Published: Nov. 16, 2012 Updated: 4:44 p.m.

SACRAMENTO – California enjoys a reputation as one of the most liberal states in the nation. And yet, on Election Night, when voters for the first time in American history approved gay marriage and recreational marijuana use, it was in Washington, Colorado and Maine – not California.

In fact, over the last four years, California voters approved a measure to block same-sex marriage and rejected another one to decriminalize pot. This month, while other states were burnishing their progressive credentials, California voters defeated an effort to abolish the death penalty.

While voters in other states legalized gay marriage and the recreational use of marijuana, California voters have rejected both ideas in the last four years.

For the first time in American history, voters approved measures to legalize gay marriage and the recreational use of marijuana. Here’s a look at who did what.

What happened to the People’s Republic of California?

As you might imagine, there’s a few interpretations.

“We’re not the most liberal state,” says Tony Quinn, the co-editor of the California Target Book, an almanac of legislative and congressional campaigns. “We’re purple.”

A former Republican legislative staffer, Quinn’s take is that California’s liberal reputation is a bit overblown. It was only two years ago, he pointed out, that California had a Republican governor in Arnold Schwarzenegger. And while our current, Democratic governor has gotten a lot of attention for persuading Californians to approve his Proposition 30 tax plan, Quinn notes that 46 percent of voters still opposed Jerry Brown’s proposal.

Actually, anti-tax sentiment is practically a California trait. Before this month, California voters had rejected the previous eight straight tax measures. Since 1990, voters here have rejected 17 of 23 ballot measures to raise taxes, including Proposition 29 on the June ballot, which would have raised cigarette taxes for cancer research.

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