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Hullabaloo


Friday, August 30, 2013

 
As California goes, so goes the west

by David Atkins

California emigres are changing the west:

Colorado's politics have become positively Californian lately. There are new restrictions on guns. Pot is legal. The legislative agenda featured an expansion of alternative-energy use requirements for rural consumers. Gay couples can now enter into civil unions.

There's a reason for all this.

Lots of Californians have moved to Denver and its environs, bringing a progressive strain of politics with them and angering more conservative parts of the state — so much so that 10 northeastern counties are planning symbolic but serious votes on secession this fall.

Conservatives have discovered that living on the far side of the Rockies is no longer far enough to get away from the influence of West Coast liberals.

"California migration, to a degree, has altered Colorado politics," says Mike Krause, vice president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver. "I see California license plates in my neighborhood and on my commute all the time."

California transplants aren't the entire reason the Mountain West has become arguably the nation's chief swing region in national politics. The number of Californians moving to other Western states has actually declined over the past couple of decades, while growth of Hispanic populations has been more important in terms of shaking things up politically.

Still, newcomers from California have not only helped put Colorado in the Democratic column in recent presidential elections, but they've also helped President Obama carry Nevada two times.

Californians have contributed to make Salt Lake City and Boise more Democratic in recent years, but they are easily outvoted by Republicans in other parts of Utah and Idaho. Similarly, other states such as Arizona and remain reliably Republican, but contain more liberal enclaves thanks to new arrivals from the West Coast.
Conservatives decry this undeniable phenomenon as Californians leaving a dystopia to ruin other places. Nothing could be farther from the truth, of course: California is such a desirable place to live that property values and other costs of living are through the roof. Inevitably, many professionals decide that it would be more worthwhile to go where the cost of living is cheaper, so long as they can remain reasonably well employed. And eventually, liberal policies will make those states more desirable places to live, which in turn will drive up property values and cost of living due to demand, etc. None of which are problems so long as wages can keep pace.

In the meantime, a liberal shift throughout West will eventually radically alter the entire nation's politics. Soon enough the nation's balance of power will shift away from the South and toward the West, with California--and Californians both resident and emigre--leading the charge.


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