BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media, I'm Bob Garfield. All this hour we've been hearing about demonization the rift between us, whoever we are, and them, the outgroup, the other. But in midterm contests across the country this year, one of the most sinister and invasive others isn't an outgroup, it's an out place.
ADAM LAXALT, OF NEVADA: Make no mistake about it, if I don't win this race, we will be turning into what?
ADAM LAXALT, OF NEVADA: California, OK?
BRIAN KEMP, OF GEORGIA: She's backed by billionaires and socialists who want to make Georgia into California.
RON DESANTIS, OF FLORIDA: And just the other day, he was asked about his economic vision and he said that he thought that the government policy in California was the model.
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BOB GARFIELD: From Nevada to Georgia to Florida and states in between, the disloyal opposition is California–One Californian in particular. You might be familiar with her: she favors pearls.
AD: Hollywood celebrities who are blinded by their hatred of the president. Nancy Pelosi and the Washington Democrats answer to them. There's no new agenda behind the old tested slogan and the same old liberal ideas. Single payer health care, sanctuary cities, job-crushing taxes and big cuts to our military. Pelosi's San Francisco values are wrong for America. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Not a brand new nemesis, of course, Pelosi became a prominent target during the 2006 midterms when Republicans warned that if she became Speaker of the House, the sweet promise of America would turn sour, dough.
NEWT GINGRICH: So, I mean, Nancy Pelosi represents the San Francisco values system. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Fast forward 12 years, and it's less a coded warning about gay rights and permissive social policies and more about Trump and how the state is challenging the president on everything from car emissions standards to immigration policy to legalizing weed.
CROWD, CHANTING: Not my president!
MALE CORRESPONDENT: The California Republic versus President Trump.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: The resistance is legion. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Some of that resistance is manifesting in out of state donations to key races that are deemed Trump referendums. Take for instance the Senate contest in Texas where Ted Cruz is facing a challenge from Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who is breaking fundraising records.
TED CRUZ: We are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue.
TED CRUZ: They want us to be just like California.
TED CRUZ: Right down to tofu and Silicon and dyed hair.
CROWD: Boo. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Well two things: it's true that O'Rourke has gotten a lot of cash from out of state but so is Cruz, who's gotten more is actually up for debate. Although a Dallas Morning News analysis of itemized donations shows that it's Cruz. The other thing silicone and dyed hair, has Cruz never been to Dallas?
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: Well, you know, Ted's from Canada. You keep that in mind. So he's still adjusting to the entire United States, I believe.
BOB GARFIELD: Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State. He says the anti-California talking point may even have originated in Texas.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: As a way to defend against the assault on government. And, you know, in order to keep taxes low at the expense of government services you have to create a kind of boogeyman. And the bogeyman is California.
GREG ABBOTT: The truth is Texas is being California-ized.
BOB GARFIELD: Perhaps no Texan talks about California more than Governor Greg Abbott.
GREG ABBOTT: It's being done at the city level, with bag bans, fracking bans, tree cutting bans. We're forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model. [END CLIP]
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: You know when I was young, Texas was blue and California was red. Texas, you know, produced Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society and California produced Ronald Reagan and the modern conservative revolution.
RONALD REAGAN: Actually I think you could spend a lifetime just seeing and getting to know California. Someone has said California isn't a place, it's a way of life. Well, that's true and it's a good way. [END CLIP]
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: These states are mirror images, in some ways kind of like a strand of DNA like a double helix, you know, they revolve around each other. They never coincide but they are always in a relationship. And says a lot about the dynamism of our country. The laboratories of democracy, the states are supposed to be, I remember Rick Perry, our former governor used to call it lavatories of democracy. I think he might have--
BOB GARFIELD: Haha.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: --I don't know if he meant that or not.
BOB GARFIELD: Haha. You left out that there like the number one and number two largest states in population. And yet California elects virtually no Republican statewide and Texas elects virtually no Democrats. If there were some similarities, why are they mirror images and not exact political duplicates?
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: You know, it's an interesting question. I think they've always been in opposition to each other. And they reflect the kind of political opposition that often characterizes our country. When I was young, we looked at California as a kind of hotbed of right-wing fanaticism. Of course, I lived in Dallas which was a hotbed of right-wing fanaticism, but it felt akin to what was going on in California. You know--
BOB GARFIELD: It's the home of the John Birch Society.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT:--Yeah. There was a lot of things that we had in common but, I know, we always seemed to run to the corners.
BOB GARFIELD: Wright and Governor Abbott don't agree on much, but both believe the struggle between California and Texas is a struggle over the soul of America.
GREG ABBOTT: There is a growing divide in this country that is epitomized by the difference between California and Texas. There is a divide between capitalism on the one hand and socialism on the other hand. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: California as a socialist paradise. That's also a refrain deep in the heart of Florida.
RON DESANTIS: They have massive taxes on all levels.
BOB GARFIELD: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
RON DESANTIS: Stiff state income tax for middle-income people. And, in fact, they've really hollowed out the middle class in California because of all the burdens imposed on government. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: In other words, a failed socialist nightmare. Where government regulation is onerous and taxpayer money is squandered. Is the state paying people to surf?
MARISA LAGOS: Unfortunately we have not moved into a place where anybody is being paid to surf unless they're professional surfers.
BOB GARFIELD: Marisa Lagos is co-host of the political breakdown podcast and a political reporter at San Francisco's KQED.
MARISA LAGOS: No, this is not a socialist state. It's certainly, I think, is more progressive and generous when it comes to a lot of, you know, the public welfare programs that maybe states like Florida have not embraced but I wouldn't call it a socialist state.
BOB GARFIELD: Furthermore, as failed states go, it's doing pretty well. California has a nine billion dollar budget surplus this year. A big turnaround from the 27 billion dollar deficit when Democrat Jerry Brown took over from and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2011. But if not a socialist nightmare, not necessarily a paradise either.
MARISA LAGOS: I think that there is, in some ways that, you know, a sort of a tale of two Californians here to borrow some politicians lines. And housing is a big problem here and I think that that is something that we're seeing a lot of people grapple with when it comes time for them to maybe want to put down roots and raise a family. Is that even possible in a region like the Bay Area?
BOB GARFIELD: California's homeless population jumped by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017. And yes, taxes are high. And so some Californians have taken to moving out, many in search of cheaper real estate. One million of them in a nine-year stretch. Not in caravans but maybe Priuses.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: I would say the traffic is the biggest thing.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: And many feel they're bringing bad driving habits. They still drive like they are in California. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: In 2015, 25 percent of newcomers to Idaho, one of the fastest growing states in the country, were from California. And there weren't all pot smoking, LGBT, pro-choicers. This from Fox News Channel.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: There's one Republican who said he is done with California and decided to move to Texas. Once he figured out. A lot of people did the same thing. He started a company called Conservative Move to help his fellow conservatives more like-minded states.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Great schools, great jobs, low crime. Those things don't exist in the liberal bastions of California state where we escaped from.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: [So far you've just talked about California. Are you are you encouraging people to move from like New York for example or New Jersey or Connecticut or Massachusetts. For heaven's sake. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Still truth be told, the electoral edge created by ex-pats does fall to the Democrats. At least in Colorado where California is a hot-button issue in the governor's race.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Hmmm.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: Radical. Now add this.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Radi-California.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: That's what you get when you bring radical left-wing policies your state.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, policies that are already failed. [END CLIP]
SETH MASKET: 2004, was actually the last year that Colorado voted for a Republican in the presidential race. Democrats have held at least one chamber of the state house for a while now. And there's a decent chance they'll have unified control of the state government here after next week's elections.
BOB GARFIELD: Seth Masket is a professor of political science at the University of Denver and the director of the Center on American Politics there. The California migration he says is one of the reasons Colorado is trending from purple to blue. And he should know because if California-ism is a disease he is a pathogen, from Berkeley no less.
SETH MASKET: When I first moved here, for example, it is almost impossible to buy alcohol on a Sunday. And there's been changes in the law surrounding that. It's now obviously legal to purchase recreational marijuana here. Colorado was actually ahead of California on that curve. The dial of life has been pretty dramatically transformed just in the last decade.
BOB GARFIELD: So I'm wondering if you actually came from California in order to destroy the fabric of Colorado nature--
SETH MASKET: Haha.
BOB GARFIELD: --or was just collateral damage.
SETH MASKET: I assure you that was not my intention. It was purely for economic reasons.
BOB GARFIELD: But look here, many of the tens of thousands of Angelenos and Bay Areans who fled to enjoy lower housing costs have themselves driven the price of Denver real estate through the roof. If you're a Coloradan who can't afford to buy a home or stay in your rental, how not to blame Californication. And how can politicians not seize on the resentment about the George Soros of states.
SETH MASKET: It's become just kind of a classic boogeyman that it almost doesn't need to even mean anything anymore. People just use the words and it just, it means whatever horrible thing you want it to mean.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: You know, I'm in a band and the drummer and our band on his drum kit has a sticker that says, ‘don't Californicate Texas music.’ I have no idea what that means.
BOB GARFIELD: Journalist Lawrence Wright.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: So it's a buzzword. It's a trope for, you know, the outsider or the other. And it's also one of those chest-thumping Texas-isms.
BOB GARFIELD: I must ask you this, you live in Austin and you were in a band is band membership mandatory there.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: It's not. It's kind of like the military it's a volunteer organization. You don't have to serve but you'd be wise to do so. You know, the music in Austin is really such a deep part of the city. And I'm so grateful that I got to be a part of that.
BOB GARFIELD: And if you lived in LA, you know what you'd be a part of, pilates.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: Don't look down, I do pilates as well. I guess as part of our LA experience here in Austin.
BOB GARFIELD: Ugh, see? It's everywhere.
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BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media is produced by Alana Casanova-Burgess, Micah Loewinger, Leah Feder, Jon Hanrahan and Asthaa Chaturvedi. We had more help from Samantha Maldonado. And our show was edited this week by our executive producer Katya Rogers. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineers this week were Sam Bair and Josh Han. On the Media is a production of WNYC Studios. Brooke Gladstone will be back next week. I'm Bob Garfield.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: On The Media is supported by the Ford Foundation the John S and James L Knight Foundation and the listeners of WNYC Radio.