The Democratic Sweep In California

California map with flagOn election night, Democrats had a rough time across the country.  But you wouldn't know that if you looked at California.  Statwide, California had a Democratic wave election.  You all by now know about the impressive victories of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and the re-election of progressive champion Senator Barbara Boxer by resounding margins.  Brown won by 12 points (53-41) over Meg Whitman, and Boxer trounced Fiorina by 9 points (52-43).

But did you know that with the exception of the only one race that still remains to be decided (the Attorney General race, which Rovian groups put millions into, is too close to call and keeps going back and forth; it is likely headed for a recount in either case) among California's nine state-wide contests, Democrats swept every other one?  And by big margins too.
  • US Senate: Barbara Boxer, margin 9 points.
  • Governor: Jerry Brown, margin 12 points.
  • Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom, margin 10 points.
  • Secretary of State: Debra Bowen, margin 16 points.
  • Controller: John Chiang, margin 18 points.
  • Treasurer: Bill Lockyer, margin 20 points.
  • Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones, margin 12 points.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson, margin 9 points.
Although the Superintendent of Public Education in California is technically not a partisan office, Torlakson is a well known Democrat and a well-respected educator, who earned the endorsement of the California Democratic Party for this office.

In yet another well received piece of news from California - news which was personally gratifying to me and millions of other LGBT Californians - California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno was re-elected with an astounding 68% of the vote.  Justice Moreno was the lone dissenter when the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.

Bucking the national trend, Democrats actually picked up two net seats in the California State Assembly, expanding the Democratic majority to 52 seats in a 80-member body.

On the ballot measures side, Californians approved Proposition 25 (by 55-45), allowing a budget to pass with a simple majority vote, ending the tyranny of the minority at least in that respect.  Now the new Democratic governor and the Democratic legislature can move forward and not leave the state in limbo for months at a time.  With taxes still taking a two-thirds majority, budgeting will still be tough, but at least the allocation of the dollars can now be done with a simple majority vote.

Californians also resounding turned down Prop 23 - by an incredible 22 point margin - the Texas Oil power grab to try to suspend California's clean air and green energy initiative.  61% of Californians voted for clean energy jobs over Texas smog.

Now, why is this happening?  Why is California moving blue when the rest of the country seems to be going red?  Two factors, from what I can see.  First of all, California is moving towards a more liberal direction.  The biggest Republican attack line on Barbara Boxer was that she's a liberal, and she proved that in California, 'liberal' is not a dirty word anymore.  After the Fiorina fiasco, it should be clear to anyone that Californians will not elect in a statewide contest anyone who is not pro-choice.  The trend should have become clear a long time ago, when Californians defeated three "parental notification" initiatives that could jeopardize the lives and access to safe medical treatment for teenage girls in the state.  Californians support clean energy, and we believe in making polluters pay.  Californians are also quickly becoming pro-marriage equality in the post-Prop 8 aftermath.  You might note the biggest proof of that in the statewide election results: the man who put the marriage equality movement on fire in 2004 by approving same sex marriages in San Francisco in 2004 was just elected Lieutenant Governor of our state.  Apparently, we like San Francisco values.

But there is another phenomenon going on that will affect not just California, but eventually the whole country. Demographics.  California has no ethnic majority.  We are not colorblind; we are a rainbow.  Scapegoating of Latinos badly backfired on both Fiorina and Whitman.  Whitman's housekeeper scandal essentially sealed her fate.  Fiorina's refusal to support comprehensive immigration reform cost her at the polls.  Boxer campaigned as an inclusive liberal: not just with respect to race but as a champion of marriage equality and women's rights.  So did Brown.  They won partly because Californians do not like division across demographic lines.  In a couple of decades, the demographics of the whole country will look like California's.  Who'll the Republicans scapegoat then?

California is the country's largest state, and the world's eight largest economy.  As we take stock of what happened nationally on election night, it would provide important insight to look at the results in California.  Not only was it one of the few bright spots for Democrats and was largely successful in producing a blue wave in a red year, it spells a bright future for progressives.  California is the very definition of what it means to be a progressive place: one in which we are all in it together, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.  And on election night, California lived up to that ideal.