cover image California Comeback: How a “Failed State” Became a Model for the Nation

California Comeback: How a “Failed State” Became a Model for the Nation

Narda Zacchino, with Christopher Scheer. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-64935-7

Los Angeles Times veteran Zacchino does a workmanlike job of presenting the recent history of the Golden State, in service of her contention that its current left-leaning political orientation is a model to be emulated. Readers unfamiliar with the consequences of Enron’s fraudulent manipulation of the energy market or of Proposition 13, the 1978 law that capped property taxes and wrecked the state’s budget, will find both clearly explained here. Current governor Jerry Brown, himself the son of a California governor, is the hero of the book. Zacchino traces his complicated political trajectory—elected in 1974, out by 1983, and reelected in 2010—culminating with his successful push for passage in 2012 of Proposition 30, by which Californians approved a major tax increase to fund basic services. Zacchino does a balanced job of portraying a talented politician who achieved the seemingly impossible. The force of her analysis, however, is vitiated by hyperbolic claims that California is “the key test case” for the entire planet as to whether a “multicultural, democratic, and postindustrial society” can endure in today’s globalized world. (Aug.)