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Warder – California and the Formation of the American Spirit

Michael Warder

The Claremont Institute

"California and the Formation of the American Spirit"

Philadelphia Society Regional Meeting

October 16, 1999; Los Angeles Mariott Downtown

"Cutting Edge Issues in California Politics"


Thomas Mann, Director of Governmental studies at the Brookings Institution was recently quoted
in an AP story: "California isn’t necessarily at the top of the list in innovations. Often times they start
elsewhere, but get picked up in California, and everyone notices-because California is California."

Indeed, Americans have been looking to California ever since our country began. First and
foremost, the Golden State has always been a place of dreams, where as Randy Neuman put it in
his anthem, I Love LA, "the sun is shinning all the time." Along with the sun, the mountains, and the
Pacific Ocean-doorway to Asia, there came the discovery of gold, the orange groves, Hollywood,
and, more recently, aerospace and silicon valley. We do not talk about earthquakes here.

Since 1962 California has been the most populous state in the union. This year California has about
34 million citizens and by 2025 there likely will be 50 million. We have a Congressional delegation
of 54 Senators and Representatives, while New York, the former population champion, has 33 and
Texas has 32.

In 1970 the Latino population of California was 15% and now it is 31%. In 1970 the Asian
population of California was 3% and now it is 12%. Over 40% of the University of California at
Berkeley undergraduates are Asian. The promise of liberty and justice is like a magnate.

With the passage of NAFTA in 1994, trade patterns in America and California have changed.
Mexico is America’s number 2 trading-partner now, after Canada. Japan is now number 3.
California increasingly has dealings with Mexico economically, culturally, and politically. An
estimated $5 billion is sent each year south to Mexico from immigrant workers here. Mexican
politicians now campaign in California. Still, since the 1970s there is more American trade with
Asia than with Europe. Californians feel this trend everyday in some way.

And while much of American history can be written in terms of the struggle between Whites and
Blacks and the promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment,
these newer Americans in California have no heritage in that particular struggle. They are not
descended from slaves or slave-holders.

What is happening here in California is that America is being redefined again. The idea that "all men
are created equal" is as powerful as ever. 60% of voting Californians in 1996 rejected racial
preferences, however benignly described and intended, and rather resoundingly affirmed the
American idea that government should treat each citizen equally under the law. It turns out that the
Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, our founding documents, speak ever more
powerfully to new generations of Americans, and new Americans, especially here in California, the
place of dreams.

In this environment, we Californians do our politics, while the nation watches, fascinated, even
without Warren Beatty. In this session we have three outstanding public policy leaders who will
give their ideas as to what constitutes "cutting edge" issues in California. It is likely that, if Mr. Mann
of The Brookings Institution is right, these issues will reverberate around the country in the near
future.

 

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