This year's Republican sweep, says the conventional wisdom, stopped at the Sierras in large part because
In fact, the exact opposite may be occurring: California, and indeed much of the West, is far ahead of the country, as it often has been—demographically, economically, politically, socially—and it points to a future in which the whole nation will look much like California does now: multi-ethnic, increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities, more global in outlook, and more environmentally conscious.
In the early 1990s, the state was consumed by an anti-immigrant backlash that resulted in Proposition 187, years before the paroxysms that scuttled George W. Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform and produced
But this year’s election showed that
In a generation or so, California will have a majority Latino population, and while many parts of the Midwest and the Southeast are just now reacting to the first waves of Latinos and other immigrants, they, too, are likely to some day accommodate, and maybe even welcome, them as the Boomers retire.
Similar dynamics occurred in
Now the GOP is headed in the other direction. Beginning the new session of Congress with an effort to eliminate birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens is hardly welcoming. Neither is adamant resistance to the DREAM Act. The great New Deal victories of the 1930s rested in considerable part on the votes of the immigrants and children of immigrants who’d been welcomed by the urban Democratic machines in the prior decades, and if California's experience is any guide, politics in the twenty-first century will witness a similar dynamic.
The other major factor in this election was demographic. The national turnout of young voters this year was lower than in average off-year elections, and much lower than in 2008, while the percentage of older voters, many of them angered and confused by the unfamiliar world that’s grown around them—was much higher.
Those numbers will obviously change in 2012. The actuarial tables themselves tell some of that story. So does the composition of the Tea Party, which is older and whiter than the national average, and which had virtually no impact in the
Peter Schrag is the former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, a longtime writer on