A few months back my colleague Jonathan Vankin published an article that presented Five Reasons Why California is the Most American State. That bold claim about the outsized role the Golden State plays on the national stage was validated today.
For the first time in its history, The New York Times Magazine dedicated its entire Sunday issue to articles about California. Story editor Raha Naddaf, an Oakland native (and onetime New Yorker) currently residing in San Leandro, reports that she conceived the issue while thinking deeply about a “state that has always seemed to be at the frontier of so much transformation … whose entire mythology is wrapped up in the notion of dreaming, of starting fresh, of reinvention.”
In his piece, Vankin quotes USC sociologist Manuel Pastor: “California is America, only sooner.” In the Times today, novelist Laila Lalami gives a long list of proofs, good and bad, in her piece “The Future of California is the Country's Future.”
“California was the first state to pass tailpipe-emission standards, the first to legalize the medical use of marijuana, the first to adopt paid family leave, the first to experiment with guaranteed income on a municipal level, but also the first state to stage a tax revolt that hobbled public services, the first to ban affirmative action and, in 1994, the first to pass a ballot initiative —Proposition 187—that would have barred undocumented immigrants from public social services, including education and healthcare.”
Los Angeles-based economics reporter Conor Dougherty gives further evidence for our state’s place as a historic trend-setter.
“California has been so successful at bending national policy in its direction that academics have taken to calling the phenomenon the ‘California effect.’ From labor and consumer protections to corporate governance, energy and animal-welfare measures, California’s laws are the most widely copied in the nation.“
While none of this will come as a big shock to many readers of The Newsletter, it’s timely and important for a number of reasons. And it’s good to see the de facto newspaper of record picking this moment to go deep on our state’s impact.
State governments throughout our nation are unleashing unprecedented, relentless attacks on civil liberties, the environment, and vulnerable Americans. And on Friday, Dougherty reported that Gov. Gavin Newson has doubled down on his pledge to use California’s considerable market power and influence to combat the violence being perpetrated in the culture wars.
Granted, California also faces its own unprecedented problems, from housing and homelessness to unconscionable income inequality. The latter is addressed unflinchingly by Fresno’s Mark Arax, (a journalistic hero of mine) in an article it also tells the story of three women who are making real change in the Central Valley.
(I’m sorry if some of these articles are locked behind a paywall. And, if you can afford to subscribe to the Times, you should probably do that.)