Steve Hilton: Is Loony Left Gov. Jerry Brown killing California? What does that mean for America?

Exuberant Democrats – carried along by the self-righteousness of their authoritarian and puritanical identity politics zealotry, and self-confidence in the supposedly inevitable electoral annihilation of President Trump and Republicans in November – are starting to see a long-cherished liberal dream as an imminent reality: California as a model for the whole nation.

You’ll get the picture if you read a widely-shared article published earlier this year by Medium, written by tech guru Peter Leyden, headlined “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War.” The article is subtitled: “Why there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history – one side must win.”

The article describes California as “the harbinger of America’s political future ... a model for America as a whole.”

The fact that Democrats in California now have complete control of all statewide political offices, the state Legislature and local government in cities like San Francisco is touted as great news for “working people.”

The author celebrates the fact that political debates in California involve choices between different degrees of left, with other voices excluded – even though independents and Republicans still comprise a majority of voters in the state, according to the latest party identification data.

The vision of a Californiaized United States is captured in all its glory in the concluding paragraph of the article: “America can’t afford more political paralysis. One side or the other must win. This is a civil war than can be won without firing a shot. But it is a fundamental conflict between two worldviews that must be resolved in short order. California, as usual, resolved it early. The Democrats won; the Republicans lost. The conservative way forward lost; the progressive way forward began. ... California is the future, always about 15 years ahead of the rest of the country. That means that America, starting in 2018, is going to resolve it too.”

Lest you think these are just the random ramblings of a Silicon Valley bubble-dweller, let me point out that the article was not just widely shared but publicly endorsed by such luminaries as the founder and CEO of Twitter. And I can testify from personal experience that this is exactly what members of the California liberal elite actually think. It’s just that few of them say so publicly.

So we’d better take this seriously. Democrats, as the old political adage goes, now want to do to America what they’ve done to California. It’s an alarming prospect.

It’s true that California is the world’s fifth-largest economy; possesses (in my view) unparalleled natural beauty and cultural diversity; and has a spirit of openness and adventure – not to mention great weather – that makes it the best place in the world. I’m a proud California resident and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

But increasingly, it seems that many of the Golden State’s extraordinary advantages are being recklessly undermined by a governor who likes to think of himself as a beacon of rectitude – but who has a record of bumbling incompetence, special interest corruption and ideological extremism that places him firmly on the Loony Left.

Let’s start with the incompetence. It’s surely quite an accomplishment for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to have presided simultaneously over a massive splurge in public spending and a reduction in public services. Health spending has ballooned, but actual health outcomes have not improved. Meanwhile, California is on the brink of a fiscal crisis.

So where has all the money gone? That’s where the special interest corruption comes in. Brown has repeatedly used public money to reward his – and his party’s – paymasters in the public sector unions.

The generous pensions of public employees remain essentially unreformed – that’s the main cause of the looming fiscal crisis. And while workers in the private sector suffer wage stagnation, Brown has thrown pay raise after pay raise at powerful unions like the prison officers.

In interviews, Brown poses as a responsible grownup holding back the tide of mayhem that his more liberal successors will inevitably unleash. But Brown is ending his California career much as he started it: on the fringes, ideologically extreme and the modern-day symbol of the Loony Left. You see it in his extraordinary position on immigration, pandering to the Democrats’ extremist open borders base with his utterly irresponsible “sanctuary state” preening.

And you see it in Brown’s bizarre championing of Proposition 47, which essentially decriminalized the theft of any item under $950. His stance has been a social policy disaster, giving a green light to drug-fueled crime throughout the state.

Above all, Brown will be remembered for his colossal failures on the economy and poverty. California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, the highest level of inequality – and at the same time, the highest taxes.

The cost of living, particularly housing and transportation, is accelerating out of control for working people. It’s no surprise that the number of people moving out of the state has more than doubled in the last three years, with little compensating inward migration. Per capita, California is 46th out of 50 states in attracting newcomers from other parts of the country.

But the most shameful and vivid symbols of Jerry Brown’s failure must surely be the staggering, Third World-style homeless encampments on the streets of California’s big cities.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homeless population in California rose by 14 percent from 2016 to 2017 to 134,000. In Los Angeles the increase was even worse – 26 percent in one year. In sharp contrast, the national homeless population increased by only 1 percent in 2017, to about 553,000, driven primarily by the increase in California homelessness.

What a grotesque epitaph for this self-styled champion of the people. The truth is that Brown’s rule has been great for the rich; grim for the rest.

Now it’s rumored that Brown, who will shortly complete his fourth term as California’s chief executive, is eyeing a national future. He has run unsuccessfully for president three times: in 1976, 1980 and 1992. Party insiders are convinced he wants a fourth go at that too. Given his track record as governor, that’s a frightening prospect for America.

Hubristic Democrats may survey their blue enclaves in the Golden State and dream of exporting their Loony Left revolution to the rest of the country. But any serious look at what life is actually like for working people in California should bring that fantasy crashing to the ground.

We’ll be debating all this on Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on “The Next Revolution” on Fox News Channel – hope you can join us!

Steve Hilton is host of "The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton" on Fox News Channel and author of the forthcoming book "Positive Populism: Revolutionary Ideas to Rebuild Economic Security, Family and Community in America." Follow him on Twitter @SteveHiltonx.