In a narrative more befitting of kindergarten, and certainly not grown adults (politicans are exempt), one day after from Trump warned he would defund California if the state passed a bill to make itself a de facto "sanctuary state", saying the state was "out of control", furious state leaders have responded that, drumroll, they are not "out of control."
Hoping to make their case stron, state politicans pointed at their balanced budget and high jobs numbers in the latest dustup between the populist Republican and the progressive state. Quoted by Reuters, the state's top Democrats called Trump "cruel" and his proposals unconstitutional, after the businessman-turned-politician threatened to withhold federal funding from the most populous U.S. state if lawmakers passed a bill protecting undocumented immigrants. "President Trump's threat to weaponize federal funding is not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities," state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said in a statement on Monday.
The latest war of words between Trump and Democratic leaders in California, where voters chose his opponent, Hillary Clinton, two-to-one in November's election, began Sunday, in an interview between Trump and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. During the interview, O'Reilly asked Trump about a bill in the state legislature, authored by de Leon, to ban law enforcement agencies in the state from cooperating with immigration officials in most circumstances. Cities who have enacted similar bans are known as sanctuary cities, and de Leon's bill, if passed and signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, would effectively extend such rules to the entire state.
“I think it’s ridiculous. Sanctuary cities, as you know, I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems,” Trump said.
“If we have to, we’ll defund,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California, California in many ways is out of control, as you know.”
Trump told O’Reilly that he didn’t want to defund a state or a city and would like to give them “the money they need to properly operate.” But the president added that “if they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”
California's mostly democratic leadership was not amused. State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, an L.A.-area Democrat, said the state has the most manufacturing jobs in the nation, and produces a quarter of the country's food. “If this is what Donald Trump thinks is ‘out of control,’ I’d suggest other states should be more like us," Rendon said.
Sunday's shot across the bow of Sacramento followed a similar threat last weak, when Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from the University of California at Berkeley, where violent rioting led to the cancellation of a speech by famous "alt-right" winger Milo Yiannopoulos.
Experts have said it would be difficult for the President to withhold funds from either the university or the state. Court rulings have limited the power of the president to punish states by withholding funds, and most appropriations come from the Congress and not the executive branch. Then again, this is Trump we are talking about, and while it may ultimately indeed prove impossible, should this particular animosity between Trump and the state continue, Trump will certainly try...
Ultimately, California's fate may be in its own hands, and in its own territory.
As a reminder, a proposal for California to break away from the United States has been submitted to the Secretary of State's Office in the state capital. If it qualifies, it could trigger a vote on whether the most populous US state should become a separate nation. The group behind the proposal, Yes California Independence Campaign, was cleared on Thursday by Californian Secretary of State Alex Padilla to begin the bid to collect some 600,000 voter signatures required to put the ambitious plan on the ballot, AP reported.
The initiative would ask voters to repeal part of the state constitution that declares California an “inseparable part of the United States of America.” Being a US state is “no longer serving California’s best interests,” the movement claims.
“Not only is California forced to subsidize this massive military budget with our taxes, but Californians are sent off to fight in wars that often do more to perpetuate terrorism than to abate it. The only reason terrorists might want to attack us is because we are part of the United States and are guilty by association. Not being a part of that country will make California a less likely target of retaliation by its enemies,” the campaign argues, among other things.
“America already hates California, and America votes on emotions,” Marcus Evans, vice-president of Yes California told to the Los Angeles Times. “I think we'd have the votes today if we held it,” he added.
Since California must submit the valid voter signatures by July 25 to qualify for the November 2018 ballot, it is shaping up to be an especially volatile summer.