A recent story in the New York Times caught my eye regarding the Georgia governor’s race, a contest between what many characterize as a left-leaning candidate, Stacey Abrams, and a far-right Trumpian candidate, Brian Kemp. I was struck by a quote from Kemp about his opponent because it appears to parallel recent attacks by our own GOP gubernatorial candidate, Adam Laxalt, against Democrat Steve Sisolak, foreshadowing a coordinated national effort to make California the reason voters should vote Republican in November.
Consider the similarities. Kemp complains that Abrams is “backed by billionaires and socialists who want to make Georgia into California.” On primary night, Laxalt told the crowd this election is a choice between “real solutions or a radical agenda that would take our unique state the way of California.” Laxalt is carrying this theme forward in his television advertising, with a grainy sinister commercial accusing Sisolak of associating with the “radical, unhinged” Occupy Las Vegas movement, stating that Sisolak “joined the fanatical resistance movement, and addressed an event that desecrated our American flag.” Imagining the pro-business Sisolak as part of a radical resistance movement made me laugh, but the closing words of the ad sounded the same anti-California theme, complete with spooky music: “That might work in California, Mr. Sisolak, but not in Nevada.”
While Nevada’s proximity to California and our long history of in-migration from the overcrowded Golden State might make sense from an overpaid political consultant’s seat, the Georgia reference reveals a national GOP strategy this election cycle to make California the bogeyman. They need their base to vote against California since voters may not be motivated enough to vote for Republican candidates.
The strategy ignores California’s thriving economy, its diverse and well-educated workforce, and its better weather than just about anywhere. Instead, the “trash California” campaign focuses on the perceived threat of liberal politics that embrace LGBTQ+ communities and sanctuary cities. What goes unsaid are the things the GOP is really worried might spread—immigrant workers insisting on their rights, growing demands for a share in the state’s prosperity by people of color who are now the majority population in California, fewer and fewer Republicans.
The GOP knows its white conservative base is shrinking, so it will ridicule California at every turn during this election cycle. But, seriously, do they think this argument will sway voters in Georgia? Or, for that matter, in Nevada, where our business elite are hell-bent on making Nevada a lot more like California, and not paying half as much attention to the negative side effects of a booming economy that squeezes the working classes?
Workers have a lot to admire in California’s minimum wage, now set at $10.50 an hour and due to gradually rise to $15 by 2023. California’s leaders are visionary, not only acknowledging climate change but actively working on strategies to combat it. Gov. Jerry Brown is also a budget hawk, turning a deficit of $27 billion when he came into office into a $6 billion surplus in just eight years.
With all that said, Nevada is currently experiencing the same problems as California in terms of a growing homeless population and runaway rent increases. Traffic is visibly worsening by the day and the quality of life for those in the bottom tiers of the economy or on a fixed income is deteriorating. The major difference is California, which would rather tax billionaire corporations than give them taxpayer subsidies, has revenue coming in well over projections and is focused on improving its infrastructure, whereas Nevada’s leaders shrug their shoulders and push the cost of growth onto residents in the form of higher sales taxes.
Meanwhile Laxalt wants you to be very afraid of California. Ask him why.