Democrats, Pay Attention to What’s Happening in California
California is a land of contrasts. The state is home to staggering wealth, world-remaking tech companies and some of the world’s boldest climate policy. It also has immense income inequality, arguably the worst housing crisis in the country and the highest poverty rate in the nation when you factor in housing costs.
The dysfunction of our national politics is often attributed to division and gridlock. But in California, Democrats are at the wheel. No Republican has held statewide office in over a decade. And in many major cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example — Republicans have little or no political power. For that reason, the tensions and difficulties facing the Golden State are often a signal of what is to come for the Democratic Party nationally.
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If California has long been a bellwether for national liberal politics, Senator Scott Wiener has been something of a bellwether for California politics. He has represented San Francisco in the California Senate since 2016 and, before that, served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was introducing bill after bill to address the state’s housing affordability crisis long before the term “YIMBY” was a widespread political label. And in recent years, he’s introduced legislation that would decriminalize certain psychedelics, provide access to therapy to all incarcerated Californians and pilot supervised injection sites.
So I wanted to talk to Mr. Wiener about the political workings of his weird city and state — a place where traditional labels break down, where abundant resources meet equally abundant problems and where change is actually happening.
This episode contains strong language.
You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.
(A full transcript of the episode is available here.)
This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Mixing by Jeff Geld. The show’s production team is Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Erik Mebust, Misha Chellam, Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.