California has been a beacon, a vacation spot, a paradise and promised land ever since its headlong enlargement in a rush of gold fever.

It’s additionally been a perennial supply of envy, mockery and contempt.

That naysaying has gained a lot higher forex in recent times as California’s population has contracted for the primary time in additional than a century.

The “exodus” has turn into an business, stoking actual property markets from Nevada to Tennessee, fanning the red-versus-blue political flames and launching a thousand what-went-wrong analyses.

The newest insult — or bracing actuality test? — got here final week in a Los Angeles Times poll that discovered 50% of adults nationwide consider California is in decline. (Bummer, man.)

Almost half the Republicans surveyed mentioned the state is “not likely American.” No matter which means.

L.A. Instances columnists Mark Z. Barabak (a proud California native) and Anita Chabria (a contented Ohio transplant) focus on the ballot, the hating by haters and the state of their troubled however nonetheless much-loved state.

Barabak: So first off, Anita, are you OK? You haven’t choked to demise on the noxious air air pollution, or been run over by some smash-and-grab robber making a getaway by way of your pothole-filled neighborhood?

Chabria: To paraphrase Mark Twain, reviews of our demise are significantly exaggerated — once more. The Golden State stays alive, kicking and, dare I say it, a thriving a part of the US.

However I’m troubled that just about 30% of respondents agreed with the assertion that California is “not likely American.” Almost half of Republicans thought that, which is much less surprising. However inexplicably, 21% of Californians did, too. That’s extra than simply the Fox crowd regurgitating the right-wing narrative of California because the spawning floor of social evils.

Individuals, we joined the union in 1850 — forward of Kansas, West Virginia and Nebraska to call a couple of. We’ve been American longer than lots of the so-called heartland states. I’ve been puzzled for days over whether or not a 3rd of America is horrible at geography, or historical past — or in the event that they assume it’s some form of dig at California.

What do you assume, Mark? Are we in truth not American in some basic manner I don’t perceive?

Barabak: I suppose it relies upon the way you outline American.

In case you’re speaking a few sure type of America — one that’s overwhelmingly white and conservative in its social, political and cultural values — than, no, California fails to measure as much as that, er, commonplace.

We’ve been a majority-minority state now for greater than a technology. Politically, the state has leaned strongly Democratic for many years, after supporting Republicans for a lot of our historical past.

Culturally, we’ve at all times tended towards broadmindedness — or being overly permissive, within the eyes of critics. Recent begins and reinvention have been a lure for the reason that first gold seekers — those digging precise nuggets — flocked right here from the extra straitened and class-conscious East Coast.

As you recommend, it’s not simply Fox Information. There are many alienated Californians — the state has greater than 5 million registered Republicans, which exceeds the inhabitants of many states — who really feel neglected in Sacramento and regarded down upon by the supposed sophisticates in San Francisco and Los Angeles. That most likely accounts for the 21% that had you scratching your head.

However to be clear, a whole lot of of us interviewed within the ballot are clearly viewing California by way of a partisan lens. Or, maybe it needs to be mentioned, whereas sporting a thick set of blinders.

I imply, 3 in 10 Republicans mentioned the state has a worse pure atmosphere than different states. Actually? Go shout that from the top of Yosemite Falls. Or in Santa Barbara at sunset. Or on a sunny winter day in Joshua Tree National Park, as of us within the Midwest thaw their snow shovels to allow them to dig their vehicles out of the drifts.

That mentioned, we’ve acquired loads of issues, no?

Chabria: Each place does and, in fact, we aren’t any exception.

The survey highlighted one downside most of us agree on: The price of residing in California is simply too excessive. Greater than 80% of California residents felt that manner, and it’s no shock.

I’d enterprise to guess that has loads to do with the worth of housing. Individuals can’t afford hire, which results in an entire host of different issues — including older people being forced into homelessness.

I genuinely consider that California’s future relies on discovering a option to construct huge quantities of latest housing, not only a few items right here and there. We’d like the psychological well being beds promised by Proposition 1 on the March ballot and to search out methods to create extra reasonably priced houses for the broad swath of middle-class Californians.

And that’s only for starters.

However the survey additionally identified that almost all of Californians, together with myself, are comfortable residing right here.

So the Huntington Beach City Council can rant all they need, and the haters can hate. California will at all times stand for range, freedom and tolerance — all values that sadly appear to be rising scarcer east of the Sierra.

The place do you see the brilliant spots, Mark?

Barabak: Other than its unsurpassed physical beauty, California continues to be a spot that attracts innovators and entrepreneurs. It’s nonetheless a harbor for the politically persecuted and people who really feel undesirable or unwelcome residing elsewhere as their real selves.

Sure, our gross sales and earnings taxes are excessive in comparison with another locations. Housing, as you steered, is obscenely costly and we desperately want extra of it.

However take a look at life in different cheaper, supposedly higher locations. Look into the cost of insurance in Florida. Get nickel and dimed each few miles on toll roads again East. Sweat your manner by way of a summer time in Texas and hope the ability grid — and your air conditioning — doesn’t exit.

Certain, our authorities regulates with a heavier hand than elsewhere, and it’s not exhausting to search out examples of extra. However isn’t it good, for example, to breathe clear air and be spared the teary eyes and clenched chest that smog-suffocated of us in Southern California skilled not so many decades ago?

Talking of seeing by way of the gloom, right here’s one heartening discovering in that in any other case dismal ballot: The perspective of younger individuals.

Seven in 10 of these ages 18-34 see California as a trendsetter and, at 43% of respondents, had been twice as possible as different People to say they’d take into account transferring to the state. They consider California’s future is vivid. Me, too.

I’ve moved round loads, together with the compulsory stint — for a political hack like me — in Washington, D.C. I assumed I’d spent my profession masking our nation’s capital, however lasted simply seven years. Like Dorothy, who went all the best way to Oz to know she actually needed to be in Kansas, California tugged at me the entire time I used to be away.

For all of the state’s difficulties — or challenges, in the event you want — I can’t think about ever residing anywhere else. California resides deep in my coronary heart.

How about you?

Chabria: I like California.

As a mixed-race girl with mixed-race children, I worth its tolerance and variety. I worth its willingness to battle and lead at this essential time when democracy is fragile. I worth that it’s really a live-and-let-live type of place, even when individuals don’t agree.

To me, the ballot outcomes say much less about life in California than the unhappy effectiveness of right-wing political propaganda and the ability of fearmongering over reality. MAGA wants California to be a villain, to signify the supposed failures of the Democratic Celebration, particularly round crime and immigration, and actuality be damned.

If nobody else desires them, we’ll take the drained and poor, the huddled lots. California at all times has and at all times will embody the American dream, that every of us issues and every of us belongs.

That respect for fairness and equality is what makes us the Golden State.

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