Zócalo wonders why the Bay Area, with half the population of the Los Angeles Basin, tends to dominate the state politically. I don’t have a theory about that, but I have several suggestions.
1. A lot of Southern Californians are immigrants, and either haven’t registered to vote, or aren’t from cultures like the African-American and the Irish that place a high value on political participation.
2. The late Chaim Potok used to speak of ‘core’ cultures and ‘peripheral’ cultures. Perhaps L.A. is peripheral and the Bay Area, for all its radicalism, is a core culture. When the two meet, core always wins.
3. The late Digby Baltzell, in his fascinating work Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, wrote that because Philadelphia’s heritage is predominantly Quaker, a privatized culture, the state tends to be dominated politically by Pittsburgh and its Scotch-Irish Calivinist and Low Church Anglican heritage. Could San Francisco be the West Coast ‘Boston,’ a city of apostate Puritans who do not privatize their culture, and Southern California ‘Quaker’ in its attitudes? [I know I often like to parallel San Francisco to Boston, L.A. to New York, and San Diego to Philadelphia, as a way of understanding the mysterious and inscrutable East Coast.] The idea is worth exploring.
Note: Pittsburgh’s actual politics are economically moderately liberal and socially conservative, resembling those of Fresno, which is not to imply that Pittsburgh resembles Fresno in other ways!