California governor says divided nation needs common ground
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s outgoing governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, said Wednesday the deeply divided nation needs to find comity and common ground, even as his state’s aggressive confrontation of President Donald Trump looks to accelerate under his successor.
Brown is preparing to hand off power to Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who ran on his promise to stand up to Trump and promote California’s liberal values.
“I see the central challenge of America is pulling itself together and minimizing the deepening divergence of our people,” Brown told reporters in a rare availability in the Capitol office he’ll vacate in two months.
California must stand up for human rights and the environment, he said, “but we have to do it in a way that finds greater commonality, we have to maximize the sense of being Americans.”
“I’ve seen other countries that are pulling apart,” Brown said. “Democracy’s in trouble everywhere.”
Brown has relished the role of foil to Trump on some issues but also frustrated his party’s liberal wing that’s eager to much more aggressively confront Trump and enact an array of left-wing priorities like universal health care.
He said he doesn’t care for framing California’s role as the “resistance” to Trump. Rather, he said, the state follows its own path and fights those who get in the way.
Brown was responding to data from AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate, which found that 7 in 10 Californians disapprove of Trump and more than half said they were driven to the polls by their opposition to the president.
He noted with approval that U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, the party’s leader in the House who is looking to be speaker, said she’d be cautious and move slowly on investigating and potentially impeaching Trump.
Accepting victory following Tuesday’s election, Newsom took a confrontational tone toward Trump and presented California as the model for an approach to politics that’s diametrically opposed to the president’s views. He extolled the state’s diversity — it is home to millions of immigrants, and Latinos make up the largest ethnic group — and its powerhouse economy.
“At our best, we always stand up. We step in and we fight for what’s right,” Newsom said. “There’s a reason why California’s dream is America’s leading brand. Because California’s dream will always be too big to fail and too powerful to bully.”
Speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Sacramento last week, Newsom rejected a suggestion that he and Brown have different approaches to confronting Trump, noting both used harsh language to criticize the president.
Brown, 80, leaves office on Jan. 7. He said he intends to use his remaining weeks to push for a negotiated agreement among water users long at war over the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta east of San Francisco.
At the request of Brown and Newsom, a state water board delayed a vote scheduled for Wednesday on a plan to increase the amount of water allowed to flow through the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries to protect habitat for fish in the delta. The move would result in less water for farmers.
“A short extension will allow these negotiations to progress and could result in a faster, less contentious and more durable outcome,” Newsom and Brown wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. Voluntary agreements are better than a government mandate that will inevitably lead to lawsuits, they wrote.
The Water Resources Control Board delayed the decision until Dec. 11.
Brown also reiterated his support for building two massive tunnels underneath the delta to move water from Northern California to water users elsewhere, mainly the Central Valley and Southern California. He said bypassing the delta has been a priority since his father was governor in the 1960s.
“If someone had a better way, we would have heard about it,” he said. “I don’t think there is another way.”
As governor, Newsom will likely be working with a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature with the power to raise taxes without Republican votes, but Brown said he thinks lawmakers will be very reluctant to do so.
Brown called providing government-funded insurance to everyone in the state — an idea known as “single-payer” that’s popular with liberal activists and embraced by Newsom — “an intriguing idea.” But he said aside from the cost, it would take cooperation with the federal government. Estimated costs have been as high as $400 billion per year.
Brown noted that Newsom has said he would likely have to phase it in.
Cooper reported from Los Angeles.