Any state that survives a decade that began under Gray Davis and ends under Arnold Schwarzenegger must be blessed by some special Providence.
And that's not counting the normal quota of fires, floods, mudslides and drought, the near-normal dysfunctions of government or the panic before the great Y2K computer meltdown that didn't happen. No wonder Californians still believe they can have great schools, universities, parks and roads without paying the taxes needed to maintain and grow them.
But the abnormal, the paranormal and the unequivocally weird easily topped the list. Almost forgotten is the energy crisis of 2000-01, and the spiking utility bills, blackouts and near blackouts that came with it. To (literally) add insult to injury, there was Dick Cheney blaming it all on California's eco-freaks even as his friends in the industry were manipulating our prices and jerking around our supplies.
Most of us have probably forgotten the bizarre array of candidates – 135 in all – running for governor in the recall of 2003, not to mention "pay-to-play," Schwarzenegger's "girlie-men" or the credit card that we were going to tear up, again and again.
When the decade began, gay marriage wasn't recognized; in fact, in March of 2000, 61 percent of us voted for an initiative to prohibit it. When the decade ended, same sex marriage was taboo again, but by a much narrower vote. In between we had a six-month spell of reason when, thanks to a court decision, it was allowed. Notwithstanding the dire predictions of the traditionalists, those six months did not see any perceptible erosion in the sanctity of marriage, no greater-than-normal wave of divorces, desertions, polygamy, bestiality, adultery or spousal abuse. Providence to the rescue again.
For lack of a better label, let's call it the 2000 pre-teen decade. In the course of it, Schwarzenegger tacked from unequivocal anti-tax orthodoxy to support of substantial tax increases; from cheering border vigilantism to support for comprehensive immigration reform; from make-my-day threats to sunny optimism. Along the way, he was persuaded, despite his initial reluctance, to sign a major law to control the emission of greenhouse gases.
It's given him a whole new career as world statesman. Not wasting show-biz opportunities, he signed pollution reduction "agreements" with the Brits, with Canadian provinces and probably some others since forgotten, and muscled his way onto a platform in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, California also took the first mincy steps toward modernizing its water policies and inching its creaky water delivery and shaky flood protection systems toward reality.
Because Californians had their doubts about the Iraq war almost from the start, and because most of us voted (most of the time) for Democrats, we were dismissed by conservative pundits as so hopelessly liberal, so dominated by environmentalism, so overwhelmingly pro-abortion and so deeply afflicted by other forms of far-left nuttiness that we had forfeited our claim to be the bellwether for the nation.
In 2000, Fred Barnes wrote a piece for the conservative Weekly Standard called "Why California Doesn't Matter." A couple of years later, a columnist in the respected British journal The Economist called us "the left-out coast." But oddly enough, by the end of the decade, the nation had caught up with us on the wars, began to wake up on climate change, followed us into Obama-land and in state after state radically liberalized its views on gay rights and, in some cases, jumped ahead of us on gay marriage.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.