Observations on California’s Political Geography March 24, 2012

A recent series of political maps from PPIC, Public Policy Institute of California, provides some fascinating information. One of the maps inflates or shrinks the various regions according to population; it makes clear why the Democratic Party dominates the state, largely because they dominate two large urban regions. But the fourth map and the auxiliary maps make clear that party loyalty in California is primarily determined by economic issues, but that the two chief moral issues [not counting attitudes toward immigration here as a ‘social issue’], left to themselves, cut somewhat differently.

I used to be a Committed Conservative; these dominate in three different belts; one stretching from North Orange County through western Riverside County up to the San Jacinto Mountains, another running from Hanford and Visalia through the Mojave, and another in the upper Sacramento Valley. [I would not have put Trinity County in that cluster; I think it belongs with Siskiyou County; Trinity County was the only county that Perot carried in 1992.]

More recently I have leaned in the direction of Conservative Liberal; these dominate in a belt running from Long Beach through Downtown Los Angeles as far as Redlands, in the Imperial Valley, and from Fresno to Stockton. I cannot fully identify myself as a Liberal of any kind, however, because

  1. Though I am not necessarily in favor of abolishing all government welfare [except maybe the corporate sort], I insist that welfare is not a moral entitlement and can be cut if circumstances require.
  2. I also insist that Social Security and Medicare, and other middle class social programs, are as much ‘welfare’ as programs for the poor; and furthermore, as far as national budgets go, welfare for the poor is a small thing compared to welfare for the middle class, and it is primarily welfare for the middle class that must be addressed in any budget crisis that we have now. Welfare for the poor is such a minor budget item that its elimination would do very little to help in a budget crisis.

The reason I do not qualify as a conservative is that I am willing to raise some taxes beyond current levels; and that excludes me from the now prevailing definition of ‘conservative.’

The presence of these ‘Conservative Liberals’ explains some of the puzzling features of California politics; why is the state so overwhelmingly Democratic but Proposition 8 goes on to victory? Conservative Liberals are the explanation. I confess disappointment, however, that Conservative Liberals have not been strong enough to put across parental notification for abortion the three times it has been on the ballot; this seems like an obvious reform that would be acceptable to many.

It also seems to me that Conservative Liberals, in California; are mostly not Anglo; that’s not because Anglo Conservative Liberals do not exist, but they have largely moved out of California by now.

barrywhitesides 03/24/2012

As always, I love the way your mind works…and thank you for posting your thoughts.

But I want to ask about your definition of Conservative.  I don’t think that it is defined by opposition to taxes, but by adherence to principle.  What principle?  That success and productivity ought not to be penalized (taxed) to pay for failure and non-productivity.  That the individual, not the state, is the owner of private property and ought to be the one who decides how it is to be used. That there is a trade-off between risk and reward, and leveling the results disregards this principle and makes people risk adverse…and disinterested in the creation of knowledge or wealth since there is no reward for risk (be it an investment in medical education, building a house or investing in people).  That equality under the law applies to taxes.  And that one should not be deprived of one’s property without due process (not some byzantine structure that taxes the same dollar multiple times).

In that sense, I share with you NOT being adverse to raising taxes…but conditioned on the taxes being shared with all who benefit, and dismantling of the tax as a transfer of wealth. Transfer seems to be an illegitimate function of government.

I think Conservatism also reflects a simplification…hence ideas of a fair or flat tax…and is opposed to ‘gamification’, the creation of rules that make it MORE worthwhile to ‘game’ the system to skew the flow of benefits than to risk and produce to increase those benefits through labor. Partiality FOR the ‘haves’ is just as wrong as partiality FOR the ‘have nots’…it is partiality, not having, that makes it right and wrong. 

speotter 03/26/2012

I have to agree with Barry.  But I would probably take it a step further and say that taxes are a “social” issue because of the way that they are levied, favoring one group over another based on political groups.


Howard Ahmanson 04/03/2012

Well, partiality is inescapable, and the best way to control it is to control what government can do. And rewards are not always to the swiftest or the brightest, even apart from the lottery. I’m a rich kid, and I neither deserve what I’ve got on the one hand, nor do I bear any status guilt for it on the other. Taxes on “the rich” could safely go up a little, but if that’s done there should be also a tax increase on the non-rich as well, like a carbon or gasoline tax. 

Howard Ahmanson 04/03/2012

Also, to prove I have really left the conservative camp; There are lots of things wrong with Obamacare, but the insurance mandate is not one of them; the insurance mandate is no more unconstitutional than the Social Security tax. And, if the insurance mandate is unconstitutional, that means the only kind of universal health care system our Constitution will allow is the British-Canadian “single payer” sort, which I do not prefer. 

craigblanchard 04/21/2012

Great article Howard. I refer to myself as a Republicrat…same thing as a conservative liberal I suppose.  Hope you’re doing well. Your old friend Craig B.

p.s.  Just joined your blog today.

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