Since at least 1978; when it comes to politics, California has often served as a harbinger of things to come, for it was that year that Taxpayer Advocate and rabble rouser Howard Jarvis put Washington on notice when he led a crusade to roll back property taxes through his Proposition 13 initiative, two years before Ronald Reagan was sent to Washington to cut taxes.
So what lessons can be learned from this primary season in California that have national implications?
First, and perhaps most significantly, whatever deficiencies which may have been present in her candidacy for vice president, Sarah Palin has inspired a generation of Republican women who have become emboldened to pursue public office, and California was a prime example of the phenomenon. Californians are of course clearly comfortable with female candidates like Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who currently hold the state's two Senate seats, but the victory of two Republican female candidates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in their respective races for Governor and the U.S. Senate are a powerful indication that Republican women are now a force to be reckoned with. For Democratic operatives this will mean that they will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out new ways to run their candidates against these powerful GOP women candidates as efforts to paint GOP nominees as anti-women or anti-minority will likely fall flat if used against either Whitman or Fiorina in the fall.
Interestingly, Fiorina and Whitman have staked out very different positions on abortion, with Whitman being fiercely pro-choice and Fiorina being pro-life enough to win the endorsement of the likes of Sarah Palin and the pro-life leaning group the Susan B. Anthony List. Whitman's trouncing of her lone major opponent Steve Poizner likely happened for a number of reasons: Conservative voters may not have bought Poizner's recent conversion to the pro-life side or they may have just grown tired of losing and realized that their best bet to avoid a Jerry Brown governorship was to hold their noses and vote for with the woman who put EBay on the map.
While Fiorina and Whitman, both political rookies, project excitement and a certain aura of possibility, their opponents, Jerry Brown who governed California from 1975 to 1983 and Barbara Boxer who has been in the Senate since 1992 are both longtime fixtures on the California political scene and both are in for the political battles of their lives.
The fact that Fiorina and Whitman, with no elective offices held and coming from the Liberal and Conservative wings of the GOP, are set to take on two incumbents may indicate that California voters are less interested in ideological consistency this time around, and more willing to take a chance with political neophytes. If Brown and Boxer are to prevail against these challenges, they may need to themselves find a way to ride the winds of change.
Mark Joseph is a producer/author and editor of Bullypulpit.com . His book Wild Card: The Promise & Peril of Sarah Palin releases in October.