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“California Love” or “Deep In The Heart Of Texas”?

September 20, 2011

I was working out fairly hard in Fit Athletic’s Crossfit room when a guy plugged his iPod into the room’s sound system.  Tupac’s unforgettable “California Love” came blasting on, and like every other native Californian worth his salt, I started singing along. “It’s all good, from Diego to the Bay…” Don’t judge me- you know you sing along with it too. In any event, along with an impending Labor Day trip to the Texas capital of Austin, it gave me an idea for my first column in The Jeffersonian. What are some of the key differences between the economic and political cultures of California and Texas? 

To tell you the truth, it was Rick Perry’s recent surge in the GOP nomination polls that gave me the idea for this column. Tupac simply gave me the idea for the opener. Rick Perry is, of course, the Republican governor of Texas. He has said that Social Security is a “monstrous lie,” and wrote in his recently released book Fed Up! that it was a massive Ponzi scheme, and like all Ponzi schemes, was doomed to eventually collapse. He also recently hosted a large “prayer rally” in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, calling upon God to deliver rain to Texas, among other things. He has mused on the possibility of Texas secession from the United States, while criticizing the federal government for its alleged non- response to the recent wildfires in the state. This kind of rhetoric and hypocrisy, while certainly red meat for the conservative base, fuels the national image of Texans as bombastic, brash, and perhaps a bit too proud.

As a native Californian and avid consumer of national political drama, it has been rather painful to watch California play the role of national punching bag, especially when smug Rick Perry is the one delivering the blows. Admittedly, this state continually gives the country plenty of material to work with, such as San Francisco’s recently nixed anti-circumcision ballot measure, or West Hollywood’s ban on declawing of pets (which actually passed), or the proposed law which would mandate fitted sheets for hotel beds. Still, there are some good things about this state. Nikki Bettis, a 2L who is from Austin, says that “California is a place to let loose. You’re not constantly being judged. You can be who you want to be.” I can agree with that statement. California’s European/American history certainly backs up this notion.

California and Texas, though both controlled by the same governments for many years, have different histories. Texas gained its independence from Mexico (who had earlier gained its independence from Spain) in 1836, after a brief but somewhat bloody revolution. California gained its independence in 1846, and after a brief period of independence (on the order of a few months, when it was known as the Bear Flag Republic), was claimed and annexed by the United States. Then gold was discovered in the mountains and streams outside Sacramento around 1848. The famed California Gold Rush had begun, and it brought explosive growth to San Francisco and to California in general.

With this gold rush came all sorts of people from all around the world, in search of fortune. This crush of diverse peoples brought some racist legislation from the new state legislature, but also cemented California in the minds of the national imagination as a place where someone could get rich quick, and a place where sin abounded (so much so that San Francisco quickly became known as Sodom By the Sea). The tensions between traditionalism and progressivism have manifested themselves in many ways through the subsequent history of California.

California was one of the states that passed women’s suffrage before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and was one of the early adopters of the initiative, referendum, and recall system. California was also a pioneer in the anti tax movement, passing Prop 13 in 1978, while simultaneously rejecting the anti-gay teacher Briggs initiative at the same time. More recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, a decision which the electorate promptly overturned (and which will be eventually overturned itself) with the passage of Prop 8. While I can’t speak to Texas’ political zeitgeist, other than what I have heard in the national media, I am still proud of my home state. Texas and California, for all of the sniping back and forth, and despite the cultural spectrum from which they sit on opposite ends of each other, need each other. They are like a husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife to be diverse and politically correct) who have been married for a long time. They are tired of each other—but they cannot imagine life without the other.

So what was the point of this article? The point was that to point out that California, despite being in the doldrums for the past several years, has a proud history of being on the forefront of many national issues. The phrase “As California goes, so goes the nation,” rings true in many ways. Every state has its ups and downs, and Texas and California are no different. California will not be in the dumps forever, and Texas will not be on top forever. So perhaps this article/op-ed/random pep rally column was a cathartic moment for me—a chance to defend my home state. Yep, that’s it. California love.