Barack Obama still took California by almost 60 percent of the vote, a figure exceeded (among states) only by Hawaii (70.6%), Vermont (67%), Rhode Island (62.7%), New York (63.6%), Maryland (61.7%), and Massachusetts (60.8%). And in the California legislative contests, the Democratic Party triumphed handily, and is now poised to gain supermajorities in both the assembly and senate. California, it would seem, is turning into a one-party state.
[. . . ] Mitt Romney took several counties in interior Californian that John McCain lost in 2008. The 2008 election, however, was an unusual contest, as the country was in the midst of an economic meltdown. Better comparisons are the elections of 2000 and 2004. [. . .] Obama gained substantial ground over both John Kerry and Al Gore, winning a number of counties in Southern California and in the Central Valley that had not given a majority of their votes to a Democrat for decades.*
Southern California especially has seen a political transformation over the past few election cycles. In the 2012 election, only Orange and Riverside counties supported Republican Romney, yet as recently as 1988, only one county—Los Angeles—supported Democrat Michel Dukakis. Strikingly evident is the transition of gigantic San Bernardino County from red to the blue. This change is not quite as dramatic as it appears on the map; Obama’s margin was narrow, and the vast majority of the county’s two million inhabitants are clustered in its southwestern corner, with the rest of the county remaining right-wing. Still, southwestern San Bernardino County is part of the so-called Inland Empire, a relatively conservative corner of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area that has been particularly hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis. Despite the hardships of the past four years, San Bernardino County continues to support Obama. As is true in many other parts of Southern California, a growing Hispanic population is helping push the county leftward.
The greater San Francisco Bay Area in northern California underwent its own political transformation two decades earlier. In the 1950s, the region was solidly Republican; at that time, the electoral geography of California was almost the reverse of what it is today (as is generally true for the United States as a whole). In the Bay Area, the watershed election was 1988. Four years earlier, Ronald Reagan lost only San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, and Santa Cruz counties, but by 1988, Napa alone remained in the Republican camp. By 1992, the entire Bay Area had shifted to the Democratic column. Since then, the Democratic margin of victory has only continued to grow.
What's going on? Lewis traces the collapse in Republican strength to its inability to adapt to the state's changing demographics, and to a studied disinterest in, well, reality. The episode of the 47%--40% of whom voted for Romney anyway--is a case in point.
[T]he disdain for reason behind this episode also reveals an ironic turn in the Republican core: a turn, effectively, toward radical postmodernism. When extreme postmodernists on the left began to argue in the 1980s that science is a conspiracy to justify the status quo and that “facts” are constructed to serve reactionary causes, conservative intellectuals were aghast, for good reason, arguing that this nonsensical movement threatened our intellectual heritage. Yet the party seems to have shifted 180 degrees, to the point where facts, reason, and science have come to be seen by many Republican stalwarts as partisan Democrat obstacles to American renewal. Such an attitude does not bode well for the future of the Republican Party. The question now is whether the voice of reason, represented by conservative thinkers like David Brooks and David Frum, will prevail, or whether the likes of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh will continue to guide the party faithful. If the latter course triumphs, the Republican vote in Silicon Valley may well approach the vanishing point.