George Boardman: Americans can’t decide if they love or hate California — maybe it’s both
Observations from the center stripe: Good business edition
SO MUCH for our bad business environment: California, currently the sixth largest economy in the world, is closing in on England for the fifth spot … IF ELECTRIC cars are the future, why does the state Legislature have to prop up the market with $3 billion in buyer incentives? … I WONDER how contributors to Trump’s reelection campaign feel about their money being used to pay junior’s legal bills … JUNIOR’S MEETING with the Russians is the first public evidence of Trump’s willingness to work with a foreign adversary to win the election … BURNING MAN is going to lose its vibe if it keeps associating with outfits like PG&E … FEWER ED questions for dads: Viagra and Cialis won’t be advertising on NFL broadcasts this season …
You may find this hard to believe, but California is the state hated most by our fellow Americans.
The Golden State is quite popular with foreign tourists, and San Francisco and Los Angeles rank among the top five most popular cities. Whether you are at Big Sur or Lake Tahoe, walking through the Mendocino redwoods or hanging out at Pismo Beach, you are likely to encounter a foreign accent.
California is even popular with domestic tourists — much more popular than places like Texas, which sends the third most tourists to the state, more likely to Disneyland than Berkeley. But for whatever reason — our politics, money, attitude — our fellow Americans don’t like the people who came here from their home states.
That was the conclusion of a Public Policy poll taken in 2012. Only five states had a negative image and California had the worst one — 44 percent of people surveyed had a negative opinion of the state. In other words, we were more disliked than Illinois, New Jersey, Mississippi and Utah, the four states right behind us.
Women were more forgiving of our foibles, but Republican men really hate the state, and that’s where a lot of the animosity comes from. It’s not easy being the nation’s left-most state, and the situation hasn’t improved since that 2012 poll.
Republican political strategists have learned to exploit this animosity, making “San Francisco values” shorthand for every social trend that scares or angers conservatives. In the recent race for an open Congressional seat in Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff was portrayed in television ads as “San Francisco’s congressman.”
The ads, shot at Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and in front of cable cars, showed hipsters and hippies praising Ossoff as “one of us.” Just to make sure people got the message, one of those “interviewed” wore a T-shirt that joined a picture of Ossoff with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. The ad ended with a cable car wrapped in an Ossoff banner.
Political animosity is particularly strong in the Lone Star State, where the overarching issue of Texas’ elected officials appears to be fending off the malevolent influence of California, widely seen as the state’s antithesis. In the words of Governor Greg Abbott:
“Texas is being California-ized, and you may not even be noticing it. This is 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.” He warned that the “Texas miracle” could become a “California nightmare.”
Even the few elected Democrats in the state have been known to pile on, and newspapers often feature gloating stories about the number of Californians fleeing to Texas, as an indication of the vast superiority of the Texas way of life. When California added Texas to its list of states where official travel is prohibited for passing a law that legalizes discrimination in adoptions, Abbott shot back: “Of course, California does have a reason to be angry at Texas. Thousands of folks fled California’s high taxes and liberal attitudes to come to Texas …”
Even the states that border the Golden State have mixed emotions about their big neighbor. While they love the money we spend there and the athletes we provide their institutions of higher learning, they just as soon we not linger too long.
Oregon has been particularly vocal about our malevolent influence going back to the ’70s, when a zero population growth movement called the James G. Blaine Society coined the term “Don’t Californicate Oregon.” Whether it’s rising real estate prices, traffic congestion or air pollution, Californians are to blame.
Golden Staters, apparently carrying large bags of cash, are Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to rising real estate prices. A couple that moved recently from Los Angeles to Portland had their house and car — a Prius, no less — spray painted with the words “Go back to California.” That’s no way to greet a new neighbor.
Nevada officials, probably resentful for our development of a gambling industry that has put a big dent in the state’s economy, like to remind their fellow citizens with pride that “We are not California.” Of course, they’ve never owned up to stealing the state’s name from you-know-where, and they apparently find Burning Man — an event that says “California” loud and clear — good business to have around.
Arizona, which never recovered from the court victory that gave us more water from the Colorado River than they get, seeks revenge by sending legions of Zonies to the San Diego region every year to escape the state’s hellish heat. You can count on hearing hostile remarks and getting the cold shoulder in other parts of the west if you have a California license plate on your car.
To be sure, Californians have some traits that irritate our fellow Americans. Many red state residents are mad about our vocal opposition to the Trump administration, our holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to the environment and other progressive issues, and we haven’t made many friends in the eight states on our do-not-fly list for taking actions that offend our liberal sensibilities.
Still, people find us irresistible. The four states that contribute the most to California’s $126 billion tourism industry are (in order) Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Oregon. Tourist spending in California has increased for seven consecutive years and we are still the No. 1 destination state, according to Visit California. “California is a very popular destination, both nationally and internationally,” according to industry consultant Dean Runyan.
So be nice to any out-of-staters you encounter between now and Labor Day. Forgo the condescending remarks about their home states, and try not to boast about our 800 plus miles of unparalleled coast, the rugged beauty of our mountains, our dynamic economy, first-class university system, and friendly residents. Did I mention we’re the entertainment capital of the world?
We don’t want them to return home with the wrong impression of the Golden State.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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