California: Another Cautionary Tale

As the Democratic lurch to the Left plays out in Washington, we are faced with paralysis. All attention is focused on the latest effort to de-legitimize the Trump presidency – most recently the Comey fiasco. CNN, the Washington Post, MSNBC all declare that the fired FBI director will show collusion between the President and the Russians – nope, not even a whisper. The fired FBI director’s testimony will refute Trump’s claim that Comey told him that he was not under investigation – actually Comey told the President that three times. The President obstructed justice by instructing Comey to take a pass on investigating General Flynn – no instruction given; none received. By Friday those charged with deciding what is important to explain to the nation of sheep must develop another construct of the imaginary Trump / Russia connection. It certainly cannot be left to Special Counsel Robert Mueller whose appointment was last week’s news.

Actually, the obsession is serving its purpose: legislative Democrats are on notice that there will be no compromise on healthcare, taxes, the budget, or anything else put forth by the Trump administration. The energized base of #Resist remains at the ramparts, and the Republican legislative leaders seem unable to craft solutions to real problems despite the implosion of Obamacare and the broad support for the concept of tax reform. The president doesn’t even have the power to keep potential terrorists out of the country unless he gets agreement from the Supreme Court. At some point Middle America will tire of Trump; at least that’s the plan.

But what about the state level? California offers a cautionary tale. Hillary won the primary against Bernie Sanders with 54% of the vote, so the Democratic establishment was stronger than the revolutionaries. She won the popular vote in California by over 4.2 million votes (Trump won “everywhere else” in the country by 1.4 million), so the state is not typical, but it does bear a resemblance to other deep blue states, and the scope of the lurch to the Left is instructive. Leadership on environmental and immigration issues is central to California politics, but what else?

– Energized by the anti-Trump mood of the public, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are targeting half of the 14 remaining Republican Congressional seats in California; the Democrats already control 39. The seven, including former House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, are in districts carried by Hillary and have voted for the ObamaCare repeal. Ads are already running.

– With the support of the state Chamber of Commerce which understands where the political power rests in California, the legislature in April approved a $5.2 billion annual tax increase on gasoline, diesel, and vehicle registration to be used primarily to repair the road system. The new rate of 52 cents per gallon will pass Pennsylvania which previously held the distinction as the highest in the nation at 50.5 cents. Arguments will follow about the potential uses of the funds, the recall of a key Democratic senator, and a ballot initiative to roll back the increase. But it is done.

– The big kahuna – a trial run of “single payer” health insurance which passed the state Senate 23-14 in May. This iteration – which ends all other health insurance except the Veterans Administration – has no co-pays or deductibles; no restrictions on the patient’s doctor or hospital selection covers vision, dental, and long term care; and includes all residents (legal or not). The problem of the $400 billion annual price tag (more than twice the current state budget) is to be met with $200 billion of current government healthcare spending and a $200 billion tax increase on individuals and companies. Oh, and it needs a bunch of federal approvals to change Medicare, Medicaid, and myriad regulations. For better or worth, it reflects a realization on the Left that Obamacare is not a viable long term solution, and places a price tag on the “ideal” model.

The Founding Fathers struck on the brilliant concept of federalism, allowing the states to differ on how they address issues for which “common sense” in one region of the country is heresy in another. Unfortunately, in single party states like California there is little leavening influence, and the reaction to a President Trump can boil over with politicians vying to demonstrate that they are more anti-Trump than their more moderate contenders. At the moment the political establishment is in need of parental guidance.

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