It's long been the conventional wisdom in Washington, DC that we live in a "center-right" country — that Americans tend to be more conservative than liberal. California, by contrast, has been viewed for many years as being more progressive than the rest of the nation. However, recent polls show that residents of the Golden State have shifted even more dramatically to the left in recent years on a variety of issues — and the rest of the country is following suit.
A series of survey results released last week by the respected Field Poll reveal just how far to the left Californians have moved, particularly when it comes to same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and gun control. The gay marriage results were the most striking. An astonishing 61 percent of California voters said they now support allowing same-sex couples to wed.
It's a welcome turnaround from a little more than four years ago, when a majority of California voters — 52 percent — approved Proposition 8, the state's anti-gay-marriage law. In that November 2008 election, just 48 percent of voters cast ballots for gay marriage. Since then, however, the state has shifted thirteen points to the left. And as a result, it seems clear that state voters will decide to overturn Prop 8 if the US Supreme Court declines to do so this June.
The nation's attitudes toward gay marriage are changing dramatically as well. In 2008, a Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans opposed same-sex nuptials 55 percent to 36 percent. But a Quinnipiac poll last December showed that Americans now support it, 48 percent to 46 percent — a huge swing to the left.
Last week's Field Poll also showed that a majority of Californians — 54 percent — now favors legalizing marijuana. A little more than two years ago state voters rejected Prop 19, a pot legalization measure, 54 percent to 46 percent. In other words, state residents have shifted eight points to the left on marijuana in just 28 months.
Likewise, a majority of Americans — 51 percent — now want to legalize pot, according to a December Quinnipiac poll. A Gallup poll released in December also revealed that 64 percent of Americans want to leave marijuana policy up to the states.
The move to the left also is abundantly clear when it comes to gun control. The Field Poll found that far more California voters — 61 percent — are concerned about gun violence than Second Amendment rights — 34 percent. The results are significant because the state already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation.
The leftward movement on guns also is happening throughout the country. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last month found that 61 percent of Americans now favor stricter gun control measures.
And finally, a Gallup poll released last month found that a whopping 72 percent of Americans now back a path to citizenship for undocumented workers living in the country. Liberals have long advocated for such immigration reform proposals while conservatives have steadfastly opposed them.
In short, when it comes to a wide range of key issues, the conventional wisdom is clearly wrong: We no longer live in a "center-right" country. History is tilting to the left, much like it has done in the past. And America is now a "center-left" left nation, with California leading the way. It's about time.
Obama Opposes Prop 8
The Obama Justice Department made history last week when it urged the US Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8, California's anti-gay marriage law. The DOJ, however, stopped short of calling for all anti-gay-marriage laws nationwide to be invalidated. Instead, the administration stated in its legal brief that California is a special case.
The Obama administration noted that California is one of only eight states that allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners or partake in civil unions — but then denies those couples the right to get married. The DOJ argued that this separate-and-unequal setup violates the US Constitution. "Proposition 8's denial of marriage to same-sex couples, particularly where California at the same time grants same-sex partners all the substantive rights of marriage, violates Equal Protection," the brief stated.
If the high court agrees with this reasoning, it likely would strike down similar anti-gay marriage laws in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island — but not in states that have no domestic partnership or civil unions laws.
A large group of Republicans also filed a legal brief last week, asking the court to invalidate Prop 8, thereby providing even more evidence of the shifting attitudes toward gay marriage.
A federal appellate court ruled that Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Point Reyes National Seashore can remain open until mid-May when the court hears the company's appeal, thus delaying the creation of the first marine wilderness on the West Coast. ... California experienced the driest first two months of a year on record, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Sierra snowpack is just 66 percent of normal. ... And the BART board of directors voted to raise train fares across the board and parking fees at some stations.