Texas was Obama's chief antagonist. In Trump's America, California is eager for the part

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about California becoming to Trump what Texas has been to Obama.

By Jazmine Ulloa and Melanie Mason
Contact Reporters

 In the early morning hours after Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States, California Senate leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon were on the phone grappling with what comes next.

Trump’s upset victory left the two Democrats reeling.  They saw the incoming administration as an existential threat to the progressive work they accomplished in the nation’s most populous state. By midday Wednesday, they released a combative statement vowing to defend those strides.

"We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress,” they said.

Other California leaders rushed to join Rendon and De León in setting up the state as a liberal counterweight to Trump, laying the groundwork for four years of battles with Washington. 

Now, the circumstance in which California finds itself recalls that of a perennial rival: Texas playing the role of chief antagonist to President Obama.

That brand of resistance — a barrage of lawsuits seeking to stymie Obama’s priorities, and an elevation of state identity over a national one — may be a model, albeit an imperfect one, for California leaders wondering where the state fits into Trump’s America. But taking a pugnacious posture would be relatively out of character for a state that in recent times has not tended to view federal power with hostility.

“I think it’s important to think about what California will do if this is a systematic and deeply conservative administration, pushing it in directions it doesn’t want to go,” said Cal Jillson, a political analyst and professor at Southern Methodist University. “Taking a lesson from Texas and learning from the Texas strategy when it feels it is going the wrong way could be wise.” 

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