Alex Beam

California vs. Trump, Round 1

Birds flew across the Los Angeles skyline.
Birds flew across the Los Angeles skyline.(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images/File)


Yes, here I am deep in the heart of the Rebel Alliance. The elderly Jerry Brown-Kenobi rules this powerful principality, defying the dictates of Darth Donald at every turn.

Decades of Zen meditation and kale consumption have kept the ageless Brown-Kenobi youthful, but his reign cannot last forever. Happily, over the horizon of the dawn-dappled Sierra ascends the morning star of Princess Kamala, a —

You get the point. From Day One, the great state of California has been in open rebellion against Donald Trump’s America. Just four days after Trump delivered his inaugural address, Governor Jerry Brown declared the state of his state to be the exact opposite of the regime taking office in Washington.

Brown derided the “bald assertion of ‘alternative facts’ — whatever those are,” and he vowed that California would stand by its laws that allow undocumented immigrants access to jobs, drivers licenses, and higher education.


“Let me be clear: We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state,” he said.

California was just getting started. The state naturally opposes Trump’s proposed travel ban, and there is a bill making its way through the legislature to declare the Golden State — the most populous state in the country — to be a “sanctuary state.”

Trump has signaled his intention to attack California’s stringent auto regulations, which are stricter than national guidelines. (Massachusetts and several other states enforce the California rules.)

Detroit loves to whine about the California regs, but when push comes to shove, they love selling cars more; California accounts for more than 10 percent of all US car sales, with twice as many new cars sold as New York. George W. Bush challenged California’s emissions standards, and lost. If Trump wants to rack up some more judicial setbacks, he can do likewise.

Which brings us to “Calexit.” There is a semi-serious movement under way to put a referendum question on the 2019 ballot that would allow California to secede from the United States. Some facts argue for it; California is the world’s sixth largest economy, and broadly diversified in high tech, manufacturing, agriculture and service industries.


Unlike, say, Mississippi, California sends more tax dollars to Washington than it receives in federal spending.

Trumpism is wildly unpopular in California, where he lost to Hillary Clinton by 30 percent. There is even talk of creating two new states — East, or Republican California, and West, or Coastal/Blue California — which would re-enfranchise conservative Golden Staters who are tired of dancing to the tune of Los Angeles’s West Side liberals and the Hollywood elite.

Calexit won’t be happening. What will be happening is continued tension between Sacramento and Washington, punctuated by temporary truces. It has not gone unnoticed, for instance, that Trump has granted California disaster relief for floods and winter rains three times in his young presidency. Why buy trouble when you don’t have to?

The Trump vs. California rassling match is still in the early rounds. “California, in many ways, is out of control,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly back in February, but he has so far been loath to pick fights with the Left Coast.

“You don’t want to mess with California,” Governor Brown told NBC News last month in Washington, D.C., “because you’re going to mess with the economy, and that could blow up in your face in a gigantic recession and roll the Republicans right out of this town.”


Correctly speaking might he be.

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.