OAKLAND, Calif. – After last week’s elections, Californians wasted no time in making plain that their state will not give in to racism, anti-immigrant actions and other forms of bigotry, and that they will fight hard to uphold social programs to better people’s lives.
Hillary Clinton won 61.5 percent of the vote here on Nov. 8, and many positive ballot initiatives were approved at the state and local level.
In cities around the state, among them San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, thousands joined the nationwide wave of demonstrations protesting Donald Trump’s designation as president-elect despite Clinton’s clear countrywide victory in the popular vote. Large numbers gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, while thousands linked hands around Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Many high school students around the state walked out of class in protest.
Most protests were peaceful, though a few instances of property destruction and graffiti took place.
The day after the election, the state’s top legislative leaders issued a powerful statement.
“California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love,” said state Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leόn and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, both Democrats, in a statement published in both English and Spanish.
“While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values,” they said. “America is greater than any one man or party … We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”
In a Nov. 10 statement, Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, emphasized the need to heal “the deep divisions in our country,” but warned that Californians “will stay true to our basic principles. We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time – devastating climate change.”
Retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer filed legislation Nov. 15 to do away with the Electoral College, which last week awarded victory to Trump though Clinton currently leads the popular vote by a growing margin. Abolishing the Electoral College – a late 18th century institution designed to let southern slave-owners boost their vote by counting slaves as three-fifths of a person – is also the subject of several petitions currently circulating, including one by MoveOn.
Other elected officials highlighted the issue of immigration.
Among them was Boxer’s replacement, newly elected Senator Kamala Harris, formerly California’s Attorney General. Harris made clear last week that she will help lead the fightback against the President-elect’s anti-immigrant proposals.
“One side believes it is okay to demagogue immigrants, has proposed unrealistic plans to build a wall, and is promising to break up families by deporting millions of people,” Harris wrote. “The other side believes in respect, justice, dignity, and equality as part of an approach to bring millions of people out of the shadows.”
“Right now is a time to bring people together,” she added. “To unite our country around the common values and ideas that actually make us great. Demagoguing or outright attacking communities of color is not a real plan – it is a recipe for disaster.”
Harris has posted a petition for people to pledge they will stand with immigrants.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla blasted the inclusion of his Kansas counterpart, Kris Kobach, in Trump’s transition team. Kobach has long backed what Padilla called “racist, anti-immigrant policies.” Among many other anti-immigrant actions, Kobach helped write Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which would have let police ask anyone suspected of being undocumented to provide proof of citizenship.
Meanwhile, sanctuary cities – among them San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland – are vowing to uphold their commitments to refrain from helping federal immigration authorities work to deport residents in their communities.
In San Francisco Nov. 14, Mayor Ed Lee told a big crowd, “We have been, and always have been, a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love.”
Among ballot measures winning at the state level were reform of criminal justice sentencing, ending the ban on multilingual education, greater gun control, extension of a temporary tax to fund education and health care, a ban on single use plastic bags, a tobacco tax to fund health care and prevention, and legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Death penalty opponents were deeply disappointed by the loss of their initiative to do away with the penalty entirely, while the status of a rival initiative to speed up the death penalty appeals process is too close to call.
Meanwhile, California is continuing to elect Democrats to statewide offices. The governorship and other offices in the administration will be up for a vote in 2018, but this year voters continued the Democrats’ decisive lead in the state’s 53-member contingent in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the state Senate, Democrats could end up with a veto-proof supermajority, and in the Assembly, it appears that they have won that majority.