California Gears Up for Resistance as Trump Era Begins

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Thousands of people attend an anti-Trump protest in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2016. (Brittany Hosea-Small/KQED)

As Linda Capato Jr. waited to board a flight to Washington, D.C., the Oakland resident explained why she was heading to the nation's capital for this week's inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

“I’m going to participate in a bunch of days of protest,” she said on Sunday. Capato is a member of Disrupt J20, a national group promising to make its presence known in various ways at the upcoming inaugural events.

“A lot of folks are fearful of this new administration, and the last year of rhetoric from Donald Trump and the Republicans -- it's incredibly scary for a lot of us,” said Capato, 33, an organizer with an environmental advocacy group.

To Capato, an LGBT rights and climate change activist, her goal is simple: "To show there is no mandate for this presidency. The biggest purpose is to prove that this isn’t going to be an easy four years for Trump and the Republicans to pass anything they want. People will resist."

Linda Capato of Oakland traveled to Washington, D.C. to join Disrupt J20, a national group promising to make its presence known in various ways at the upcoming inaugural events.
Linda Capato of Oakland traveled to Washington, D.C., to join Disrupt J20, a national group promising to make its presence known in various ways at the upcoming inaugural events. (Courtesy Linda Capato)

And “people” aren’t the only ones resisting. California state government is gearing up for a show of resistance to the agenda of President Trump. Bigly.


Gov. Jerry Brown seems to be relishing his role as Resister-in-Chief from his perch in Sacramento. Five weeks after the election, Brown gave what he told KQED's Marisa Lagos was the best speech he's given since he ran for president in 1976.

Speaking to a conference of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Brown promised to stand firm against attempts to weaken California’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

"We've got a lot of firepower," Brown told a room full of climate scientists. Flexing his political muscles, Brown said California was an economic powerhouse not to be messed with.

"We've got the scientists, we’ve got the universities, we’ve got the national labs and we have the political clout for the battle. And we will persevere, have no doubt about that.”

He backed that up by nominating U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace now-Sen. Kamala Harris as attorney general. Becerra, whose mother was born in Mexico, will become the highest-ranking Latino official in California after he is confirmed.

As attorney general, Becerra will be poised as the top legal defender of California policies and values around the environment, health care and immigration.

And he’ll have company. Not to be outdone, the state Legislature hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, presumably to help California develop and articulate the best legal arguments for fighting the new president's agenda.

California, which gave Hillary Clinton 4.3 million more votes than Trump (more than the overall voting total by which Clinton beat Trump nationally), does seem uniquely positioned to be what Texas was to Barack Obama -- a legal wall.

"Somebody's gotta do this," said Terry Moe, a political science professor at Stanford University. "Rather than rolling over and playing dead, it’s smart from a political and public policy standpoint."

As for any risks to California for pushing back hard against Trump's initiatives, Moe doesn’t see any risk.

“It’s not like the feds are going to lock up Jerry Brown,” Moe said. “He’s taking a stand and I don’t see how it can hurt him.”

But Jim Brulte, chair of the California Republican Party, warns that Democrats are making a mistake by lining up to oppose Trump at every turn.

 “Rather than worrying about the Republicans in Washington replacing the Affordable Care Act, they ought to worry about income inequality, which is greater in California than anywhere in the nation,” Brulte said. "And that’s with a Democrat in the White House.”

Nonetheless, a  lot of everyday Californians will be joining the opposition, like Oakland activist Capato and many others energized by the specter of a Trump presidency.

One of those is Elizabeth Beatty of San Francisco, who will attend the Women's March in D.C. on Saturday with her 12-year-old daughter, Alessandra.

It's the first protest for Beatty in a while. She said she hopes it "inspires people to get active."

"We've got to say we're here, we're still fighting and join us," she said. "That's what I hope from the march, that it's just the beginning."

KQED News' Miranda Leitsinger contributed to this report.