the effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom in California assures that, for the foreseeable future, the progressive gentry and their public sector allies remain firmly in charge of the world’s most important technology and mass entertainment economy. Yet if things look good now for the coiffed Chief Executive, they may be taking a turn for the worse in the years ahead.

It certainly means hard times for the state’s middle and working classes. Newsom’s win will lead to ever more stringent energy policies that have already decimated the state’s industrial sector. Ever since California decided to lead the “war” against climate change in the past decade, the Golden State has lost its ability to create well-paying private sector jobs. Even without adjusting for costs, no California metro area ranks in the US top ten in terms of well-paying blue-collar jobs. But four — Ventura, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego—sit among the bottom ten.

The devastation of other sectors, notably energy and agriculture, seems all but certain as greens and their regulator allies squeeze both sectors.  It already suffers the highest cost adjusted poverty rate, a higher level of inequality (Gini coefficient) than Mexico, the second lowest rate of homeownership among the states and the greatest concentration of overcrowded housing in the nation. For working class consumers, green virtues have led to the rapid expansion of energy poverty largely in the impoverished and hotter interior. The state’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the country while one out of every three households, find achieving even basic security “elusive”.

Things are likely now to get worse for these Californians, since the electoral triumph will convince progressives that the California “success story” remains unblemished. In Sacramento there’s talk of increased environmental regulation, essentially wiping out the state’s once large, and still vibrant, energy sector. Agriculture, reeling from drought and the refusal of the state to expand storage capacity, faces a potentially disastrous future. Some 6600 Central Valley farmers have already been told not to expect deliveries this year. More welfare, not a strong productive economy, seems to be the progressive answer to these problems.

But even expansive subsidies and cash grants may not be enough. The dissatisfaction is there, particularly among key Democratic constituencies like young voters, Latinos, and blue-collar workers, all of whom have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the state’s direction. Before the massive media and organising campaign, these voters favoured the recall, and also tend to be those who contemplate leaving. Even before Covid, 53% of Californians were considering a move out and almost two-thirds thought the state’s best days were behind it.

Can the Republicans build on this resentment?  The emergence of Larry Elder, an African American talk show host with inner city roots, demonstrates that the party is open to something other than white males. What Elder lacks, and the Republicans in general, is something more compelling than denunciation of progressive folly. They need to build a programme that offers middle- and working-class voters a brighter future. Until they do, California will continue to move inexorably towards its neo-feudal future.

Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)