One thing I have learned is never to trust where the political sympathies of an electorate are by what I see in my extended neighborhood or what people say in the places I frequent. This is because a natural type of segregation occurs in which people, if they have that flexibility, tend to gravitate towards places where they sense people share their same values. When we moved to the Cleveland area, when we were looking for a place to live, our primary criteria was a location that was racially and economically diverse and had good schools. It was not surprising that we ended up living in a place that was solidly progressive.
Over the three decades that I lived there, while my local community stayed progressive, the state of Ohio drifted rightward, from being a toss-up state.where Democrats and Republicans both had shots at winning statewide office and electoral college votes, to one that now seems solidly Republican and Trumpian. So much so that Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican member of congress who was first elected to congress in 2018 in a district adjacent to Cleveland and was considered a rising star in the party, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2022 because his vote to impeach Trump has led to threats against him and his family and he did not fancy the thought of being in Congress under a party leadership where unquestioning loyalty to Trump is demanded.
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
Gonzalez had previously argued that Trump’s rhetoric at the “Stop the Steal” rally ahead of the insurrection on January 6 and the fact that the former President did little to stop those actions swayed him to back the impeachment charges. That decision unearthed profound anger in his northeast Ohio district, kicking off a localized fight over the future of the Republican Party that pit the two-term congressman against irate constituents eager to expel any member of the party who crossed the former President.
Some people seem to have not learned not to take what they see and hear in their immediate vicinity as signs of broader sentiment. In the case of the recall vote last week for California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, while there were some tentative signs early on that he might be in trouble, towards the end it seemed clear that he was heading for victory. Only the blowout nature of the result came as a surprise. But some people were blindsided by the result.
On election day, Denise Pickens had a surprising feeling: Hope.
Surely, she figured, Gov. Gavin Newsom would be booted out of office. Or at least get a good scare.
There was such fervor here in rural Lassen County — where a whopping 84% of voters supported the recall, the highest percentage in the state — that it was hard not to believe it could happen.
Then Newsom’s landslide victory landed like a kick in the shin with a steel-toed boot.
Once again, the votes of vast, rural Northern California, which overwhelmingly supported the recall, were drowned out by urban liberals, Pickens said.
Getting the recall on the ballot initially felt like a win here in Northern California, where conservatives have long felt they would be better off seceding to form their own state called Jefferson.
But there was no symbolic, emotional victory in forcing an election. The result was a walloping that displayed, in the harsh bright lights of a lopsided scoreboard, who is firmly in control of this state.
The results — with Newsom prevailing 64% to 36% as of Friday — put California’s urban-rural divide on stark display. Every county in Southern California rejected the recall, as did the entire coast, save for tiny Del Norte County in the state’s northwest corner.
The far north, the heart of red California, heavily supported it. The agricultural Central Valley — which has been tilting to the left after decades of Republican domination — did too, but by smaller margins.
The split in California is being described as both a rural-urban or north-south divide. Some people in the mostly rural northern regions are calling for secession from California to form their own state that they will call Jefferson. That will never happen but is a sign of their increasing desperation at feeling like a small powerless minority.
It should be remembered that during the same period that Ohio went from being middle of the road to solidly Republican, California went the other way, from middle of the road to solidly Democratic. So while we tend to think that things will stay the same as they are now, they can and do change over time.