How California’s State Government Will Fight Trump

Newly elected Senator Scott Wiener reveals the plan, on immigration, climate, and health care.

(S.F. Examiner File Photo)

Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in California 62-32, or by more than three-and-a-half million votes. (Without us, Trump would have won the popular vote nationwide.) She even flipped famously conservative Orange County, which voted Democratic for the first time since 1936.

There’s been a bit of grumbling on the right-wing about sawing progressive California off from the rest of the nation and setting it out to sea, and maybe hanging on to Bakersfield and Susanville. But just because Trumpland and California are stuck with each other for the next four years, newly elected State Sen. Scott Wiener isn’t going to let them lob bombs at us.

“I’m expecting some really bad stuff coming from that disaster,” Wiener says by phone, driving back to San Francisco from Sacramento. He isn’t the MediCal expansion would remain intact. If those revenue streams evaporate, we’re in for a world of hurt.

“That’s about $15 billion in funding,” he says. “I’m not convinced the worst is going to happen, but they will do bad things. We will have to work in California to pick up as much of the slack as we can, because we want to move forward on health care, not back.”

“Moving forward” could be taken to mean transitioning to a single-payer system, something Wiener supports.

While he’s reluctant to read the tea leaves too literally, the newly elected Democratic supermajorities in both the Assembly and State Senate could be sufficient to hold the line and prevent a federal withdrawal from health care from becoming a debacle for low-income Californians.

A single-payer system may be out of reach, however. Small states like Vermont have scrapped plans for single-payer health care because it was too expensive for their legislatures to believes might crack if the “wrecking ball” Trump administration forces California to raise taxes significantly, just to keep services at current levels. Still, Wiener says there’s a “very broad commitment in the Democratic caucuses in both houses to keep people” insured.

On climate issues, this state has always been a leader; in spite of the California’s wealth (and car culture) we emit the second-least amount of CO2 per capita. Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a hoax designed to give Chinese manufacturing an edge over America — never mind that China is installing solar capacity at a furious pace, hoping to clean up its smog-choked cities.

“I’ve introduced a bill to install solar on all new rooftops, which I think fits in nicely with a push toward 100 percent renewable energy,” Wiener says, tossing in for good measure his belief that “We need to reauthorize cap-and-trade.”

Even if lifelong fossil-fuel addict Rex Tillerson ends up leading the State not even a hostile, anti-science administration can roll back market-driven technological advances.

“A lot of traditional energy companies have been really branching into clean energy,” Wiener says. Calling Trump “clever like a fox” for his ability to sow confusion and distraction, he notes that the incoming administration is “not going to be able to reverse everything, but they will do damage, absolutely.”

The third area where Wiener sees California locking horns with the Trump team is immigration. While the President-elect — and even supposed policy wonks like Speaker Paul Ryan — have been deliberately vague on details, Wiener says that, wall or no wall, “we have multiple bills pending to do everything in our power to protect our immigrant communities, by prohibiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities, by making sure immigrants have access to counsel if they are being potentially deported, and making sure the public defenders understand what the immigration consequences are for guilty pleas.”

This is also the area where Wiener is most optimistic that the Democratic caucuses are most unified. (Even a few Republicans in the Assembly, several of whom represent districts with large Latino populations, can be counted on to fight back.) And President Trump might become a galvanizing force on a fractious coalition, keeping allies tethered together as they focus on the big picture: fighting him.

“I think some Democrats might cast some favorable votes they might not have cast a year or two ago,” Wiener says. “This is about such more than any elected official. This is about the future of our country, our state, the future of our progressive values. So I do believe we’ll see a higher level of unity.”

But might San Francisco become something of a conservative punching bag, the way it did in 2004, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom set off a firestorm by allowing same-sex marriages to proceed? Certainly, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly loves to dispatch reporters to produce segments portraying the city as a zombieland of stoners and undocumented murderers running amok.

“Anytime the right wing takes over in Washington, they love to go after San Francisco and raise money off San Francisco,” Wiener says. “We’re proud to be a punching bag for the right wing. I wouldn’t want it any other way. If the right wing weren’t freaked out by us and going after us, we wouldn’t be doing our job.”

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