After their massive state-wide victories in the November 6 midterm elections Democrats returned to the state capitol in Sacramento with both a strong mandate and a clear mission: to fight everything President Donald Trump does or tries to do.
Of course it is disgust with Trump that motivated and inspired the great Democratic victories this year. His “enduring toxicity” is what helped unprecedented Democratic Party gains in both the state legislature and in Congress. There are no Republicans in state-wide elected offices, the legislature now has a super-majority of Democrats, and out of 53 congressional seats only seven are held by Republicans.
One thing that is very apparent after two years of Donald Trump’s presidency is that his policies are anathema to California Democrats. So they are now ready to challenge the Trump administration in everything, from their policies to their rhetoric. Their goal is to make California successful and prove that what they are doing is the opposite of what has been going on in Washington under Republican rule.
At a press conference denouncing Trump’s attacks on immigrants, Assemblyman Rob Bonta said:
“Trump has poured more gasoline on the fire. This is wrong. It is fueled by racism, and it constitutes an attack on California’s health and well-being.”
The California Legislature has introduced bills that will counter Trump’s immigration policies and also his environmental policies. They will continue their attempts to obtain copies of Trump’s tax returns. They will consider progressive new healthcare proposals.
All of this will give Governor-elect Gavin Newsom a great chance to further his goals of making California the world’s leading alternative to Trumpism.
Already Democratic legislators are fighting the Trump administration’s proposal to bar immigrants who use public services from obtaining legal status.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon expressed his concerns when he addressed the legislative body where his party now has a three-quarters majority:
“My worst fears have not yet materialized, believe it or not, but the federal reality has been quite bad enough.”
In his speech, Rendon set forth his policy goals and assured his audience that animosity towards the Trump administration is as strong as ever. He lambasted Trump for “heaping blame on California, a state that is suffering its worst fire disaster ever” and for sending “troops to lonely border outposts to do nothing but posture.”
“We’re living in an environment, tweet by tweet, day by day, where issues raise themselves to the fore. That makes it challenging for us to cooperate at all levels, all of the time,” Newsom said.
One particularly important issue to California could lead to major fights with Trump: extending health insurance coverage to more of California’s undocumented immigrants.
Since federal action on single-payer healthcare is unlikely both immigrant and healthcare advocacy groups are focusing on achieving universal health coverage by looking to unauthorized immigrants.
“That’s a dramatically different direction than where the Trump administration is seeking to go,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the health advocacy organization Health Access. He called the bill part of “California’s effort to not just protect our progress but to take steps despite the federal government.”
Trump has said that Newsom wants to open the border and distribute free healthcare. By passing the new healthcare legislation California — and Newsom — can send the president a very strong message. They are going to do what they want in California, regardless of what Trump says or does.
Newsom’s positions will find support in the legislature.
“The federal rhetoric we hear and the hate-mongering that seems to come out of parts of our nation’s capital aren’t reflective of the values that I know are true here in California,” said Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, sponsor of the health legislation. “This bill provides hope for many people in my community that all people matter – that their lives matter as well.”
California insiders say that these are just a few of the bills that will be passed challenging Trump and his policies.
As we enter a new era and a new year, one thing is clear: California has declared war on Donald Trump, and they are probably going to win.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.