After Trump’s election, more California Republicans buy into state as a model

Bill Whalen
Bill Whalen

By Friday morning, we will have a new Republican president – for the first time in a decade, working in tandem (for the most part) with an all-GOP Congress. Democratic mourning in America.

Watch for plenty to occur in the first 100 hours and 100 days of this arrangement. For starters: undoing executive orders, Obamacare repeal or tax reform, a Supreme Court nominee, maybe even a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

That’s in contrast to the Republican existence in California, where driving an agenda isn’t measured in hours and days. More like: years and decades.

Republicans in these parts should be steamed. A handful of California congressmen blew off the inaugural – a liberal whine country full of bitter grapes. And there’s the spectacle of California’s state government leaders trying to pick a fight with the new president.

Seriously, all you 2018 hopefuls: Do you honestly believe that Donald Trump pays attention to anything out here other than Arnold’s “Apprentice” ratings and the playing conditions at Trump National?

The funny thing: California Republicans apparently don’t drink from the same well of bitterness. So suggests a newly published Hoover Institution Golden State Poll, which posed a simple question: Is California’s government a model for other states to follow?

At present, a near majority of Californians (44 percent) thinks the other 49 states should follow the nation-state’s lead; 34 percent do not. A year ago, it was nearly the opposite: 39 percent said California’s a role model; 46 percent disagreed.

Now, the funny numbers.

In January 2016, a whopping 8 percent of statewide Republicans bought into the idea of California as America’s guiding light; more than 4 in 5 (83 percent) did not.

One year later, despite progressives on the march legislatively and via the initiative ballot and angry talk varying from spitballing to secession: Three times more Republicans (26 percent) now buy into the California role model; their disagreement has fallen to 62 percent.

So what’s going on here?

I credit some of this to the steady, non-slapping hand of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ask Californians about Brown’s handling of the economy, the state budget, climate change or transportation and Republican opposition to the man is hard-pressed to reach 50 percent in the Hoover survey. A year ago, it was steadily in the mid-60s and higher.

Ask yourself: when was the last time a California governor and legislative Republicans openly feuded to the extent that it made news? It might be: the last time we had a Republican governor. Does Brown’s desire to up the gasoline taxes to pay for transportation spending change that?

Another possibility: California, like much of America, isn’t as rebellious as its leaders would have you believe. We’re just a bigger house divided.

Per the Golden State Poll, 77 percent of California Republicans think Obamacare repeal/replacement and a tailored immigration ban will be beneficial to California. The numbers drop a bit (to 69 percent) on the benefits of erecting a border wall, but spike back up on tax cuts (83 percent think lower personal incomes taxes will help California, as did a majority – 55 percent – of survey respondents).

And, as in other parts of America, there’s a great partisan divide. Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of poll respondents who identified as Hillary Clinton voters don’t like the border wall; 79 percent of Trump voters do. Only 17 percent of Democrats statewide think the wall’s a net-plus; just 13 percent of Republicans think it’s detrimental.

Add the numbers and 36 percent of Californians believe Trump’s presidency will be a success while 46 percent foresee failure. That’s a reflection of yet another blue-red split – 76 percent of California Republicans think the new president will succeed; 67 percent of Democrats beg to differ.

In this case, don’t blame California. Trump’s 36 percent wishing-him-luck here is in line with his historically poor 40 percent approval rating nationwide. It was a little over 10 weeks ago that not quite 32 percent of voters here gave the man their vote.

Chalk up California as consistent – ironically, rhyming with resistant.

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Whalen can be reached at