Opinion

The Future of California is Libertarian

Written by Philip Mauriello Jr., the Managing Attorney of Arete Law A.P.C. and host of the California Underground Podcast

In a recent article from National Review smugly titled “Californians Not as Crazy as We Thought?” they dive into the interesting results from the 2020 election. Outside of the national election, there are still results and indications of where California is going as a state with its electorate.

In the article, they point out that in a surprising manner, when confronted with proposition ballot measures that are for lower taxes and free market, Californians actually support them.

Take Prop 15, for example, which sought to raise property taxes on commercial properties. It’s no surprise every election cycle Democrats push to chip away at Prop 13, a ballot initiative passed in the 1970s to prevent huge spikes in property taxes. It is the last frontier in terms of a tax base for California. With skyrocketing property prices all over the state, raising property taxes would result in an avalanche of tax revenues flowing into the state’s coffers.

But Californians rejected it. They habitually reject anything that tampers with Prop 13. Every election cycle Democrats try, and every election cycle it gets voted down by large margins. Californians do not want their property taxes raised. It’s as simple as that.

Another example is the pro-free market Proposition 22. It sought to further drive the stake into Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s much maligned AB 5, which essentially bans independent contractors across the state. Ironic the state that was ground zero for a technology driven gig economy now seeks to destroy it. If only to drive employees into unions (which then donate to Democratic candidates) and increase payroll tax revenues. Voters soundly voted in favor of Prop 22, thus supporting the free market. Allow workers to make a living how they choose and leave them alone was the response from Californian voters.

Other measures that didn’t pass were allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary election (another voter grab by Democrats), mandating dialysis centers to have doctors or registered nurses administer dialysis, and the rejection of allowing public agencies and the government to discriminate based on race. They seem like kooky measures from the outside and are always fodder for ridicule to the rest of the nation, but quietly among all the chaos of the national election, Californians voted conservatively.

Let us roll the calendar back to 2016. When the homecoming queen Prop measure that year was Prop 64, the vote to legalize marijuana for recreational sale. It was passed in 2016—after failed in the past—because Republicans began to support the idea of selling marijuana and allowing the market to take advantage of the growth of a new economic sector in California. Whether that has come to fruition or not is not subject of this article, but it does give us an important glimpse into the changing sentiments of Republican voters in California, namely that they are becoming more socially liberal. Prop 64 would not have passed if more Republicans didn’t support it, plain and simple. But in 2016, Republicans voted like libertarians, and it passed.

I have said repeatedly on my podcast that if California Republicans are to have a prayer of staying relevant in this state, they need to begin incorporating libertarian ideals into their platform. I use the small “l” because the Libertarian Party has a bad image problem and is not marketable to the masses. But as we see in recent elections, libertarian principles are something Californians seem to get behind.

Using completely anecdotal evidence from my experience here in Southern California, when Democrats are pressed on their beliefs, they find they are more libertarian than they believe. They are socially liberal, but in the end do not like higher taxes paying for a bloated and ineffective government and even support a free market where they can run their business without intrusion. 

Basically, the Californian mentality can best be described as “Leave me alone to live my life and prosper.”

If the California Republican Party were smart, they would read the writing on the wall and start to position themselves in this way. A California Republican should be much different than a Nebraska Republican. They would drop Reagan era and neoconservative positions and begin to focus on building a “big tent” party, whereby they propose free market solutions, lower taxes, and stop nagging people about abortions or gender issues. Social issues are rarely ever at the top of voters’ minds.

It’s not too hard to do this either—the voters are already there. The Party just needs to figure out how to revamp its messaging and reach more voters.

Californians continue to show they support the free market and lower tax measures in this state. It’s time for Republicans to actually listen to them and build a worthy alternative to the Democrat Party that has enjoyed one-party rule for too long.