Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the column in which I dispense advice that no one asked for.
I recently said goodbye to family friends who have had enough of the strange and oppressive landscape of California and moved to a mountain region in a state where people still have unhindered access to plastic straws and public classrooms. I never thought I’d see them go. They were true Californians, committed to their home, their church, their school. Early on in the pandemic as people began to leave California in search of open schools for their kids, my friends talked about their determination to stay, at least until their children finished school, an occasion still years into the future. Many Californians love this state and even through these strange times have determined to remain and to work to build a better state.
My friends are the 16th family I know to have spontaneously picked up and moved in the last 12-18 months. I’ve been keeping a tally, mostly out of disbelief. I’ve never seen anything like it. And these are simply people I know personally. I’m not counting the friends of friends, the relatives of coworkers, the myriad of other stories you hear around here every day about another family moving out. Every last one of them had been defiant about leaving. Every last one of them had a sudden change of heart at one point or another. For some, it was the shutdowns and how it affected their already struggling businesses. For others, it was the prospect of making their dollars go further in a time where uncertainty surrounds us. For most, it was the schools. With mask mandates and school closures and the state failing students in so many ways, many parents simply could not tolerate the chaos.
Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Idaho have seen a sudden influx of Golden State escapees. Even the faithful have begun to make their exits.
I shared the news of my friends leaving on social media, and the responses were as expected. A few loyal Californians reiterated that they would never leave; they choose to stand and fight. Many more from outside of the state took the time to reprimand me for sending blue state voters their way (as if I had anything to do with it).
“Don’t California my *insert red state here*!”
“Fine, but tell them don’t come here and vote for all the same things they’re running away from!”
“They’d better not bring that left coast nonsense with them. Tell them we vote Republican here!”
Of course, I understand that people aren’t really scolding me personally. They’re just reacting and that’s really what social media is for. But I do find it annoying. For one thing, it isn’t up to me where these people go or how they vote when they get there. I certainly wouldn’t presume to lecture them about their voting as we say our tearful goodbyes.
For another thing, it’s not my business how they vote and frankly, it’s not yours either.
Here’s the ugly truth. These people are free to move about the country and set up their residences wherever they wish. It is their constitutional right. They will vote how they want when they get there. That is also their constitutional right. They’re coming whether you want them to or not. And they’re coming with their values and their principles and many of them may not align with your own.
The answer isn’t to whine and scold. That’s lazy.
The answer to the problem of blue staters escaping to red states actually requires some effort on your part. Screaming on social media is easy, real action is hard.
You’re going to have to run for local office.
I know, the thought just made you cringe. You just came up with half a dozen excuses for why you can’t possibly run for a local office. The kids are in sports and that takes up a lot of time. You can’t afford to make effort, financially or time-wise. You hate speaking in public. Your life is far too busy for elected office. You don’t need one more thing to do.
On and on and on.
If you just used any of those excuses, take this one moment to understand that every time you complain about the state of politics and politicians, you are part of the problem. Good people won’t run, for all the reasons you just thought of. So who does that leave?
Stop complaining about the quality of our politicians if you can’t summon the stones to run yourself.
All that being said, if you want to protect your way of life from all the icky Californians coming your way, you’re going to have to shore up your political offices. Now.
I mean, right now. Look around you. Look at all the unrest and angst at local levels across the nation. Parents are forced to protest at school board meetings, barbers have to protest on capitol steps, citizens are showing up to city council meetings to protest in droves. Why? Because good people like you sat out local elections, thinking someone else would do the job. As it turns out, the “someone else” to do the job were left-wing progressives who love government and love the idea of serving in government in perpetuity.
You let it happen. You thought you were too good for public service (and you probably are) but the problem is that the people you left it to are simply not good enough. And when they vacate those seats, a whole new crop of blue staters coming in to fill those positions and continue the work of changing the culture of your town, city or region, one silly local municipal position at a time.
I’m not suggesting you run for Senate or Congress. There are a ton of elected positions in your municipalities. I would bet you don’t know half of them. Take a look. Do a Google search of available offices, and choose something.
Get in the game.
You are not a bystander. You are a citizen. Quit complaining and be one.
It’s our only hope.