The leadership of California’s legislature, including some Republicans, have placed themselves on unprecedented political footing in opposition to the “torrent of lies” and “attacks on values” by the Trump presidency.
Still short of calling for a secession from the union, California’s new attorney general Xavier Becerra was joined this week by senate and assembly leaders from both parties in defense of the California people’s “constitutional rights and values.”
“These are moral questions, more than they are political,” Becerra said to a room full of newspaper editors and publishers on Feb. 15. “And protecting what is fact (and what is not) is a sacred mission for all of you.”
California is one of only 18 states with legislative Democratic majorities. Topped by Gov. Jerry Brown, all of California’s statewide constitutional offices are now held by Democrats and both legislative bodies are controlled by blue super majorities. Hillary Clinton won 4.2 million more votes than Donald Trump in the recent election.
“We’ve lost our way,” said Republican Assembly leader Chad Mayes. “We’ve become too focused on just politics.”
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon went further in his definition of California being non-Trump territory.
“This is not Republican versus Democrat; it is much more than that,” said de Leon to the newspaper people. “Our institutions and values are under attack. Our freedoms of press, speech and religion, and more, are being singled out by Mr. Trump.” Feelings and public responses would be different if Mitt Romney or John McCain had won previous elections, de Leon said. “This is different. We have a president making dire threats and using volatile language.”
De Leon, Becerra and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon all implored the press to resist Trump’s attacks, fight against false news and continue to listen to the many different voices of the people of California.”
“The media should play offense,” said Becerra. “Your work is more important than ever. Alternative facts only work in adventure novels.”
Republican Assembly leader Janet Fuller disagreed with the leading Democrats. “This is not helpful rhetoric. It won’t be helpful for California to be looked at as the last state behind 49 other states when federal funds are being handed out.” She said the $100 billion in federal funds included in the state budget could be threatened by sharp partisan talk.
But Rendon and de Leon reminded everyone that California taxpayers and businesses pay more federal tax than is returned to state programs. “We’re a donor state,” said Rendon.
Asked if long months of lawsuits against the Trump administration would follow soon, Attorney General Becerra said “not necessarily.”
He said that California’s lawmakers and its people should continue to follow their goals of a cleaner environment and security for its millions of immigrants. If the new president threatens basic values, then California should defend itself in court, Becerra said.
De Leon and the senate leadership recently hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to consult on potential legal battles against Trump.
With or without a Trump presidency, Speaker Rendon said California already faces many “problems of democracy” including housing costs, poverty levels and transportation needs. “All of these problems point to a lack of civic engagement.” Rendon blamed both the media and elected officials for not listening enough to average citizens. “President Trump and his language don’t help with that. We have to be better listeners.”
Concerned about Trump’s challenges against a “sanctuary” movement to protect immigrants, de Leon warned, “there is no magical force shield or safe zone.” He urged California’s elected leaders and the working press to not worry about alienating Trump. “Our role must be to support our values,” he said.
De Leon is sponsoring legislation (SB 54) he is calling the California Values Act. In part it would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from supporting federal immigrant deportation efforts. De Leon’s bill would also make public schools, hospitals and courthouses safe havens for California residents, regardless of immigration status.