Dan Morain

Californians zigged while the rest of American voters zagged

Donald Trump inspired devotion in this voter in Florida, but few Californians felt the same way in Tuesday’s election.
Donald Trump inspired devotion in this voter in Florida, but few Californians felt the same way in Tuesday’s election. The New York Times

Once again, the red tidal wave stopped on the other side of the Sierra, though only for the time being.

In the Rust Belt and South, voters put their faith in a bombastic New York real estate mogul and reality television star who promises to make American great again.

In California, voters banned plastic bags, raised cigarettes taxes, and imposed taxes on soda in San Francisco, Albany and Oakland.

The National Rifle Association, which spent $52 million on the campaign nationally, much of it to elect Donald Trump, proclaimed that “Trump’s victory repudiates the assertion by gun control advocates that the political calculus regarding the Second Amendment has changed.”

Out here in the West, voters easily passed Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiative to regulate ammunition, proving that the NRA is, as Newsom has said, a “paper tiger” in California elections.

Nationally, Republicans retained control of Congress, ensuring that Mitch McConnell will remain U.S. Senate leader and Paul Ryan will stay House speaker, so long as his right flank permits it.

California voters elected a Democratic supermajority to the California Assembly, and, depending on late vote counts, possibly in the state Senate.

Tuesday’s results left the national Democratic Party dazed and confused. In California, 62.5 percent of the voters sent Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris to Washington, where she almost certainly will become a new face of the party.

But try though it might to be an island, California is part of a union, one that soon will be led by a man who has taken stands that are in direct conflict with this state on gun control, the environment and immigration, to name a few.

“It is going to be a real fight,” Harris said.

Under President Barack Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators here enjoyed favored status, gaining waivers to follow their muse on climate change, regulation of toxic chemicals, creation of a state-managed retirement system for low-wage workers, and health care to the children of illegal immigrants.

Trump can challenge any of it and undo Obama’s legacy by signing executive orders that would countermand Obama’s orders, pushing legislation through the Republican-controlled Congress and winning Senate confirmation of federal judges.

As a candidate, Trump called for the large-scale deportation of illegal immigrants and attacked sanctuary cities, in which local officials adopt policies against assisting federal immigration officials.

Whether President Trump follows through with the deportation promise is another question. But legislative leaders are taking Trump at his word and are looking to sock away money to fund coming legal battles.

“California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said in a joint statement, the operative word being “defend.”

In several instances, California has gone beyond federal law, granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants, giving them professional licenses, providing their children with health care and offering them tuition to public colleges. All that could be at risk.

“Everyone in the administration is taking a long hard look at these issues,” said Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup.

In the coming weeks, Brown will nominate a replacement for Harris, one of the most important appointments of his career. He will be looking for an attorney general who is a skilled lawyer and politician and a close ally, knowing that whomever he selects would defend the state against federal overreach.

Take gun control. Some legislators worry that the NRA could persuade a friendly Congress to interfere with Proposition 63, Newsom’s gun and ammunition control initiative. On another gun matter, California refuses to recognize permits to carry concealed weapons issued by other states.

The NRA long has sought congressional legislation that would compel any state to accept concealed carry permits issued by any other state, no matter how lax those states’ standards might be. Obama never would have signed such a bill. Trump probably would.

Trump has little reason to feel much love for California. Donors here provided less than $10 million of the $247 million he raising for his campaign in California, Federal Election Commission records show. And he got only 33 percent of the vote in California, worse than Mitt Romney or John McCain in 2012 and 2008, and far worse than George W. Bush in 2004.

Although he carried many Central Valley counties, he lost traditional Republican bastions such as Orange County, winning only a third of the vote, and received a mere 23.4 percent of the ballots in Los Angeles County, and 9.9 percent in San Francisco. The returns are no surprise. His policies have little appeal for many Californians.

California zigged when the rest of the nation zagged, and not just because it approved the commercial sale of recreational marijuana. Democrats can take some solace in California’s election returns. But amid the Election Day rubble, nothing could blunt the reality that the Oval Office occupant will be Donald J. Trump.

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