California will be a big focus in Congress next fall
The eyes of the nation will be riveted on the presidential race in just over a year, with the likelihood that President Donald Trump will be fighting for his political life and also to retain immunity from courtroom prosecution for another four years.
There’s also the possibility that the impeachment investigation now underway in Washington, D.C., will have forced Trump out, either through conviction (unlikely because of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate) or through resignation in a deal similar to the one former President Richard Nixon made in 1974, when he was pardoned just after leaving office.
Even Nixon haters didn’t mind that pardon much, because it completely removed the onetime California senator from politics and government.
But as the Trump saga and his reelection drive develop, California won’t be much in play. Since the flood of Latino voter registrations of the late 1990s, this state has been solidly Democratic, so candidates in next fall’s runoff election for the nation’s highest office won’t spend much time or money here.
The action will be on the congressional level, where Democrats took seven formerly Republican seats in 2018, leaving the GOP determined to win at least some of them back next year.
That’s one reason it was significant when the seven new Democratic incumbents — all from districts either in the San Joaquin Valley or at least partly in Orange County — this fall stopped hesitating and began fully backing Democratic efforts in the House of Representatives to impeach Trump.
Their getting off the fence on ousting Trump before his term is up was significant because all seven have proved highly capable of reading public sentiment in their districts. All decided the prevailing sense among the folks who will decide their futures a year from now was that it is high time to rid the nation of its most divisive president in memory.
(That’s saying a lot, considering the strong pro and con feelings engendered by all three of Trump’s most recent predecessors – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.)
Of the seven Democratic newcomers, only Mike Levin, representing northern San Diego County and some of south Orange County, can be seen as “safe.” He won by more than six percent last year, while four of his fellow California congressional newbies didn’t see their races decided until well after Election Day, several almost a month after the last votes were cast.
The tightest races involved T.J. Cox (Selma and vicinity), Josh Harder (Modesto area), Katie Porter (Irvine area) and Gil Cisneros (Yorba Linda and environs). Porter has been aboard the impeachment bandwagon for awhile, but the others just got on shortly before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, herself a California Democrat, declared it time for a full-fledged investigation.
All were reading tea leaves rather than solid polling information, but all had the sense that at least a plurality of voters in their districts wants Trump investigated thoroughly.
If they were mistaken, they will suffer the wrath of Republican voters who are about as numerous as Democrats in those districts, people who feel their man is being wronged, despite evidence he released himself that he asked the leader of Ukraine to take measures standing to benefit Trump politically. Some believe Trump has long used his office for financial gain, encouraging diplomatic and other foreign visitors to spend money in his hotels and other properties. But despite hints produced by the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine phone call was the first “smoking gun” that showed Trump using the presidency for his personal interests.
Porter publicly acknowledged the risk she and her colleagues took by advocating impeachment. “People said (to me), ‘Well, you know this might be risky. You might not get reelected.’ I said, ‘I am here to do what’s right.’”
We will know just about a year from today whether Porter and the others read their tea leaves correctly. If they’re reelected, you can figure they’re pretty good at reading their districts. If not, the next Congress might look quite different from today’s. With the state’s presidential preference pretty much a foregone conclusion, that will be a main California focus next fall.
Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit http://www.californiafocus.net.
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