Observations on California’s Political Geography

A recent series of political maps from PPIC, Public Policy Institute of California, provides some fascinating information. One of the maps inflates or shrinks the various regions according to population; it makes clear why the Democratic Party dominates the state, largely because they dominate two large urban regions. But the fourth map and the auxiliary maps make clear that party loyalty in California is primarily determined by economic issues, but that the two chief moral issues [not counting attitudes toward immigration here as a ‘social issue’], left to themselves, cut somewhat differently.

I used to be a Committed Conservative; these dominate in three different belts; one stretching from North Orange County through western Riverside County up to the San Jacinto Mountains, another running from Hanford and Visalia through the Mojave, and another in the upper Sacramento Valley. [I would not have put Trinity County in that cluster; I think it belongs with Siskiyou County; Trinity County was the only county that Perot carried in 1992.]

More recently I have leaned in the direction of Conservative Liberal; these dominate in a belt running from Long Beach through Downtown Los Angeles as far as Redlands, in the Imperial Valley, and from Fresno to Stockton. I cannot fully identify myself as a Liberal of any kind, however, because

  1. Though I am not necessarily in favor of abolishing all government welfare [except maybe the corporate sort], I insist that welfare is not a moral entitlement and can be cut if circumstances require.
  2. I also insist that Social Security and Medicare, and other middle class social programs, are as much ‘welfare’ as programs for the poor; and furthermore, as far as national budgets go, welfare for the poor is a small thing compared to welfare for the middle class, and it is primarily welfare for the middle class that must be addressed in any budget crisis that we have now. Welfare for the poor is such a minor budget item that its elimination would do very little to help in a budget crisis.

The reason I do not qualify as a conservative is that I am willing to raise some taxes beyond current levels; and that excludes me from the now prevailing definition of ‘conservative.’

The presence of these ‘Conservative Liberals’ explains some of the puzzling features of California politics; why is the state so overwhelmingly Democratic but Proposition 8 goes on to victory? Conservative Liberals are the explanation. I confess disappointment, however, that Conservative Liberals have not been strong enough to put across parental notification for abortion the three times it has been on the ballot; this seems like an obvious reform that would be acceptable to many.

It also seems to me that Conservative Liberals, in California; are mostly not Anglo; that’s not because Anglo Conservative Liberals do not exist, but they have largely moved out of California by now.

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