Gov. Jerry Brown’s trip to Washington this week has inspired its share of leftist angst and right-wing sneering.
“Calexit?” the web site Breitbart snickered on Sunday. “Jerry Brown Asks Trump for Aid – for the 4th Time.”
But only the callow would doubt Brown’s brainy wiles, or dumb down the wisdom of the collaborative stance he has taken in meetings with Congress and members of President Donald Trump’s administration.
This blue state may have voted 2-1 against Trump, and on issues from immigration to the environment, its attorney general may be itching to sue him as early and often as Texas sued President Barack Obama. And no constituencies may yearn for Trump’s impeachment more ardently than Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
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But Brown has been around long enough to understand how much the federal government and the world’s sixth largest economy depend on each other, and to know that policy can cut both ways on both sides.
The left may fume and the right may gloat at Jerry Brown’s professed willingness to deal with the Trump administration. But California and Washington depend on each other.
Roughly a third of California’s state budget comes from federal funding. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act alone could leave taxpayers here holding the bag for as much as $15 billion in Medi-Cal reimbursement and disrupt health care for millions of Californians.
Brown’s to-do list has included a request for nearly $540 million in disaster relief to repair winter storm damage – the state’s fourth such request, for a total so far of more than $800 million, including the Oroville Dam and Big Sur, where mudslides and a buckled bridge have stranded hundreds for a month now.
There’s the federal waiver allowing California to require tough vehicle emissions standards. And of course, there is the $100 billion Brown has requested in federal infrastructure spending.
Though opponents of high-speed rail and the Delta tunnels fixate foolishly on a belief that Brown just wants federal money to realize those great notions, his list of critical projects also includes important improvements to roads, bridges, water storage, public transit and infrastructure along the border. From stronger dams to clean transit projects such as the electrification of Caltrain, no one of any party in California should want Washington to dismiss such benefits out of hand.
So Brown realizes he can’t afford to let his famous climate science vow to “launch our own damn satellite” be his sole message to the Trump administration, or to be, as he put it so Brown-esque-ly on Tuesday, “like Martin Luther in 1517, putting my 92 theses on the Wittenberg church.”
“We are not going a totally separate way,” he told reporters after a chat with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at which he was assured that Trump was “very concerned” about disaster relief here.
“We are distinct. We have a sovereignty. We will pursue that, but we also have a commonality with other states and with the national government.” To that end, he said, he will “pursue my own rhetorical paths” and seek “common ground.”
And common ground has never been in short supply between Capitol Hill and California. One of every 8 Americans lives here, for example. And $1 of every $7 in U.S. gross domestic product comes from here. So does a quarter of the nation’s food supply, most of its entertainment and no small quantity of its inspiration.
So the left may fume and the right may gloat at Brown’s professed willingness to deal with the Trump administration, but Brown understands that picking fights isn’t the only way to win a battle. The rest of the country can’t go “a totally separate way” either. As goes California, so goes the United States.