California, here he comes.
President Trump was flying to California Tuesday, less than one week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the federal government is suing the state for its defiance of federal immigration laws.
The president is boldly taking on the Golden State on immigration and was planning to visit San Diego to inspect eight recently built prototypes of the wall he wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico so he could “pick the right one,” he said.
From Kate Steinle’s death at the hands of an illegal immigrant to elected officials alerting illegal immigrants to federal law enforcement plans to arrest them, the president has had no shortage of issues to tackle with this problem-child state.
It is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Or is it?
It is no secret that President Trump has modeled himself after President Ronald Reagan at the national level – some suggest he borrowed the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” from Reagan, who used a similar phrase, “Let’s make America great again,” in his 1980 bid for president.
Similarly, President Trump may now be looking to cut a Reaganesque path through the Golden State.
To be sure, the president is battling the same “deep state” in the Golden State in the same way then-Gov. Reagan did in the 1960s.
It is worth remembering that the actor-turned-politician at the time faced many challenges. After winning the governor’s race in 1966 against Democrat Pat Brown – the father of current Gov. Jerry Brown – Reagan felt it was his duty to uphold his campaign promise to restore order at California’s universities.
After riots erupted at the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, Reagan used a heavy hand to return calm – including calling in the National Guard. He was sharply criticized.
However, once order was restored Reagan became a beloved figure. He went on to be re-elected as governor in 1970, and he did the unthinkable when he won the nation’s populous state when he ran for president in 1980.
Could President Trump be aiming at carrying the state to win a second term in 2020? I believe so.
For now, California could certainly use some tough love again.
The state’s burgeoning population of illegal immigrants is taking a toll. More illegal immigrants reside in California than any other state. The cost of illegal immigration to California taxpayers is now a whopping $23 billion per year and growing.
Additionally, President Trump was not wrong to call California a nest for criminals. According to the FBI’s 2017 Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, 59 percent of 73 California cities saw an increase in crime in just the first half of last year. Sadly, some cities such as Sacramento experienced a stunning 61 percent increase in murder.
Rest assured, President Trump’s message of restoring law and order to California will not fall on deaf ears during his visit.
California is still home to 4.8 million Republicans and 4.7 million more independents. Many of the independents may be Republicans but have simply chosen to “decline to state” their party preference at a time when being a Republican in California is considered tragically unhip.
President Trump’s super-charged rhetoric on immigration and his latest action to sue California may give Republicans in the state a much-needed shot in the arm.
GOP candidates in this year’s gubernatorial race are now discussing a ballot initiative to place the repeal of the “Sanctuary State” law directly in front of the people, where it would have a decent chance of passage.
The ballot box is one place where conservative measures stand a greater chance of passage than in the state’s Democratic-led Legislature. For example, during the last several years there have been surprising conservative victories in California including: the Proposition 8 battle over marriage; Proposition 1A in 2009 that defeated a $16 billion tax increase; and the defeat other proposed tax increases.
Great things can happen when conservative voters in California are enthused, and President Trump’s ability to utilize his bully pulpit would go a long way to rally them to engage in state politics once again.
Whether by ballot measure or via the Trump administration’s lawsuit itself, if the president succeeds in ending California’s “Sanctuary State” policy and restoring much-needed law and order, he could end up as beloved a figure as President Reagan, which he could then parlay into carrying California in 2020.
Sure, it seems implausible now but then again that’s what nearly everyone said about Donald Trump’s longshot run for president in 2016 and Ronald Reagan’s run for governor and later president.