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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 2:08 pm | Fair 70º


Susan Estrich: California and the President

Donald Trump has new words for an old song: "California, here I don't come."

The president has made it to Eastern Europe, but he hasn't made it to Hollywood. 

Something tells me he'd rather sit down with Vladmir Putin than with California's extremely popular governor, Jerry Brown.

Which is too bad, since Gov. Brown is the kind of politician a Donald Trump-type would like — a grown-up who kowtows to no one, really has cleaned things up, fixed a budget mess, and seems to be running a place that most people thought could not be governed.

But the president couldn't care less. He has nothing to learn. He knows it all, already.

I'm told he snuck into town once for a personal visit. And snuck out. No business to be done here.

California must be too blue for the president, which is pretty silly when you think about it.

If we were a country, we'd be the sixth-biggest economy in the world. And yet the president, former television star and media hound that he is, continues to ignore us. 

Watch out. In the 27 years I've lived here, California has become more like the rest of America, or rather, the rest of America has become more like California: diverse, multicultural, entrepreneurial, environmentally conscious. 

What used to be considered flaky is now mainstream. Gov. Moonbeam, as Brown was known when he was one of the nation's youngest governors, is now one of the nation's oldest and most experienced. 

La-La Land isn't so la-la anymore. 

Gay rights? Check. That would be mainstream these days.

Ditto for women's rights, for immigration reform, for health care, for environmental protection. 

All the "crazy" stuff we fought for back in the 1980s, when we even put reproductive freedom in the Democratic platform? Not so crazy anymore.

The crazies are on the other side. 

Of course, if Trump and his team have their way, Brown and all the other governors could take over just about everything the federal government does.

We have an Environmental Protection Agency that doesn't want to protect the environment, a Department of Education that sees no federal role in education and, of course, a president who leads by tweet.

In the phony federalism of the Republican health care bill, the states would also get to take over taking care of the old and the poor.

All of which Jerry Brown would be better at doing than Donald Trump — but for one problem.


Federalism is phony when you give states responsibilities without the resources to fulfill them.

Tell states to educate their kids — but take away federal aid, and make them sue for student loan protection.

Tell them to expand Medicaid themselves. Have a competition for the bottom: See which state can provide the least, make itself the least-desirable relocation destination.

Bring out the worst in a federal system. 

California's doing OK. But we can't regulate what goes on beyond our borders, and we can't solve problems that are still bigger than us.

The reason people keep coming to California is not just the weather. Despite Donald Trump, the American dream is still alive here.

Despite Donald Trump, government works, much of the time. But in a federal system, California can only go it alone for so long. Even California.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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