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Why I left California

Ronald Reagan once quipped: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left me.”

The same is true for me about California.

I did leave, of course, after more than 20 years of living and working there. But only because California had already left me – me and my values, me and my common sense, me and my sense of right and wrong.

I’ve never really looked back or second-guessed that decision. It was one of the best choices I made in life. Don’t get me wrong. I loved California. Many of my friends still think I live there. I run into people all the time who still think I live there – 15 years after my exodus.

Here’s a vivid illustration of how crazy, genuinely insane, California has become.

In last Tuesday’s primary election, 287,000 Californians cast votes for suspended Sen. Leland Yee to become the state’s chief elections officer. Yee was indicted earlier this year on federal charges of political corruption, gun-running, money-laundering and other crimes financed by payoffs from undercover agents.

I know, California is a big state. So what’s a mere 287,000 votes? It represents 10 percent of the votes cast for that office and more than five other secretary of state candidates who had not been indicted – yet anyway.

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In addition, Yee had dropped out of the race – but not in time to have his name removed from the ballot. He did not campaign. In fact, he was only recently freed from jail after posting $500,000 bond and having his passport revoked. His indictment is 137 pages long.

Think about that. Ten percent of Californians who vote for secretary of state chose a guy facing a lot of federal prison time for political corruption!

If California were a person, he would be certifiably insane. No question about it.

But voting for a politician who railed against the right to bear arms while making deals with federal agents who said they wanted to buy guns from terrorists to turn a quick profit is not even the craziest decision Californians have made in the last 20 years.

How about electing Jerry Brown as governor? How about electing and re-electing Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer multiple times?

The one vote that sent me fleeing California in a hurry was the election of Gray Davis as governor.

Having worked in journalism in the state for more than 20 years, I was very familiar with Davis. I had seen him come up through the Democratic political ranks as an assemblyman, state senator and so on. When he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor, I actually voted for him. I’ll tell you why.

The Republican nominee that year was Rep. Dan Lungren, a very decent guy. He wasn’t facing a primary challenge. So I decided to cross over and vote for the candidate I considered least likely to beat him – Gray Davis. I assumed people saw what I saw – an extremely dull, ideologically rigid know-nothing phony.

Was I ever wrong.

He not only won the primary, he beat Lungren.

That’s when I knew the great experiment known as California was over.

I told everyone I knew to expect the state to go downhill fast. And it did. Davis’ policies brought on power shortages and chaos. He was actually recalled, paving the way for Arnold Schwarzenegger to be elected.

Things in California have gone from bad to worse since then. When I visit, it’s still got a beautiful climate. There are parts of California that are still prosperous and lovely. But, as a state, it’s finished. It’s just too big to know it has failed.

It will take more than an indictment of one corrupt politician to save it – especially when that guy can still garner 287,000 votes.

Who were those people?

Were they legal voters?

Did they cast votes based on the ethnicity of the name on the ballot?

Did they know they were voting for a lying, corrupt political mobster and hustler?

Who knows?

Who will ever know?

Who even has time to think about when we have a president of the United States who decided to trade the five worst Taliban commanders, mass murderers all, for a deserter who went over the hill to join the Afghan jihadists? How can anyone understand anything going on in this crazy world of ours?

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