It’s time for liberal Californians – and that appears to be most of us – to take a chill pill.
Their bitter disdain for President Donald Trump – and by extension everyone who voted for him, belongs to his party or even agrees with any of his bombastic pronouncements – is leading them into blind alleys.
The very liberal Legislature was ready to declare the entire state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, even some violent criminals, until a cooler head, Gov. Jerry Brown, intervened and forced removal of the most extreme language.
California’s bellicosity over sanctuary and DACA are making it even less likely that comprehensive immigration reform will emerge.
However, Brown’s handpicked attorney general, Xavier Becerra, went ballistic over Trump’s withdrawal of predecessor Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” executive order granting 800,000 “Dreamers” – those who were brought illegally into the country as children – a reprieve from deportation.
Becerra sued to overturn Trump’s action, declaring, “In California, we don’t just support and value them – we fight for them (and) we will not permit Donald Trump to destroy the lives of young immigrants who make California and our country stronger.”
That’s certainly a popular position in California, but think about its potential ramifications.
It’s entirely possible, even likely, that the DACA decree was an illegal act unto itself because President Obama may have exceeded his executive authority. By suing to challenge Trump’s withdrawal, Becerra is running a very real risk that the federal courts will confirm DACA’s illegality.
Moreover, DACA was never intended to be a permanent exemption, but rather a respite until Congress settled on a larger reform of immigration that would give law-abiding undocumented immigrants a pathway to legitimacy.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened, but it’s possible – maybe not probable, but possible – that by giving DACA a six-month deadline, Trump will prod Congress into acting on the Dreamers, and perhaps even on the larger issue.
However, it’s less likely to happen if California’s lawsuit, and others, are still making their way through the courts. And if DACA is declared invalid, the effort to preserve it will have completely backfired. Meanwhile, California’s bellicosity over sanctuary will only polarize the situation more, and make it even less likely that comprehensive immigration reform will emerge.
Until DACA is sorted out, hundreds of thousands of mostly young immigrants, including the 200,000 in California, will fear their lives will be turned upside down. They deserve our sympathy, and eventually action to protect them, but a temporary order by a former president was never a strong protective barrier.
Immigration is not the only subject on which less heat, and more calm reflection, is warranted.
In liberal Californians’ zealous assertion of independence from Trump and what they regard as Trumpism, they are becoming illiberal themselves.
A new statewide poll of California voters by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley confirms anew the broad disdain for Trump, but finds a troubling willingness to suppress those on the other end of the political scale.
Asked whether “we have gone too far” in allowing demonstrations by white nationalists, a plurality of those voters, 46 percent, agreed, while 43 percent said such demonstrations should not be restricted.
Sympathy for suppression of the constitutional right to demonstrate and speak was strongest among Democrats and voters describing themselves as “very liberal” or “liberal.”
White nationalists are a loathsome, if tiny, segment of the population, particularly in California, but they have the right to express their nativist nonsense peacefully, and suppression of that right – particularly by violence-prone, self-proclaimed “anti-fascists” – just makes them, undeservedly, sympathetic figures.
Calm down, California. You are just confirming the state’s off-the-wall reputation to the rest of the nation.
For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary. CALmatters is a public-interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.