The Death of California

In “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Victor Hugo told the tale of Esmerelda, a gypsy dancer falsely accused of attempted murder, set to be hanged by an unjust state. Quasimodo, the titular hunchback, swings down from the cathedral of Notre Dame and saves her, carrying her off while crying “Sanctuary!” In fact, throughout European history, churches provided places of safe haven for accused criminals; the claim of “sanctuary” is made to this day by people seeking refuge from the law.

It is however strange to see sanctuary language used to protect abortion.

The secular sacrament abortion has become so sacred that Gavin Newsom (the governor of California) recently announced his intention to make his state a first abortion sanctuary in the country. “We’ll be a sanctuary,” Newsom announced. “We are looking at ways to support that inevitability and looking at ways to expand our protections.”

The state of California, according to Newsom’s Democratic legislative allies, could provide travel expenses including gas, lodging, transportation, and childcare for those seeking to kill their unborn children. Already, some 15% of America’s abortions occur in California, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This number would rise if the state began to subsidize abortions across the country.

None of this is shocking. It is striking, however, to see California adopting ever more radical social policies as it sinks deeper into the mud. This is a state that currently houses—no pun intended—some 162,000 homeless people, a number that increased approximately 24% from 2018 to 2020. California is home to approximately 25% of the homeless population in the United States.

California crime has become an epidemic. Major cities are ravaged by smash and grabs, and wealthy residents are even being murdered in their own homes. This week, the head of the Los Angeles police union, Jamie McBride, warned people to stay out of the city, explaining, “We can’t guarantee your safety. It is really, really out of control.” Even former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa laments, “Rome is burning.”

And California’s economy trails the nation’s, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that California has the highest unemployment rate in the country, 7.3%. And while California is currently experiencing a seven-day rolling average of just 67 COVID-19 deaths—compared with 550 at the height of the pandemic—Newsom recently reimposed another monthlong statewide indoor mask mandate.

Why is California continuing to embrace ever-more radical policies? Because radicalism is the moral justification of policy failure. Democrats may argue that crime and homelessness have gotten out of control and that the economy is stagnating and businesses are leaving.

But that’s morally excusable because California seeks a higher purpose: the purpose of leftist utopianism. Thus, Newsom has little to say about California’s stagnation, but much to say about how California will push new laws targeting gun ownership.

Democrats have claimed for years that California is the most populous state in the country. We can only hope they’re wrong.


The Daily Signal offers a variety perspectives. This article is not meant to represent the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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