In the end, the polls truly were off base: Donald Trump lost California by even more than expected.
Not since FDR trounced Alf Landon in 1936 has a GOP presidential candidate run worse here than Trump. He’s on track to collect less than one-third of California’s vote and, like Landon, managed the difficult feat of losing former Republican bastion Orange County.
All this is small solace, of course, to the plurality of Americans who handed Democrat Hillary Clinton a popular-vote victory, now expected at two million votes, while watching Trump capture the White House with a 306-232 Electoral College triumph, built on flipping three Rust Belt states into his column by a total of about 100,000 ballots.
Nonetheless, the Golden State’s overwhelming rejection of his hateful rhetoric, and us-versus-them politics, sets the stage for a formidable political challenge to the, gulp, president-elect: four years of bitter conflict with the deep blue nation-state of California.
As anti-Trump protests persist in streets and schools up and down the West Coast, and organizers roll out a pipe-dream “Calexit” secession plan, the state’s top elected officials have vowed to preserve and protect endangered people and progressive policies.
In a defiant day-after statement, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Kevin de León pledged to “lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”
“Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land,” said Sacramento’s top legislative leaders, Latino Democrats in an increasingly Democratic and Latino state. “We will not be dragged back into the past.”
As a policy matter, Trump’s collision course with California will manifest in at least three key areas:
Immigration. Dramatic change in immigration policy was the centerpiece of the 45th president’s campaign: a huge wall on the Mexican border; the deportation of 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally; a reversal of President Obama’s executive orders on the issue.
Trump’s infamous wall likely will remain a fantasy because cost-cutting congressional Republicans won’t countenance its massive price tag. Far easier is a swift overturn of Obama’s DREAM Act–inspired order, which established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Among other things, it’s allowed several hundred thousand people brought as children by parents who entered illegally, to live legally in California. He also may move to cut funding to state “sanctuary cities” that do not comply with federal immigration guidelines. And he’s enlisted to his transition Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile, hard-core anti-immigration crusader who’s predicting a 75 percent increase in deportations in 2017.
Portending a bitter battle, California Democrats quickly rallied with immigrants in L.A., where Senator-elect Kamala Harris declared, “We’ve got your back.”
Health care. Covered California is viewed as the nation’s most successful model of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare has cut the state’s uninsured ranks by half: More than one million consumers buy insurance through a subsidized health-care exchange, and four million poor adults receive new Medicaid benefits. However, it relies on about $20 billion of federal funds, and with Trump sending mixed signals about abolishing Obamacare, the state would face a grim crisis if millions lose insurance.
Environment. The environment represents the widest chasm between Team Trump and California. The state for eight years has worked closely with the White House on green and solar energy, increased use of electric vehicles, tougher efficiency standards, and other fossil-fuel alternatives, all of it now at risk.
Close to home, with no checks and balances on Republican policies in Washington, expect a new push to expand offshore drilling.
The starkest difference comes on climate change, which Trump has called “an expensive hoax.” He has recruited noted climate skeptic Myron Ebell for his transition and made a campaign commitment to pull out of the Paris Agreement — even as Governor Jerry Brown became a global leader on the issue, signing stacks of independent international agreements to slash future carbon emissions by 80 percent.
Post-election, Brown in one moment took a conciliatory tone with Trump; in the next, he promised a battle over “the existential threat of our time — devastating climate change.”
A personal note. Along with both presidential campaigns and virtually every political reporter in the world, I trusted horse-race polls that foresaw a Clinton victory. Beyond that, however, my President Clinton forecast consistently rested on one extraordinary fact: Every pre-election survey (as well as Election Day exit polls) found that two-thirds of all voters said Trump was unfit to be president. Given that, I didn’t believe he could be elected — apologies for a failure of imagination.