Will the Red Wave start in California?


LOS ANGELES – California used to be as red as its Pinot Noir.

That is: light, but decisive and famous. The launch pad of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as more recent projects like The Governator, all appearing like yesterday in 2022. Yes, much of the Golden State outside of the major metros is pretty conservative. Indeed, America seems poised to soon swap a California House Speaker, a San Francisco Democrat, for another, a Bakersfield Republican. It’s also true that many of Donald Trump’s team in office (from Steve Bannon to National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien to Stephen Miller to Mike Pompeo of Orange County and the broader media ecosystem) had genuine California roots.

But Trump, as candidate and as president, has rarely visited the place… and who could blame him? But big numbers and countries with uncertain prospects are strange things: Trump literally received more Californian presidential votes in 2020 than any other Republican presidential nominee. And despite its reputation as a leader of the Resistance, California “saw more pro-Trump people than any other state during the presidential tenure.” Los Angeles Times grimly remarked on the day Trump was booted out of Washington in 2021. Still, bannonism seems an odd fit for Laguna Beach, or as the former White House chief strategist himself once put it, why he stopped living in the area: “Bad vibes. ”

But could California Republicans and Independents be the ultimate beneficiaries of the vibe shift?

There has been cautious optimism from Democrat-haters before, only to suffer quick humiliation. Case in point: the disastrous performance of gray Conservative California Eminence Larry Elder, “the Wise One from South Central,” in last year’s gubernatorial election. However, that was before the full fallout from Afghanistan, the White House compensation for inflation, eight-dollar gas and the amazing sight of the supply chain collapse of the parked ships that I saw firsthand watching the paradise sunset in Huntington Beach dotted last fall.

Agitators in a more conservative vein warn that any “return to form” could require election cycles, and not just this one. Still, the state’s demographics are striking: mostly Hispanics and Asians at a time when Democrats are obviously bleeding those votes. And the mood at the state and federal level is as sour as ever. As a contemporary in San Francisco once remarked, “California is still the future. The future just sucks.” Or as Republican Senate nominee Jon Elist told me, “California is worth fighting for.”

Elist, 37, may be in the voting position in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” to face incumbent incumbent Alex Padilla, a Democrat, in the general election next fall. He told me he was somewhat frustrated by the apathy of conservative bigwigs in the state, who are reluctant to forego resources in a blue Mecca and see themselves as exiles in their own country. He attributes Elder’s poor performance to, yes, a mood shift, so to speak, but also to a large number of Republican voters who stayed home in 2021 and believed the frustrations of Mar-A-Lago’s electoral integrity. It’s a line I haven’t heard that much in real life. It’s always the fear of Mitch McConnell or a Mitt Romney, of course, and the voter fraud narrative has plausibly cost the GOP two Georgia Senate seats. But Elist says he cares about the issue on two fronts: They need to vote, and the establishment needs to care about making election integrity a priority: “voter ID,” “poll watcher,” the works, “that should not his partisan.”

As anecdotal as it gets, most Americans seem unhappy, but what exactly does it mean to defy the Democrats?

Conservative elites as they are can’t even agree on the issue, the whole “vision thing,” as George HW Bush once put it. Rising star Nate Hochman posited in the New York Times over the weekend that the culture war is alive and well, but this time it’s far less religious. It’s a play you should read.

Hochman himself in the piece denounces “the Republican pornstar” Brandi Love, who caused a bit of a stir by having both in attendance and then was booted from a right-wing event last year. But he concedes that his religiously conservative side of things is just a coalition partner and not necessarily the one calling the shots when it comes to overthrowing democratic hegemony. And indeed, the culture war is different this round, and maybe one of the right can win: Not gay marriage and national abortion bans, but should we be teaching trans in preschool?

A native of Oregon, Hochman knows his neighboring country of California. Elist, a Princeton and Stanford graduate mentored by Condaleeza Rice, is now in an interesting niche of medical device sales. As Elist told me, he’s going to “need to sell a lot more penile implants” to make a name for himself.

Because for many Californians, the first thing they see in the morning when they step outside their front door (if they’re lucky enough to have one) is the agenda: a seedy society. Homelessness. Off the shelf drug use. anomie and alienation. Everybody knows; it’s just a question of whether they deny it. Cultural Machiavellian comedian Bill Maher’s guests this weekend here in the City of Angels were Douglas Murray, the elegant author of the subtly titled The War Against the West and Michael Shellenberger, the independent gubernatorial candidate and author of san francisco. If Republicans don’t grab that mantle, anyone willing to call themselves non-Democrats or anything else will.

Elist says he could surprise against Padilla, who he says has a miserable notoriety for a man who has been in politics for a quarter of a century. Padilla, frankly, seems a bit of a non-entity. Even more prominent is former Republican billionaire Rick Caruso, a nominal Democrat, the favorite of the LA Mayor’s downtown mansion. His message is a law-and-order message, endorsed by Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk — say what you will, the duo have an eye for winners.

Making a concerted effort for the California controller, Lanhee Chen of the conservative Hoover Institution looks like the man to beat, and even wins it LA times‘ endorsement. And in a development that would warm the heart of the late Andrew Breitbart, ten years after his stunning death in Beverly Hills, the literal Weather Underground scion sees Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s Sorosistic Attorney’s Office, in the world’s most beautiful and nocturnal city towards doom.

Of course, there are other races here too. There’s even another Nathan Hochman who thinks he has a shot at becoming Attorney General. Once upon a time, in the last Republican midterm election, a certain Kamala Harris almost screwed up that race. And Southern California is a palette of promised land for the GOP. For anyone who dreams of a “multi-ethnic working-class party,” there are plenty of conservative Asian-American congressmen and Hispanic House veterans. And take Kevin Kiley, also 37 like Elist but from up north near Sacramento, who stopped running for governor this year and is running for Congress instead. In my opinion, he would be a rare convincing voice in the nation’s lower chamber.

For a Republican Party toying with making “nationalism” its official creed, it might not be crazy to include its most populous, powerful, and politically disparate state. Californication is certainly never boring.

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