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EDITORIAL: Progressive initiatives crash and burn in deep-blue California

Angry at being blamed for the Democratic Party’s lackluster showing in congressional races, progressives returned fire over the weekend at moderates who complained that the party’s radical left dragged down candidates in several states and cost Democrats seats in the lower chamber.

But those activists are firing blanks powered by magical thinking. A quick look at the California initiative results reveals that, even in the deepest of blue states, voters rejected the hard-left agenda.

Proposition 16 would have re­imposed racial and ethnic quotas in the Golden State. California voters banned such preferences more than two decades ago. But lawmakers in Sacramento, high on the fumes of identity politics, figured the time was ripe to bring back affirmative action in college admissions and government contracts. The measure failed spectacularly, 57-43.

Proposition 21 sought to allow local governments to implement rent control on older residential properties. The proposal would have only exacerbated California’s housing problems, but progressives continue to embrace this economically illiterate policy. Prop 21 went down badly, 60-40.

Proposition 22 was an effort by ride-sharing companies to get out from under a Sacramento bill that sought to criminalize the gig economy as a sop to organized labor. Progressives abhor the notion that some workers actually prefer the freedom of working at their own schedule because, as independent contractors, they may not be subjected to certain labor laws and are more difficult to organize. Uber and Lyft had threatened to pull out of California. Voters sided with the ride-sharing companies over Democrats and Big Labor, easily approving Prop 22, 59-41.

Proposition 15 was an effort by public employee unions to raise commercial property taxes in order to stem the hemorrhaging of government pension plans. The measure would have created a split roll property tax system so that commercial properties could be taxed at a higher rate than residential real estate. The measure would have cost state businesses billions in higher taxes, further adding to California’s already oppressive business environment. Voters said no, however, 52-48.

Proposition 18 would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. Democrats have floated the idea in recent years of lowering the voting age to 16 or even younger. The move is a matter of pure self-interest — polls show teenagers would more likely vote Democratic. Prop 18 went down 56-44.

None of this should be a surprise. Twice previously, government-run health care was put before voters — in Vermont (dark blue) and Colorado (light blue) — and both times it crashed and burned. Bottom line: The idea that a large swath of American voters crave a progressive revolution is pure fiction, even in California.

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