Why Are Progressives So Eager To Copy California’s Failed Policies?

During my recent trip to Phoenix, locals rolled their eyes at all the Californians who are moving there—mostly middle-class residents who are so tired of our state’s chronic mismanagement that they’re willing to abandon the temperate coast for a parched desert. Note to Californians: It’s best to re-register your cars in other states as quickly as possible, to avoid glares from the locals.

But while the exodus continues—and California’s falling population and outmigration figures reinforce the anecdotal stories—progressives still dream of replicating the state’s political experiment at the national level. Californians are voting with their feet. But if they want the federal government to embrace the same policies as California, then there is nowhere for them to hide.

Many Americans voiced their concerns after the Biden administration came to power. After all, Vice President Kamala Harris, is a product of the Bay Area Democratic political machine. Biden tapped another former California attorney general and member of Congress, Xavier Becerra, to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—a particularly important agency given the pandemic.

Other Californians rose to high-level positions, too. This includes a group of long-standing Californian economic officials, such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco), Small Business Administration chief Isabel Casillas Guzman (a veteran of both the Gray Davis administrations and Gavin Newsom), and a number of other lesser-known officials.

Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is the current speaker. California-style policy (like its ban on independent contractors) still receives a sympathetic hearing. As we know, California’s Democratic leaders seem more interested in using California—it’s the world’s fifth-largest economy, don’t you know?—as a template for national policy.

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Recent examples include their recent fratricide regarding single-payer health care. CalCare is a DMV-style bureaucracy that the Legislature proposes to eliminate all private health plans and replace them with CalCare. Its companion measure, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11, would have asked California voters to raise their taxes by $12,250 per household.

In fact, both bills had no chance of ever becoming laws. The effort was about making a symbolic point—largely for a national audience. But with Harris and Becerra in key national posts, progressives hoped such policies could be imposed from the top down.

However, America’s continuing struggles show that fears of the Californication are exaggerated. White House officials are so fed up with Xavier Becerra, the top health official, that they openly speculate about the possibility of someone better for the job.” The Washington Post reported last month.

Biden officials are frustrated at conflicting messaging from Becerra’s office, as the pandemic continues and the administration pays a political price for its mishandling of related health policy. A government agency that cannot even communicate on one health topic might not be the right place for all the healthcare decisions.

The administration jumped into damage-control mode, as Latino groups complained about criticism of Biden’s highest-ranking Latino official. Becerra’s failure to instill confidence in federal responses to this virus, and any other, should not be surprising to Californians. But that’s only one part of the problem.

Becerra, who was also the attorney general of California, proved to be a catastrophe. After the U.S. Senate approved Becerra as the nation’s healthcare czar, this Editorial Board recounted the “ongoing mess” he left at the California Department of Justice—comparing the imagery to “an action movie protagonist barely escaping from a building that he detonated behind him.”

I lack the word count to detail the myriad Becerra scandals and management failures, but the courts repeatedly slammed him for disregarding the state’s police-accountability laws and mismanaging our gun-registration system. The newspaper editorial found a recurring theme: “basic incompetence.” Is it any surprise that he used that skillset to get the Federal level?

Harris’ office has also echo the Die Hard 2 explosions. White House damage control over Becerra echoes its approach to Harris in December after news reports pointed to infighting, intrigue, and dysfunction. While the White House assured Harris that she is a valued partner, the White House seemed to be limiting Harris’s ability to do much damage.

Similar dysfunction plagued all of her previous offices, so why would we expect anything different as vice president? My theory is that California Democrats are in the minority playing at national level because they have risen to power as a single-party state.

California Democrats aren’t aware that the voters of Peoria and Phoenix have different obsessions than those from San Francisco or Los Angeles. So while California’s lawmakers will continue along their merry, progressive way, it’s obvious—and fortunate— that they lack the skills to impose those priorities on a politically diverse nation.

This column first appeared in The Orange County Register.