Jan. 18, 2018: THE HILL - California feels targeted by Trump
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By Reid Wilson
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In the wake of President Trump’s election, hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in cities across California to rally against a man they abhorred. Some went so far as to propose ceding from the country altogether.
A year later, California Democrats say they believe the new administration has taken revenge on their state through policy initiatives ranging from environmental regulations to a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
The state has become something like the capital of “the resistance” to Trump in part, those Democrats say, because they feel like there is so much to resist.
“It is very clear that Donald Trump has California in the crosshairs,” said Kevin de León (D), the president pro tempore of the California state Senate. “But we’re not going to allow one electoral aberration reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, our scientific advancement, our economic output and our sense of global responsibility.”
Over four days of interviews at the state Capitol here, the rage Democrats harbor for the president was palpable, and there are no signs it has abated. Some described feeling fear at the president’s next steps, while others said they felt bemused resolve. All cast the battle between a conservative administration and a liberal state as ongoing.
“There is no way in hell that we are going to back down from President Trump’s policies. He has picked a fight and he will lose it badly,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire (D).
The White House did not respond to several requests for comment on this story.
Trump received only 31.6 percent of the vote in California in 2016, the lowest percentage of any Republican nominee to run for president. Only three major-party nominees — Alton Parker in 1904, James Cox in 1920 and John Davis in 1924 — received smaller shares of the vote.
Trump has done little to endear himself to California voters in the first year of his administration. He became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower not to visit California during his first year in office; Trump will make his first stop later this month, in San Diego, following his State of the Union address.
On a wide range of policies, though, the Trump administration has already impacted California residents, and generated pushback from the liberal legislature in Sacramento.
The Trump administration has pledged to crack down on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, where local law enforcement officials are barred from enforcing federal immigration laws. California, in response, appropriated millions to a legal defense fund for undocumented workers and blocked local law enforcement from complying with federal detainer requests for those accused or convicted of low-level crimes.
While Republicans in Congress worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats in Sacramento debated a plan to create a single-payer health-care system. Just days after California began recreational sales of marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that gave cover to marijuana businesses in states where pot is legal.
The Republican tax overhaul, passed last month on party-line votes, would cap federal deductions for state and local taxes and for mortgage interest, a plan that hits high-tax states like California — and residents of wealthy areas like Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego — especially hard.
And the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations and proposed allowing oil exploration along millions of acres of coastline, a plan that has drawn bipartisan outrage. The administration later reversed course by offering an exemption to Florida, a state Trump won — but not to California.
“It just gets worse every day. Everything from the reversal on climate change, his blatant disrespect for immigrants — particularly those with a tint of melanin in their skin or an accent — to the GOP tax plan that just came out,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D), the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.
California has taken action against the administration on a more frequent basis than any other state. Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), appointed to the position by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last year, has sued the Trump administration two-dozen times, over everything from a proposed ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries to a plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.
Brown has been circumspect in his criticisms of Trump, reserving his opposition to specific policy critiques. But Becerra, in an interview in his office overlooking the state Capitol, said Trump has it out for blue states.
“I think he’s targeting states that have inclusive policies, because I think he’s an exclusionary president,” Becerra said.
Referring to Trump’s comments last week labeling certain nations “shithole countries," Becerra added: “From everything he’s said, I would call him a racist.”
Republicans in Sacramento almost unanimously say they wish Trump would stop tweeting. But they say Democrats have been far more focused on opposing the Trump administration than they have been on issues important to California.
“We have spent way too much time focusing on what President Trump and the federal government are doing,” said state Sen. Patricia Bates (R), the Senate minority leader. “You’ve got to get over it. Let’s get on to our business.”
California voters have not improved their outlook on Trump’s first year in office. Just 30 percent of California voters approve of Trump’s job performance, according to a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey in December, down from 39 percent in March. Trump’s approval rating in a Public Policy Institute of California poll from the same month stood at 28 percent.
Trump’s unpopularity in the state has given Democrats political openings in districts held by Republican members of Congress. Seven of the 14 Republican-held districts voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, seats that are now at the top of Democratic target lists.
“The president, especially in California, seems to be giving [Democrats] a lot of gifts,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D).