Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

California’s Centrist Push

Posted by Roobs on August 5, 2009

Following the latest Field Polls released last week showing an increase in independent voters as well as self-identifying Democratic voters, many have been quick to conclude that California is becoming more “left” or “liberal” than it was 30 years ago. While California is more left-leaning than it was relative to 30 years ago, I think it’s a misguided conclusion to say that the Field Poll proves California is becoming “liberal” overall. I actually think it shows more that California will see a push for Moderate Democrats.

The problem comes with the relationship between liberal and Democrats, and the stereotype that they are one in the same. They are not. Meet a Democrat from Fresno and then meet a Democrat from Los Angeles or San Francisco. They are quite different. Democrats from the Central Valley are largely moderate, leaning more conservative on the fiscal side of policy and moderate on the side of social, with liberal and conservative views on issues ranging from same-sex marriage, abortion and the environment. Given the current economic crisis we face in California and the evidence the Field Poll shows in the dwindling cohorts of the Republican Party in California, I am led to believe that districts once held by republicans will start to turn more purple as the non-staunch conservatives bail on their Republican representatives for more moderate leaning Democratic opponents. Similarly, in Democratic districts once held safely by staunch liberal Democrats may soon face strong opposition from moderate Democrats challenging them in primary fights, running on fiscal conservatism and liberal social values.

Also, the Field Poll revealed that the increasing number of Latino voters are identifying as Democrat. To argue that the Latino vote is a liberal vote is a precarious argument due to cultural issues. Latino voters tend to vote Democrat but also lean to the center-right on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion. But Latinos are often fiscally more liberal as Latino voters often favor increased spending on social programs.

Additionally, the problem with the housing market is linked to the likely push towards the political center. When you consider the fact that the Central Valley is really the last affordable refuge for living in the state, we will likely see an increase in young professionals leaving the safely Democratic and more expensive districts along the coast for more conservative and cheaper leaning districts inland.

For example, the condo market is largely viewed as the entry-level market for first time buyers. However, new rules from mortgage lending firms requiring more than half of new projects be sold before a mortgage can be given leave first time home buyers unable to purchase. Many younger first time home buyers in the coastal districts may likely leave for cheaper property values inland where the same price as a condo in San Francisco can buy a large house without the same constraints. Because younger voters statistically lean more Democratic as well as left on practically all issues, the resulting mix will likely produce two outcomes: 1) begin to turn out more moderate views from politicians looking to be elected and re-elected in inland districts once easily conservative and/or 2) a much more right leaning Republican base fighting an increasing moderate and left leaning constituency. The latter will likely result in a similar outcome as seen nationally where Republicans begin to be picked off for representing only a small minority of the increasing electorate.

I believe the Field Poll reinforces California’s increasing Moderates in a state stereotyped for its liberal outlooks. Whether or not this is a good thing we shall see in time to come.

Field Polls Online


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