The recent California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco exposed the divide between the state’s progressive and working-class voters. Progressives, in their militant certitude, support left-wing policies that often don’t affect them; it’s the working class that suffers the consequences of these proposals. But the Green New Deal, widely embraced by party leaders, pushed too far, triggering a backlash at the convention. The state’s private-sector labor unions, notably the building trades, organized a “Blue Collar Revolution” protest against the Democrats’ climate legislation.
The Democrats are calling for the elimination of fossil fuels by 2030, which would result in California’s immiseration, especially for workers in the state’s energy-production sector, the nation’s fourth-largest. In 2012, the oil and gas industry employed over 400,000 Californians, but these workers—unionized and well-paid—can expect pink slips with the green package. California’s renewable mandates also threaten the building-trades unions, which count 400,000 members statewide—a sizable contingent, though considerably below the industry’s 2007 numbers.
While new wealth drives demand for expensive housing, building restrictions that stymie expansion into suburbia limit the sector’s growth. Not long ago, building-trade union members were considered part of California’s aristocracy, but they can no longer afford median-priced homes in any of the state’s urban counties. Residential sales have dropped statewide, and California’s rate of new housing permits has fallen behind the national average, making construction workers’ economic prospects even dimmer. And the manufacturing sector has stagnated—this despite a 4 percent national expansion, along with 5 percent and 14 percent growth in neighboring Arizona and Nevada.
California’s working- and middle class can expect this trend to continue as the state’s climate-regulation polices become ever more draconian. The cost of living will rise, and Californians can anticipate more taxes on items like soda, guns, and tires. Yet progressives ignore the burdens these put on residents in the name of equity and climate change. In an effort to hide their huge carbon footprint, it’s worth noting, Silicon Valley’s tech leaders have transferred servers and relocated facilities to Texas, the Midwest, and China—places with higher rates of greenhouse-gas emissions—and sending jobs out of state, too.
Betrayal? The system is working as advertised. As Fred Siegel wrote in his 2014 history of the American left, The Revolt Against the Masses, “The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. ‘Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,’ Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, ‘and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.’ Alienated from middle-class American life, liberalism drew on an idealized image of ‘organic’ pre-modern folkways and rhapsodized about a future harmony that would reestablish the proper hierarchy of virtue in a post-bourgeois, post-democratic world.”
Gavin Newsom (at least tacitly) approves that message.