If you were uncertain whether California government was already at war Trump-occupied Washington D.C., there’s no reason to doubt any longer.
In choosing Congressman Xavier Becerra to replace U.S. Senator-elect Kamala Harris, Gov. Jerry Brown undeniably chose a wartime attorney general.
Becerra’s pick was a surprise, only if you wondered how fiercely opposed California will be to the Trump administration. Becerra is originally from Sacramento, but he’s a creature of Washington. He’s spent 24 years in Congress and risen high in the leadership of the House. If the state is going to have to protect its policies and its people from Washington, why not draw on a lawyer who understands Washington deeply?
The real question about Becerra becomes: how skilled a fighter is he? He’s part of a stale Democratic Congressional leadership that has few victories to which it can point. Becerra’s departure from that leadership is a reminder of just how stagnant national Democrats are; presumably he might have moved up, but Democrats appear to have zero chance of winning the House anytime soon. And Nancy Pelosi, despite little record of recent political success, clings to her job as minority leader.
The attorney general’s office moves at a much faster pace than Congressional Washington. Becerra will have to step up his game.
Becerra probably won’t be helped by the impression that the a.g.’s job might be just a stepping stone to even higher office for him. Will he spend too much time in political maneuvering and internal competition within the California Democratic political elite, and not enough on the job? Ideally, Brown might have found a legal fighter without the high political profile—to focus on the battle with Trump.
Before the election, I wrote that I would have liked to see California First Lady Anne Gust Brown, a distinguished lawyer, take the job. She would have done a good job, and it would have been a sign that attorney general shouldn’t be an elected position; the a.g. should work for the governor.
Post-election, the attraction of a Washington figure like Becerra makes sense. But our war with Washington also shows why the a.g. shouldn’t be a separate elected official. In battles like this, we need an a.g. and a governor who are completely aligned, fighting from the same war plan.
Let’s hope that Brown and Becerra do just that.