Is the red wave starting in California?

But could California Republicans and independents be the ultimate beneficiaries of “the vibe shift”?

There has been cautious optimism from Democrat haters before, only for them to swiftly suffer humiliation. Case in point: the disastrous performance of California conservative eminence grise Larry Elder, “the Sage of South Central,” in last year’s gubernatorial recall. Still, that was before the full fallout from Afghanistan, the comeuppance to the White House on inflation, eight-dollar gas, and the astonishing sight of the parked-ships supply chain crunch I saw firsthand dotting the paradisiacal sunset in Huntington Beach last fall.

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Agitants in a more conservative direction caution that any “return to form” may take election cycles, and not just this one. Still, the state’s demographics are striking: notably Hispanic and Asian at a time when the Democrats are plainly bleeding those votes. And the state-level and national mood is as sour as ever. As a contemporary in San Francisco once remarked, “California is still the future. The future just sucks.” Or as Republican candidate for Senate Jon Elist told me, “California is worth fighting for.”

Elist, 37, is potentially in poll position in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” to take on appointed incumbent Alex Padilla, a Democrat, in the general election in the fall. He told me he’s been somewhat frustrated by the apathy of conservative bigwigs in the state, loath to dispense with resources in a Blue Mecca, considering themselves exiles in their own land. He attributes Elder’s poor performance, yes, to a vibe shift so to speak, but also to a high number of Republican voters who stayed home in 2021, believing the election integrity frustrations out of Mar-A-Lago. It is a line I’ve not heard so much before in real life. It is, of course, always the anxiety of Mitch McConnell, or a Mitt Romney, and the voter fraud narrative did plausibly cost the GOP two Senate seats in Georgia. But Elist says he cares about the subject on two fronts: you’ve got to vote, and the establishment has to care about making election integrity a priority: “voter ID,” “poll observers,” the works, “this should not be partisan.”

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