Befitting a land that accounts for one-eighth of the nation’s population – 38 million Californians vs. 316 million Americans, per the most recent U.S. Census count – the Golden State is also home to the same ratio of America’s millionaires (777,624 such households in California; 6.1 million nationwide, according to Phoenix Marketing International’s annual report).
That California total will grow by one if, as advertised, actor/activist Alec Baldwin makes good on his pronouncement to relocate from New York City to Los Angeles. Baldwin’s tipping point, as conveyed in this epic as-told-to rant: he’s tired of being misquoted and misunderstood; maligned and maltreated by the paparazzi, liberal pundits and a modern media culture of snap judgment.
The City of Angels, Baldwin believes, offers a more realistic shot at privacy. As he rationalized in his manifesto: “L.A. is a place where you live behind a gate, you get in a car, your interaction with the public is minimal.”
That may be so. Photographers won’t hound Baldwin the moment when he steps out the front door with his wife and infant – a constant flashpoint in the streets of Manhattan. He might be in for a surprise should he go dining or shopping.
But what if Baldwin succeeds in reinventing himself as a 21st Century male Garbo? At some point, won’t he start craving attention and the sound of his own voice?
If so, here’s a suggestion: run for public office in California.
It’s not like the thought hasn’t crossed Baldwin’s mind. He’s on the record as having flirted with a Senate run in Connecticut and a mayoral bid in New York City. And he has celebrity friends who like to hang out at the political intersection of vanity and self-convinced nobility. That would include actor Warren Beatty, who just a few years was making life miserable for then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (it’s worth noting that Baldwin has kind words for Jay Billington Bulworth in his otherwise blistering takedown of the entertainment industry).
A political run in California might suit Baldwin given an A-list liberal celebrity never has given it a go – on the Democratic side, at least. Besides, it might be a cure what currently California Democrats, which is the lack of a fire-breathing progressive crusader.
Consider last weekend’s Democratic state convention in Los Angeles: party activists passed a resolution supporting marijuana legalization and heckled Gov. Jerry Brown over his support of fracking. But there was no great crusader – just a series of incumbents warning aboutcomplacency. Baldwin, with his outsider image and decidedly liberal positions changes that (one thing he’s not suited to discuss that liberals love: income equality. A Forbes study found 2013’s ten highest-paid actors earned $465 million vs. $181 million for the top ten actresses).
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A big stretch of land along I-10 and the southern route from the East Coast to California: Texas. But it’s not a stopping point for liberal Democratic ambitions – not for now, as least, as last week’s statewide primary showed.
The winner on the Democratic side of Texas’ gubernatorial primary was State Sen. Wendy Davis. She won big (a 60-point margin of victory). Still, her party’s turnout was light despite all the talk about Texas one day going into the blue column. Davis received 432,000 votes vs. 1.2 million for Republican nominee Greg Abbott; four years ago, in Texas’ 2010 gubernatorial primary, the Democratic nominee collected 517,000 votes.
Of particular concern to the Davis campaign going forward: she lost 7 of the 14 counties along the Rio Grande, which as this map shows is the most fertile ground in Texas for a Democratic statewide hopeful. Davis’ problem, her opponents contend: she rose to prominence thanks to her filibuster of an abortion bill; last Tuesday, that stand may have cost her with pro-life Catholic Latino voters.
The bottom line: Davis trailed Abbott by only 6 points last October. The Republican now leads by double digits.
So if you’re Alec Baldwin, keep driving west.
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And if California politics isn’t Alec Baldwin’s next big role? He could always prove Thomas Wolfe wrong and return home to the Big Apple. For by 2017, the locals might be clamoring for a new mayor.
Only two months into his new job, Bill de Blasio has managed to rankle his constituents over a very public war with public charter schools, contacting the NYPD when a supporter was taken into custody over a suspended drivers license, getting caught on camera in a high-speed motorcade just two days after unveiling a 62-point “safe street” initiative forcing New Yorkers to slow down; opting to be first city mayor in over two decades not to march in next week’s St Patrick’s Day Parade – and, maybe silliest of all, feuding with television weather Al Roker after a mayoral decision to keep the city’s school open during a snowstorm.
The politest way to describe the early days of the de Blasio Administration: the man has a steep learning curve. New Yorkers are less polite: a 39% job approval rating, which is 11 points lower than his predecessor at this point in his first term, just four months after winning 73% of the vote in the November election.
All of which sounds like the perfect opportunity for that long-anticipated Baldwin mayoral campaign, if he finds that life in the gated Golden State isn’t so secluded after all.
The only problem with the actor throwing his hat in the ring: should he run, he won’t be able to hide.
Follow Bill Whalen on Twitter: @hooverwhalen