Read: Trump’s war on blue America
“The bottom line is Trump doesn’t get that the California suburbs reflect the views of suburban voters all over the country,” Carrick says.
In fact, Baldassare notes, air quality and environmental safety have been bipartisan concerns in California for more than half a century; the reason the federal government has granted the state waivers from federal emissions rules—a tradition Trump wants to stop—is that it already had strict antipollution measures in place when the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. “It’s not an issue that matters just to Democrats,” he says. “It’s very important to Republicans and to their quality of life and to the economy of the state. These moves by Trump are things that go against not just whatever the current Democratic leaders in Sacramento are doing, but against the way that Republicans and Democrats have been seeking to do things for years.”
Bruce Cain, a political-science professor at Stanford University and a longtime student of the state, notes that Trump’s brand of anti-Californianism is different from, and starker than, that of 50 years ago. “Version one of California-bashing was against white, liberal, middle-class, hippie-dippie countercultural kids,” Cain told me. “Starting with Reagan and his picking on kids at the University of California.
“Trump’s attack is less humorous and, I think, darker and more sinister,” Cain adds. “He’s trying to talk about terrorists coming up with Central American refugees, and has really taken the fear of violence against persons and fear of terrorism to a new level.”
Cain says that’s dangerous for Trump: “Inside his own party, he’s continuing to put pressure on the well-educated suburban women who enjoy their tax cuts and regulatory relief and the fact that they don’t have a Democrat in the White House, but are really squirming more and more over the racialized aspect of his criticism. And they have the example, particularly here in California, that this is long-term harmful to the party.”
Trump’s broadsides also ignore the reality that however much he might try to paint California as an overregulated, antibusiness crucible of failed liberal economic policies, it has nevertheless managed to spawn Tesla, Uber, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Netflix, and Oracle. It is still, as it has been for decades, the place where the future so often begins.
At the same time, there is no doubt that the state has grave problems. It has 12 percent of the country’s population, but half of its homeless people. A yawning gap between rich and poor—and, perversely, a generally robust economy—has produced skyrocketing housing prices and a resulting shortage of homes, and strict building, zoning, and environmental codes often impede the kind of quick construction that might ease the problem in the short term. The mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles acknowledge that the sprawling tent cities of homeless people on their streets have produced an untenable situation that amounts, in some cases, to a public health emergency.