Look West, Democrats: California Leading Progressive Fight

Democrats searching for a national progressive message should look west, toward California. Governor Jerry Brown and Democrats have complete control of both houses of the state legislature and they are pursuing a bold progressive agenda.

We continually hear Democrats criticizing other Democrats for not being progressive enough. We have had front row seats at the Iowa statehouse circus this year following Republicans gaining control of all three branches of Iowa government. California is the progressive model demonstrating what Iowa Democrats could accomplish if they can regain control of Iowa State government.

California Democrats aren’t just challenging Trump and the national Republican agenda with resistance, they are doubling down with an uncompromising offensive. It’s a three-pronged initiative to challenge Trump with legislation, litigation and circumvention. They will legislate with state laws to meet Californians needs, they will challenge Trump in court and they will work around Trump when necessary.

The California Legislature has retained President Obama’s former Attorney-General, Eric Holder to represent their interests as an outside council. They are using the playbook of Republican states’ attorney generals that frequently sued the Obama Administration over various laws.

Single Payer Insurance

California Democrats have gone beyond just defending Obamacare. The Legislature is proposing an ambitious statewide insurance plan to cover all Californians. It would extend to undocumented immigrants, (a real slap at the Trump anti-immigrant rhetoric) Medicare recipients and those that are covered by employers.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a world recognized health care policy group is headquartered in Menlo Park, California. Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at Kaiser Family Foundation described the insurance plan.

“The single-payer plan would be administered by a nine-member, unpaid board appointed by the governor and legislature and a public advisory committee of doctors, nurses, health care providers and consumers…with its simplicity, low overhead and cost controls, single payer insurance has the potential to create a lower cost health care system, so in total it could very well be the that people in this state would pay less for health care than they do now,” said Levitt.

Climate Change

Californians have some of the most environmentally green protections in the United States. They have established their own cap-and-trade carbon trading plan that will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in spite of Trump’s retreat on the Paris Climate Agreement. Californians remain committed to a 13% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

While Trump is rolling back national fuel efficiency standards, California has affirmed their commitment to improving automobile fuel efficiency with further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. All auto makers selling cars in California will be forced to improve fuel efficiency regardless of Trump’s weakening of national fuel efficiency requirements.

The only American Bullet Train is in phase 1 construction on the 420 mile Los Angeles to San Francisco route. At top speeds of 220 miles per hour California is setting the standard for high speed rail transportation.


With the largest Muslim population of any state and 2.3 million undocumented immigrants, California is on the leading edge of progressive immigration policy. In addition, immigrants are crucial to the functioning of their $46-billion-dollar agricultural sector. Add the immigrant dependent high-tech economy into the equation and one can appreciate why California is one of the most immigrant friendly states.

They are one of the states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. They provide subsidized medical care for 170,000 undocumented children as well. In a proactive move, to counter Trump, they are proposing to make it a sanctuary state, and are setting up a fund to assist undocumented immigrants at deportation hearings.

The proposed Trump border wall is threatened by the Democratic Lt Governor Gavin Newsom who plans to run for Governor in 2018. Newsom has been mentioned as a future Democratic presidential candidate. Newsom is proposing to sue the Trump administration over the wall using California environmental rules.


Voting Rights

Voting rights in California have been enhanced by the legislatures passage of a so-called motor voter law. The bill allows Californians who register cars or take driving tests at their local DMV offices to automatically register to vote.

California Democrats are on the cutting edge of the national progressive movement. They are challenging all Democrats to join in the Trump resistance with bold ideas and committed political action.


by Rick Smith
Photo via Wiki Commons
Posted 6/9/17

2 Comments on "Look West, Democrats: California Leading Progressive Fight"

  • The Platform of the Iowa Democratic Party is every bit as progressive as this, but would our legislative leadership move it through the General Assembly and would all of the Democratic candidates for Governor sign it? Will Democratic legislative leadership and all Democratic candidates for Governor pledge that if we win the trifecta they’ll support a moratorium on and local control of CAFOs, clean up our filthy water and make polluters pay the cost, legalize Cannabis, publicly finance elections, make post-secondary education and training affordable, and the other great planks? This candidate for Governor makes that pledge! Put another way, will Democrats do better than we did last time we won the trifecta in 2006?

  • Jon is right. and many of us reading I”Iowa Starting Line” voted last year to make it so. I do have to say, though, that I have no problem looking west for, shall we say, inspiration? There is no particular reason that we, as a state, can’t do those things.
    But first, we need to elect Democrats – real, progressive Democrats. Then we can see what we can do to drag Iowa back into the 21st Century.

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