Local politics is an unreliable guide

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.


  1. says

    he did not fancy the thought of being in Congress under a party leadership where unquestioning loyalty to Trump is demanded

    Rather than stay in the party and jam things up, Manchin and Sinema-style, to try to make things better he’s going to hit the beach and enjoy his wealth.

  2. seachange says

    The Democrats in California have been in control as long as I have been alive. Southern Californians have been in control because our Senate is proportional to population. It doesn’t protect minority populations or represent County interest anymore.

    Pollporn does not represent reality. Ohio itself has been absurdly gerrymandered and likely will be more so with the current census, so you are buying into the ratfucking your former state is getting, as if one person one vote didn’t matter.

    It’s weird to hear a newcomer like yourself to think it was ever different. If anything neutrality in redistricting which has been forced by Proposition and not by the legislature has changed the Democratic gerrymandering. It moved from the situation it was in before, instead guaranteeing the Republicans some seats that they normally have to fight for and ratfucking the state and giving them power way over their weight because we have a two-thirds majority requirement for money bills. It allowed the crazy right looney tunes Orange County Republicans to continue to exist in our state long past their ability to use money to force their will. They have been the tail wagging the dog for a long time and what you are seeing now is this is no longer working as well as they might like.

    In this way, it has been bellweather, and has taught the Republicans just how far they can gerrymander elsewhere.

    The Central Valley -used to be- all rural. Many of the water districts there (and water is ALWAYS exceedingly political because it is life-and-death in the West) are private, and organized and run by farmers. Water comes first, and politics stem from that. Yet, California has twice passed laws allocating water from those districts to urban uses instead of forcing foolish local governments into limiting growth or say disappointing voters who might vote Democrat. This is true despite much of the infrastructure of these water gathering districts is owned and paid for solely by farmers.

    Our low property tax plus bank speculation plus people the fuck not wanting to live in the areas of the country where it is more conservative have driving coastal Californians inland. This has made the center of the state more democratic, but the change in actual politics came from water to start with as coastal California has limited or no access to California Aqueduct water.

    Speaking of moving to the Central Valley, some of us have even moved to the edges of Nevada, causing that state to be more Democratic.

    The idea behind the State of Jefferson started in Oregon/Washington and included only small parts of California. Attempts to revive this very dead idea are in place and active to you for the same reason to there were attempts try to win against Newsom even though the fail-o-crats did such a poor job supporting their cause. Senators. Diane Feinstein is very very old. If they suceeded in their ratfuck attempt, they would have seized the Senate.

    Me, I’m in favor of the proposition system of California, and I am in favor of the current recall method. It keeps the Democrats who are authoritarian and not populist if they can help it if not checked, honest. I am not in favor of our current primary system, because it screws the other four parties out of funding and omits us from the ballot in November.

  3. rockwhisperer says

    As life in urban areas of California gets more and more expensive and dense, suburbs expand and overflow into once-conservative rural areas. Husband and I live at the south end of the San Francisco Bay Area, have for almost 41 years, and feel constrained by traffic and congestion. We have the means to escape after retirement, and are building our escape module (a reasonably modest house) in a rural county. Co-workers without the luck to have been able to buy into the South Bay when we did, face extraordinary mortgages or rents, or commutes that were up to a couple of hours each way, pre-pandemic, from those Central Valley communities that have shifted blue.

    When we first considered moving to the rural area, we figured we’d be the lone blue voters in the county. Certainly the state congresscritters and US congresscritter (who serves an area much larger than this county) are the modern slimy excuses that fly under the Republican flag. (I remember a time when Republican politicians weren’t almost all slimy excuses for human beings, though I’ve never been a conservative.) But when I checked on the Newsom recall results map, I discovered that the county voted to keep the guy. Then I considered the makeup of the county: many of the residents are retiree migrants from urban California now. Not that the place lacks people flying Confederate flags and Trump signs, but they’re apparently a vocal minority.

  4. says

    It was pretty much like that in the last federal election in Canada. Conservatives were dumbfounded that Trudeau got to form the government and there was a large increase in people talking about seceding here in very conservative Alberta (though thanks to the bungling of the provincial government there is a possibility of the Tories losing five seats in this province which would be seen as catastrophic).

  5. lanir says

    This is a common republican strategy. When they win, “The People have spoken! We have a mandate.” And when they lose, “But what about MY voice? You need to be accountable to me.” It always seems to be heads-I-win-tales-you-lose with this sort of people. The only minority they care about is the one they’re in.

    It seems like the only thing that matters is tribalism. As with Gonzalez. This part is purely anecdotal and therefore as suspect as any strictly local view but I always have trouble working with people like this. They get one idea they think is a solution for them in mind and they don’t want to listen to anything else or find a way to make it work for other people. To put it in more rural terms they demand respect when they aren’t willing to give any.

    Just like with the covid issues brought up in the article about the recall. They’re merely mentioned there and there’s not enough detail to form an opinion on how it was handled. But what comes through really clearly is that a whole lot of those people took a nationwide health issue and decided it was someone else’s problem. They’re patriotic when it means flying a flag but not when cooperative action is involved. Looking at the CDC data for Lassen county, they don’t have a covid problem now. But they’re almost as vulnerable as they were last year when they had an outbreak. Because their vaccination rate is hovering around a third of eligible adults being vaccinated. They’re an island in a storm hoping everyone else does everything right, including all the things they don’t want to do themselves, to keep the virus from reaching them. Typical of the modern republican party view on personal responsibility: everyone else needs to be responsible so I don’t have to be.

    Some of their biggest problems aren’t local to their rural counties, either. They appear everywhere. I’d care a lot more about what those people said if they didn’t start by othering everyone outside their little towns and focusing on fixing national or global problems as if they only affected their area. Again, to put it in rural terms, when you have selfish neighbors you don’t need to be doing them any favors. They’re looking out for themselves just fine, they don’t need the competition from you.

  6. seachange says

    Bwa ha ha! My neighbors subscribe and don’t always bring it in before I go outside. Fake News headline from Los Angeles Times: Newsom recall not a rout in Central California.

    That portion of California is commonly and traditionally rethuglican. Nobody lives on most of that land, so it doesn’t count for much. So of course those disinformation liars frame it as if it is important, and in the way that they do. It IS a big deal that as many of the voters those counties voted against the recall as they did. Is that what the LA Times talks about in their headline? It is not.

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