California doesn’t vote much like the rest of the nation any more. It favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 30 point margin, the second most Democratic result (after Hawaii) in the nation. California voted 1 to 3 percent more Democratic than the nation in 1988, 1992 and 1996. Since then it has shifted to become more Democratic than the national result: 5 percent more in 2000, 6 percent more in 2004, 8 percent more in 2008, 9 percent more in 2012 and 13 percent more in 2016. This is the first time in American history that our largest state has voted at one end of the partisan spectrum.
These results make mincemeat of the argument that California ought to go first because it’s typical of the nation as a whole. And of course California’s large size means it can’t be the kind of venue where personal campaigning and grassroots organization can propel an otherwise little known candidate ahead, as Iowa and New Hampshire have repeatedly done.
Quite the contrary: California requires huge amounts of money and favors candidates with national (or California) name identification. Perhaps that would help Kamala Harris, elected California’s attorney general in 2010 and 2014 and U.S. senator in 2016. But it’s not clear that helping Harris helps the Democratic party. She seems well to the left of Hillary Clinton on many issues, and while that’s not a general election problem in California, it could be in most of the rest of the country.
I see no downside to this.