Now that he’s appeared on “Meet the Press” and met up with the one Californian who may be the key to money flowing from the nation’s capital back to Sacramento (that would be House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy), it’s time for the next act in Gov. Jerry Brown’s national drama.
And that would be enlisting the help of four Republican governors – Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Massachusetts Charlie Baker, Illinois’ Bruce Rauner and Vermont’s Phil Scott.
Why this quartet?
Because, like Brown, they manage deep-blue states that broke in a big way for Hillary Clinton last fall.
And – this is the important part – despite their party affiliation, they have serious policy beefs with the new power alignment in Washington.
As such, it gives Brown an opportunity to make California’s case in, shall we say, a less parochial, less defiant and less selfish manner.
What’s called for, with all due respect to my fellow “Godfather” addicts, isn’t a sit-down of the five families. Let’s give the planet a break and spare California’s governor from pouring carbon into the atmosphere or riding the rail up and down the northeastern corridor.
But that doesn’t preclude Brown from working the phones and cobbling together a cross-party partnership along these policy lines:
Obamacare. The Brown administration estimates that Obamacare repeal – the plan that couldn’t pass muster in the House last week – will saddle California with a $6 billion annual hit by 2020.
Not that the Golden State is alone in its suffering on this one.
In Massachusetts, the Baker administration estimates a $1 billion annual burden. Illinois, a state that gets $14 billion a year from the feds to support its Medicaid population (California receives about $15 billion a year), “won’t deal very well” under the GOP reform plan in the words of its Republican governor.
Imagine Brown returning to Capitol Hill, this time in the company of at least two GOP governors who feel his pain.
Bonus added: it’s not like Brown would be lashing himself to a right-wing lighting rod. In Massachusetts, Baker’s approval rating surpasses that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Immigration. At first glance, California and Vermont are America’s odd couple – the America’s nation-state has 62 times more residents than the Green Mountain State’s; Vermont’s GDP is but 1/82 that of the Golden State’s.
But David and Goliath have one thing in common: an immigration conundrum.
Soon after taking office, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill restricting state and local police from joining in federal immigration enforcement unless approved by the governor. Why the gesture? Because Vermont equals dairy – and approximately 1,000 undocumented workers are employed by the state’s dairy concern.
Together, Brown and Scott could underscore a message that’s gone missing in Washington: illegal immigration is no longer a border-state nor scale-of-economy problem.
Environment. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan is at odds with a Trump budget proposal that would eliminate $73 million from six states abutting the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.
It already puts Hogan in the company of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, maybe the most levelheaded Republican in Congress, who cares not for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative also being on the chopping block (it parcels out about $300 million to eight stares near that body of water).
Ask yourself: is there a state with more environmentally at stake than California?
Brown should search out Republicans who differ with the Trump administration on green stewardship. Who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor by siding with Brown on that GOP nonstarter that is high-speed rail.
Once upon a time, bipartisanship buy-in beyond the beltway wasn’t an unusual concept. Nearly 25 years ago, for example, the nation’s border governors pestered Congress for action on immigration reform. In this generation, there’s no reason why governors couldn’t band together on infrastructure, opioid addiction and other matters that allow politicians to retract their claws.
Ubi concordia, ibi victoria, as our Latin-speaking governor might appreciate: “where there is unity, there is victory.”
Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.