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California, which possesses the fifth-largest economy in the world and has assumed many attributes of a nation-state, is widely viewed as the nation’s principal bellwether state.

To return to an earlier theme: I still marvel at some the folks back home in my native Northwest Alabama – diehard Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians – who still affirm their “yellee-dawg” Democratic loyalties. One of them quickly comes to mind: a high school teacher who dressed me up and down for summoning the temerity to wear a “Gerald Ford for President” button to her class room way back in the fall of 1976. (Yes, I’m notorious for holding grudges, even across decades.)

And this brings me to another one of my perennial themes, the troubled, if not imperilled, state of the Golden State – California.

In the view of many, this bellwether state is assuming contours that strike many of us as disturbingly portentous – possible signs of dystopian future perhaps not too far removed from a few of the iconic science fiction movies such as “Mad Max” and “Escape from New York” that left such searing impressions on those of us who reached maturity the 70’s and 80’s.

California has for at least the past half century been regarded as this nation’s social, cultural and political bellwether. And within the last 20 years, this increasingly midnight-blue state has been regarded as the Democratic Party’s crown electoral jewel as well as its policymaking bellwether. Moreover, to an increasing degree, Democratic policymakers establish policy benchmarks for other blue states, if not the rest of the nation as a whole.

And this brings me back to the folks back home who still doggedly cling to the political identity to which they still apparently regard as tribal. What are they thinking? How do they manage to rationalize the dysfunction of California? Why do they assume that this pathology somewhow will remain contained – that it will not be carried East, ultimately into the ruby-red states of Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia? 

What assures them that the rest of the country will somehow remain cordoned off from the megastate to which our cultural and political elites have looked for inspiration for much of the past century?

Why do they still assume that life will go on as it always has?

For many of us who were raised around this doggedly tribal cultural identity, even marveling at it on occasion, these remain million-dollar questions.