Whether he wins the nomination or not, Rick Perry’s August charge into the top echelon of GOP presidential hopefuls marks at least this turning point: In national Republican politics, Texas is the new California.
Back in the day—say, the 1960s through the 1990s—California was the jumping-off point par excellence in making a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
The reasons were both obvious and subtle: With a population topping 37 million, the state is the nation’s largest. Since the 1970s, California’s huge economy has ranked no lower than eighth and as high as fourth against the nations of the world.
The state was an acknowledged trendsetter not only in culture, through the vast reach of Hollywood, but also in social trends and, especially, in politics. You could make a pretty good case that “the 1960s” began with the “Free Speech” movement at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964-65. Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13, a successful 1978 California ballot initiative to limit property tax increases, was the beginning of the modern “tax revolt,” which Ronald Reagan would ride to the presidency in 1980.