Californians shouldn’t apologize for challenging the new administration or its democratic legitimacy.

Because California is a democracy – albeit a very flawed one – and the United States is not.

California elects the people who win the most votes (albeit in a problematic top two system). The United States, as we’re learning again, doesn’t elect the people who wins the most votes, and that’s not just a slam at the Electoral College. Our Congress also does not reflect the popular will, given the exigencies of single-member districts and the U.S. Senate. Democrats won the popular vote for the U.S. Senate—but lost the U.S. Senate. (California has a version of the same problem, since we also use single-member districts, but the mismatch between democratic preference isn’t quite as severe).

Remember that the U.S., unlike modern democracies elsewhere, doesn’t actually conduct national elections – it outsources its elections to states and local governments.

And the U.S. also fails to give its people the right – increasingly common in other places – to decide directly on laws, via initiative and referendum. Californians have this right – though our system of doing it is dangerously inflexible—but at least we allow it. America’s failure to permit democratic consideration of constitutional change is more evidence that it isn’t really a democracy.

Of course, our country has a democratic culture. But that democratic culture is profoundly state and local.

So when people in DC tell us we’re not respecting the democratic verdict, don’t give an inch. Go right back at them: for all our failings, we govern ourselves democratically here in California. Why won’t you?