The following is an abridged version of a talk delivered on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, during the question and answer portion of an OpenTheBooks.com virtual event. Videos, media, and other speeches are available at YouTube/OpenTheBooks.
Victor Davis Hanson, earned his B.A. at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his Ph.D. in classics from Stanford University. He is the author of several books, including A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War and The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. Dr. Hanson is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of classics emeritus at California State University, Fresno.
Dr. Hanson, You and I are both native Californians. So looking at California, do you think we've lost the state? Or do you have any strategy advice to reverse this current downward trend set up that we have, and bring some success to us? Just in the state of California.
ANSWER — VICTOR DAVIS HANSON:
California is sort of like a prodigal son. We've all had members of our family that we love, and we grew up with and we thought they were stable, and then they take drugs or they get wayward, they get in trouble, but we don't disown them. Well, we don't move away from them. We try to work with them and hope they can find redemption.
I think that's what we're doing in California.
So, there isn’t one Republican statewide officeholder. Republicans only have 11 of 53 Congressional seats. The rest are Democrats. Both houses of the state legislature have super majorities (Democrats). The ninth federal appellate court is the most liberal in the nation. So, they got what they wanted; the left did.
The Left got what they wanted.
Because about four or five to 6 million voters— we don't know the exact number of the old Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger voters (32 years of Republican governors) — they moved. And they moved because:
- paying the highest electricity, gas, sales, income tax in the nation.
- 47/50 rated schools
- terrible infrastructure, 48th on roads and bridges.
- And California had high crime.
That was a bad deal compared to Texas, or Florida or Wyoming or Nevada.
And, then, we had $6 trillion dollars of market capitalized wealth that came in to Silicon Valley in 30 years, and that created a whole class of coastal millionaires, who were never subjected to the consequences or the ramifications (of bad public policy).
So, walls on the border were terrible, but I need a wall around my estate in Palo Alto. Teachers unions are great, but my kid goes to the Menlo school or Sacred Heart. Twenty-seven cents peak electricity is essential. But it's 70 degrees in Atherton all year round (Atherton is the richest city in America).
That kind of hypocrisy really hurt us.
Then, let's face it, we had 10 million people come here illegally from Mexico. And it wasn't like the first diaspora of the 80s, 70s, or 60s of northern Mexico. These were people were indigenous people and very poor, without a high school diploma, and subject to a great deal of racism in Mexico.
They came with far fewer skills, and they came in mass over the last 30 years. And they were promised open borders for their families and government support for their families. And they repaid that fee by being doctrinaire and leftist Democrats.
So, that's where we are now: the combination of a lot of tech money, and you know, and then our universities which were the best in the country — Stanford, Berkeley, Caltech, UCLA — they became engines of this paradigm and the middle class left.
So California was lost.
And CA has the highest taxes costs cost per square footage, highest gasoline, highest electricity, highest number in poverty. Twenty-one percent of the population lives in poverty. One out of three people in public assistance (across America) live in California. Half the homeless live in California.
However, you know, nothing’s static. So this Latino population has actually moved much slower than one would have liked. But it’s very similar to the Italian diaspora from Southern Italy and Sicily in the 1920s or late 19th century.
And today’s Hispanics are becoming middle and upper middle class.
And guess what? They don't want people coming in from Mexico with 13 tattoos into their schools. They want advanced placement for their children, not bilingual education. And so they're starting to – for the first time – vote conservatively.
And under this Biden administration, there’s a phenomenon where they're paying $7 for diesel fuel a gallon. Six dollars and thirty cents today for gasoline. Building materials are unaffordable.
So, upper middle class and working and middle class Hispanics (that are 40% of the CA population) are undergoing — I'm not even sure they're fully aware of it in the abstract — the most radical political shift in my lifetime.
And I think that it's going to be across California and even nationwide.
Should they exercise that political clout, then, I think you'd see the beginning of real change back to what California could be.
Because we've done — just to finish very quickly: We've reached the maximum extent of the left-wing progressive experiment without total chaos.
Anything more than we do letting criminals out in Los Angeles and San Francisco under these crazy Soros-funded DA’s, letting homeless people fornicate or have excrement on the sidewalk, being easy on hit and run drivers and those with three DUIs – that is what we have now.
And everybody understands that it doesn't work.
I was in San Francisco not too long ago, and people are parking with their windows down. Or they have signs on their window shield, “nothing in the car.” Or they unlock their cars. And these are not clunkers. These are Lexus’ and Volvos and they are basically saying to the criminal element… come in scrounge around, there's nothing there.
But please don't break my $1,600 electrified windshield because if you do, I know they won't prosecute you. And I'm out $1,600.
That’s something that's pre-civilizational. And there are groups of people who are changing their political allegiance. So, I think I'm cautiously optimistic that what can't go on won't go on.