Elections 2010

5 California political myths

UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain had an editorial over the weekend for the Washington Post talking about five myths of California politics. Cain's five myths:

1. California is a high-taxing, big-spending state.

Cain points out that, relative to personal income levels, California's state and local taxes rank 18th per capita in the nation. California also has the second lowest number of state employees per capita.

2. California is a majority- minority, solidly blue state.

California's nonwhite population is now the majority, but the electorate is still two-thirds white. According to Cain, "This voting gap between whites and nonwhites is primarily based on differences in average age, citizenship rates and socioeconomic status." Also, while Democrats hold an advantage when it comes to voter registration, there were only four Democratic governors elected during the 20th century.

3. California politicians are soft and flaky.

Cain points out effective politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Nancy Pelosi, Willie Brown, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. When it comes to the idea that California politicians are flaky, Cain takes a closer look at Jerry Brown, pointing out some personal eccentricities while also showing that he's taken conservative positions on a number of issues.

4. California is fertile ground for grass-roots politics.

California isn't as friendly to grassroots politics as one might think, according to Cain, due to the huge amount of money needed to draft an initiative, get it on a ballot and run a campaign to either get it passed or to fight against it. Proposition 16, funded by PG&E, and proposition 17, funded by the auto insurance industry, are cited as examples.

Also, Cain points out that the expense of running for office limits those who can effectively run a campaign. "California now has two breeds of statewide candidates: the perennials and the rich. The former are predominantly Democrats who have managed to stay on the scene for decades and who have reputations and name recognition that money can't buy ... The other group is self-financing. Republicans, lacking as deep a bench, have put up a series of extremely wealthy candidates."

5. California is immune to political trends in the rest of the country.

While California is regarded as a trendsetting state, public opinion largely reflects that of the rest of the country on issues ranging from the economy to immigration.

For more, you can check out his article at the Washington Post.

(Via L.A. Observed)

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