In the space of 24 hours, California Gov. Jerry Brown flew out of China after signing bilateral climate change deals and meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing and returned home to host the German environment minister in San Francisco.
Showing almost no sign of jet lag, the governor, 79, punctuated every word from his news conference podium as he declared America remained in the Paris accord, despite the White House withdrawal from the global agreement.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks grinned as she thanked the governor’s hospitality and pledged to work with Brown as her American counterpart to fill the void Washington had left.
“We’re in a very unusual, unprecedented situation in America,” said Brown. “We’ve never had a President like Donald Trump. In effect, he’s standing against the world and he won’t be able to stand much longer. We’re ready for battle.”
If there is an issue about which Brown is most passionate, it is climate change. That’s pushed him from an already vocal opponent of the administration to shouting his opposition. He’s taken to saying the President is AWOL on the issue and called the Paris accord withdrawal “an insane and deviant move.”
It’s also been a galvanizing, rallying cry for others in the opposition to the Trump administration, as Brown drums up support from fellow governors, mayors and business leaders alongside vocal Trump opponent and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Brown, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, announced the US Climate Alliance that pledges to commit to the goals of the Paris accord.
The coalition announced it now has 13 states committed to follow the pact. “America is not out of the Paris Accord. Mr. Trump is out. That doesn’t mean the rest of the country won’t find a way back in. We’re not opposing for the sake of opposition,” said Brown. “I’m opposing to uphold the truth.”
Trump, for his part, viewed the climate pact as a defeat for American workers and says it unfairly advantaged foreign countries.
“We’re getting out,” the President said from the Rose Garden as he announced the administration’s withdrawal from the accord. “And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”
The President claimed the pact placed “draconian” financial burdens on the American people. “We want fair treatment. We don’t want other countries and other leaders to laugh at us anymore,” he said.
Brown launched a full-throated rebuttal shortly after that announcement and hasn’t let up since.
Brown has hardly been shy in his disdain of the new administration since the election. Helming a state that has been ground zero for the resistance to the Trump White House, his state legislature has been working on a flurry of laws, from one that makes the entire state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants to another that proposes creating a California single payer health care system. The climate change issue merely crystalized the opposition between DC and California.
Arming himself for the expected legal battles ahead, Brown lured Xavier Becerra away from DC where the California native spent more than 20 years as a congressman. Becerra is his state attorney general, who brings chops as a lawyer and national politician to defend California’s path away from Washington. Becerra, the son of a Mexican immigrant, underscored his personal passion to keep families together, despite immigration status.
“We’re going to keep moving forward,” said Becerra, the glint of the impending battle in his eye. “If you don’t get in our way, no problem. You want to get in our way? That’s where I come in. We’re prepared to resist any effort to diminish the rights of the people of the state of California.”
Becerra anticipates he may battle the White House in court, given Trump’s pledge to pull federal funding from California if it fails to follow federal guidelines on immigration. The President has called California “completely out of control. If we have to, we’ll defund.”
Becerra and Brown barely blink an eye on that threat. The most populous state in the US is also the sixth largest economy in the world. In the last seven years, California outpaced most states in job creation.
And, if anything, said Brown, as the Trump White House continues to be bogged down in scandals, the momentum is on the side of California and its growing coalition.
“If we were isolated, California all by itself, then no, we couldn’t have impact. But we’re not isolated,” said Brown. “California will resist. America and the rest of the world will galvanize. It will arouse the citizenry of America.”