Last week a friend posted an article from the San Jose Mercury News, “How Californians Moving to Nevada are changing the state’s politics,” on her Facebook page. It got a grumpy reaction from another friend, who wrote, “Stay in California if you like your f%%**£ laws. Leave us alone.”
I asked the grumpy poster who she meant by “us.” Did she include the 75% of Nevada residents born in another state or country? Did she include the 19% of Nevada residents born in California? Or the 10% born in the Midwest? Or the 10% born in other western states? What about the 21% born in another country?
Of all U.S. states, Nevada has the highest percentage of residents born in another state or country: only 25% of Nevada residents were born here. And since California has a large population and it’s right next door, it makes sense that many people who now live in Nevada were born in California — including me.
It also makes sense that people moving to Nevada from other places don’t abandon their values and beliefs — formed and molded over the course of their lives — at the state border. So the notion that people moving from California (or any other place) ought to — what? What was this grumpy poster asking people to do? Change their political affiliation? Not take part in politics or community affairs? Pretty silly — and it’s not going to happen.
This latest iteration of a perennial anti-Californian attitude was encouraged by Adam Laxalt’s campaign for governor. As the Nevada Independent reported in 2018, “An anti-California message is so entrenched in the Laxalt campaign that ‘keep our state from going the way of California’ appears as part of the summary of every tour event.’”
That’s pretty rich, coming from a guy born and raised in Virginia. But it’s a perennial message that the Laxalt campaign used to set Nevada residents against each other. Divide and conquer.
In reality, the culture and economy of Nevada and California have always been closely intertwined. California, with the world’s 5th-largest economy, is now the big kid on the block, but in the 19th century, the unbelievable silver wealth pouring out of Nevada’s Comstock Lode helped build California, and money from California developed Comstock mines. The San Francisco stock exchange was established to allow speculation in shares of Virginia City mines. Wealthy California businessmen William Sharon and Darius Mills built the V&T railroad.
And further back, the Washoe Tribe’s territory covers land currently in both Nevada and California; and other tribes in what is now Nevada interacted frequently with people from what is now California.
I have no patience with politicians who turn people against each other for political gain, and neither do I have much patience for those who allow themselves to be manipulated by these politicians. California is Nevada’s neighbor. It’s big and wealthy, and the source of lots of ideas — some of them you might like, some you might not. But isn’t it better to defend your own ideas because they work and might make the world a better place, rather than attack other people and their ideas because they’re not from here?