I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore.
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.
— “I Love You, California”, Francis Silverwood (the state’s official anthem)
Throw it up
Let’s show these fools how we do this on that west side
Cause you and I know it’s tha best side
Yeah, that’s right
west coast, west coast
Uh, California Love
— “California Love”, Tupac Shakur
I’m a sixth-generation Californian on my mother’s side. And I’ve never been prouder to be a native son of the Golden State than I am this morning. While much of the rest of the nation swung hard to the right, Californians moved triumphantly left. We replaced a Republican governor with Jerry Brown, a quirky but undeniably progressive figure who was first elected governor when I was seven. (My father was Jerry’s philosophy T.A. at Berkeley in the early ’60s.) By a much wider margin than many anticipated, we returned a proud and unapologetic liberal, Barbara Boxer, to the senate. Both Democrats had to beat enormously wealthy Republican dilettantes; both did so handily. Pending the results of the attorney general’s race, Californians have elected Democrats to every statewide office, and even gained a seat in the state legislature.
Though we did not vote to legalize pot for recreational use, Californians voted overwhelmingly to reject Proposition 23, which would have suspended implementation of our landmark emissions law. Over 60% of voters chose to reject the appeals from big oil and other polluters; Proposition 23 even failed in famously conservative Orange County. I couldn’t be more thrilled and prouder of my fellow state residents.
All of this splendor for California comes on the heels of a glorious World Series, where the San Francisco Giants bested a team from the reddest of red states, the Texas Rangers. (I’m an Oakland A’s fan from childhood, but Bay Area pride triumphs in my heart.)
Yesterday, I spent five hours at the polls, working with the Feminist Majority’s “protect choice” campaign. Staying a careful 100 feet from the voting booths as required by state law, I stood with student volunteers (mostly my students, I’m proud to say) at a northwest Pasadena polling station and handed out literature for Barbara Boxer. We were jeered and cheered, but it was fun (and, as it always is, deeply moving) to play the part of activist on election day.
Exhausted and sweaty, I then drove over to the Beverly Hills offices of Feminist Majority for a victory party, where student volunteers and professional organizers gathered to celebrate California’s triumphs and to shake our heads in wonder at the choices made by Americans in other states. We found moments to cheer from other parts of the country, of course; I was especially heartened by the victories of Barney Frank and Raul Grijalva, two progressive congressmen who had been targeted by the right. The strangest moment came when we all stood and clapped for Harry Reid’s upset victory in Nevada. Reid, whose record on women’s issues is mixed at best, was applauded less for his own virtues than for his success in defeating a particularly extreme “Tea Party” candidate. Conservatives may be rejoicing today, but they would be rejoicing far louder had they sacked Reid and Boxer. There is no small satisfaction in denying them the fullness of their triumph.
But as we think about triumphs, it is good to reflect upon what John Pitney, writing at the National Review, remembers from Nikos Kazantzakis:
â€œA prophet is the one who, when everyone else despairs, hopes. And when everyone else hopes, he despairs. Youâ€™ll ask me why. Itâ€™s because he has mastered the Great Secret: that the Wheel turns.â€
Filled with healthy dollops of both hope and despair, and staggering on three hours sleep, I’m off to teach.