Gavin Newsom’s California: Detroit on the Pacific?

Gavin Newsom’s California: Detroit on the Pacific?

An aerial view of graffiti on at least 27 stories of an unfinished skyscraper in Los Angeles on Feb. 2, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 2/29/2024

As we head toward the March 5 election, an important new article by Steven Malanga compares the city of my birth, Detroit, with the state in which I have lived for 37 years, California, as well as other states adopting leftist policies driving out their people. It’s a good lens through which to see what’s really going on.
Next to a picture of Gov. Gavin Newsom, “The Dead-End Left” is the article’s headline, with the subheadline, “Amid the surging success of GOP states, political shifts make course corrections hard for Democratic enclaves.” He covers from a different angle some of the topics I have covered here in The Epoch Times, such as in “Manhattanization of California Advances.”
“In 1973, Coleman Young, an African American former labor organizer with ties to the American Communist Party, ran for mayor of Detroit,” begins the article. “Young narrowly beat the city’s police commissioner, partly by arguing that cops targeted minorities. Once in office, Young rolled back enforcement and slashed the police force by 20 percent. Detroit’s crime exploded.”
The population fled, including several of my relatives. Here are the U.S. Decennial Census numbers:
  • 1970: 1,514,063
  • 1980: 1,203,368
  • 1990: 1,027,974
  • 2000: 951,270
  • 2010: 713,777
  • 2020: 639,111
That’s a 58 percent decline in 50 years. No major American city has suffered such a crash. By contrast, in the same period Dallas jumped from 844,401 to 1,304,379, or 54 percent. Houston rose from 1,232,802 to 2,304,580, or 87 percent. And Phoenix soared from 581,572 to 1,608,139, or 177 percent.
And, no, it’s not the weather, a faulty economic theory I exploded in “Red State Economies Booming and Blue States Underperforming? Check the Data.”
It’s the policies. Mr. Young’s communist ideas didn’t work any better for Detroit than it did for the Soviet Union.

Little Political Diversity

A big problem Mr. Malanga identifies is the lack of political diversity. Detroit’s last Republican mayor was Louis Miriani, who left office in 1962—that was 62 years ago. California has followed the same path. Its last Republican governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who left office in January 2011—13 years ago. But except for his first two years, he governed as a Democrat, as I described in, “The Media Is Helping Schwarzenegger Rewrite His Governorship.” He increased taxes. As did, for that matter, the previous Republican governor, Pete Wilson, in 1991.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend an event in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, 2006. (David McNew/Getty Images)

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend an event in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, 2006. (David McNew/Getty Images)

You actually have to stretch back to January 1991, when Gov. George Deukmejian left office, for a Texas- or Florida-style tax-limitation governor in office. That’s 33 years. And the California Legislature has been controlled by Democrats for five decades, excepting the single year of 1996 in the Assembly.
Mr. Malanga writes how the country has bifurcated, with California, New York, Illinois, and other Democrat states moving even more to the left, while Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and other Republicans have embraced a contemporary version of American rugged individualism. But leftwing policies mean high taxes and regulations and prevailing powers for the public-employee unions.
The result: “Residents of heavily Democratic states with high domestic net outmigration—more people leaving than arriving—are starkly divided politically. A UC Berkeley survey, taken just before the pandemic, found that 40 percent of Californians were thinking about leaving the state. That puts California among other strongly Democratic states—including New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York—as places where the greatest percentage of the population is considering leaving, polls show. The Berkeley poll quantified responses by political orientation. More than seven in ten Republicans, and 65 percent of the ‘somewhat conservative,’ were considering exiting. By contrast, only 38 percent of Democrats and of those deeming themselves at least somewhat liberal were thinking about leaving. Independent voters had soured on the state, too, with 55 percent mulling departure. People of different races were much more aligned than those with different politics: 56 percent of whites and 58 percent of blacks said that they were at least pondering flight.”
Unfortunately for the destination states, the exiles often bring with them the very left-wing politics that ruined the states they left. About 80,000 Californians split annually for Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott recently tweeted at the 80,000 or so Californians arriving in his state annually: “To the Californians moving to Texas: Remember those high taxes, burdensome regulations, & socialistic agenda advanced in CA? We don’t believe in that. We believe in less government & more individual freedom. If you agree with that you’ll fit right in.”

Changing Political Dynamics

But the political dynamics also are changing due to a new development: Black and Hispanic residents are becoming fed up with left-wing politics, especially high crime and illegal immigration flooding into their neighborhoods, and are moving toward the Republican Party. One of our best political demographers is Michael Lind, not a conservative.
He wrote in Tablet Feb. 19 how it was the Democratic Party as recently as 20 years ago that most opposed illegal immigration to protect the jobs and incomes of the working classes. Those economic facts remain true, even though the party’s policies have flipped and now favor open borders.
“The most relevant studies of the economic effects of immigration on workers are those that focus on specific industries,” Mr. Lind wrote. “The union-weakening, wage-depressing, native-displacing effects of mass unskilled immigration have been well-documented in the case of janitors, construction workers, and meatpackers.”
That’s pushing blacks and Hispanics rightward: “Within the last generation, however, the Democratic Party has lost the allegiance of most white working-class voters, along with a growing share of working class Black and Hispanic voters. Meanwhile it has become the home of affluent, educated whites, a dwindling number of nonwhites, and most immigrants, along with many large corporations and the billionaires who profit from them.”
That’s what I long have called the Manhattanization of California, as in the article I mentioned. Some people like Manhattan, with its noise, crowds, and electric excitement. Most do not and live elsewhere. Likewise with California. Some people make enough money to pay the high taxes and put up with the regulatory hassles. Most do not and either leave, or dream of doing so—hanging on, perhaps, because it’s hard to leave the incredible weather for the humidity, bugs, and hurricanes of Miami.

Conclusion: California Will Continue Lurching Left

I don’t see any change in California’s leftward lurch. The state’s Republican Party just can’t get its act together. I keep insisting they need to get rid of the awful Top Two system. Which on March 5 well could, as in 2016 and 2018, for a U.S. Senate election send two Democrats and no Republicans to the general election in November. The solution is to expand it to Top Four. But it’s unlikely to happen.
The state’s crises keep billowing out. Because Republicans are less than one-third of seats in both the Assembly and state Senate, there’s no check on the Democrat majority’s spending and taxing excesses. As a result, the Legislative Analyst now estimates there’s a $73 billion deficit for fiscal year 2024-25, which begins on July 1. That’s almost a total flip from the nearly $100 billion surplus of two years ago.
This will be the political crisis consuming Mr. Newsom and legislators until the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget—and maybe after. There is no effective way to force the Legislature to meet that or any other deadline, part of the state’s juvenile dysfunction.
Meanwhile, Texas, which has no state income tax, under Gov. Abbott, is luxuriating in a $32.7 billion surplus. And Florida, under Gov. Ron DeSantis, who debated Mr. Newsom last September, also is enjoying a surplus of $16.3 billion. Although its budget isn’t finished yet. And the Sunshine State also imposes no state income tax. Compare both of those zero tax rates to California’s top income tax rate of 14.4 percent—and 10.4 percent on the middle class.
Like Detroit, California is going down the path of one-party rule, high taxes, excessive government, and a decline in living standards and the quality of life. It’s all so predictable. At least the weather still is great.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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