California Democrats Reap Trump Dividend

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

Donald Trump is hardly California’s best friend.   His policies are out of step with most folks in the Golden State and his stances on immigration, health care and climate change have spurred confrontations between California and the Trump Administration.  One gaggle of Californians, however, has benefited from the Trump phenomenon—Democratic politicians.

Jerry Brown has seized the bully pulpit as an international voice on climate change—giving him a platform and a cause that will likely extend well beyond his final term as Governor.  “Republican” Arnold Schwarzenegger has also been making noise as a GOP critic of climate change deniers.  Brown, unlike President Trump, has shown an ability to focus on this issue and to articulate a clear message.  The Governor’s tough love message on climate change is reminiscent of his almost Draconian approach to righting the State’s fiscal ship.

Senator Diane Feinstein’s visibility on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee has reinforced her profile as a senior statesperson and provides solid evidence that she is “good to go,” if she opts to seek re-election in 2018.  Senator Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have been able to make waves that have placed them in the sights of “the great mentioners” looking ahead to 2020.

Nowhere has the “Trump Bump” had more of an impact than on the California Congressional delegation.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D- Burbank) has gone from being a respected, low key presence in Congress to being as unlikely Democratic superstar in his role as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.  He has become a ubiquitous presence on network news, CNN and MSNBC, NPR, and in major publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.  His calm demeanor and fact laden rhetoric has helped Schiff emerge as a leading spokesman for the “anti-Trump” forces.

With Washington roughly 2500 miles away and local broadcast media showing scant interest in political coverage, California members of the House of Representatives have  previously operated largely under the radar, with the obvious exception of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).   The Trump circus has changed all that.  House Intelligence Committee members Eric Swalwell (D-Castro Valley) and Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) have become media figures, while Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has become the hardnosed protagonist against President Trump in the Twitter wars.  “Auntie Maxine” Waters (D-Los Angeles  ) has become a folk hero among millennials and impeachment supporters who savor her relentless tongue lashings of the President and his administration.  Even Brad Sherman (D-San Fernando Valley) has jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon with an impeachment resolution.

As much as the Trump presidency has boosted the profiles of House Democrats, it has painted targets on the backs of as many as nine Republicans on the California Congressional delegation.  Seven GOP members represent districts lost by Donald Trump in 2016—Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), Darrell Issa (R-Vista), David Valadao (R-Hanford), Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), and Orange County stalwarts Ed Royce (R-Brea), Mimi Walters (R-Irvin), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).  Rohrabacher has his own set of problems, stemming from his image as “Putin’s favorite Congressman.”  In addition, Devon Nunes’ (R-Tulare) ham-handed performance as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee has potentially put his seat in play, while Duncan Hunter’s (R-Alpine) ethics problems will encourage Democrats to come after him.  To add insult to injury, all GOP members of the California delegation were persuaded to cast their votes in favor of the unpopular House Republican proposal to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

With an expected lower turnout in a non-presidential year, national Republicans are targeting four Democratic incumbents in California—Ami Bera (D-Sacramento), Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), Scott Peters (D-San Diego) and Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert.)  Whether these are genuine offensives, or merely strategic head fakes designed to lure Democrats into spending money on defense, remains to be seen.  Recent history would suggest that the GOP faces an uphill battle trying to win any of these races, especially with the ten-ton anchor of Donald Trump’s unpopularity in California weighing them down.

With 2018 elections on the horizon, Donald Trump looks like the “gift that keeps on giving” to Democrats in California.

Share this article: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.