California is a land of contrasts. The state is home to staggering wealth, tech companies that are reshaping the world, and some of the world’s boldest climate policies. It also experiences immense income inequality, arguably the worst housing crisis in the country, and the highest poverty rate in the country when you factor in housing costs.
The dysfunction of our national politics is often attributed to division and stalemate. But in California, Democrats are driving. No Republican has held statewide office in more than a decade. And in many big cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example — Republicans have little or no political power. For this reason, the tensions and difficulties facing the Golden State are often a signal of what is to come for the Democratic Party nationally.
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If California has long been a beacon of national liberal politics, Senator Scott Wiener has been something of a beacon of California politics. Senator Wiener has represented San Francisco in the California Senate since 2016 and, prior to that, served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was introducing bill after bill to solve the state’s affordable housing crisis long before the term “YIMBY” became a popular political label. And in recent years, he has introduced legislation that would decriminalize certain psychedelics, provide access to therapy to all incarcerated Californians, and pilot supervised injection sites.
So I wanted to talk to Senator Wiener about the political workings of his weird city and state — a place where traditional labels are crumbling, where abundant resources meet equally abundant problems, and where change really does happen.
This episode contains strong language.
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(A full transcript of the episode will be available at noon on the Times website.)
This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu. Fact check by Michelle Harris. Mixing by Jeff Geld. The show’s production team consists of Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience Strategy by Shannon Busta. The New York Times Opinion Audio executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Erik Mebust, Misha Chellam, Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.