A big crowd showed up for the festive unveiling of President Barack Obama Boulevard in Los Angeles last weekend, at the intersection of “hope and resistance,” as one news outlet put it.
Sure, it’s just a 3 1/2-mile stretch of road, a living ex-president’s name added to streets honoring Jefferson and Washington.
But the ceremony also marked the latest, and one of the most joyous, of the not-so-subtle ways in which the West Coast continues to live free and prosper under a president doing everything he can to hurt the 51 million Americans in the three lower-48 states that hug the Pacific shore.
President Trump hates the West Coast. He has called California “out of control” and boasted about “my sick idea” to dump migrants into the progressive cities in this time zone. Worst of all, his administration is actively working to take away health care from more than 5 million people in California alone.
He appears to have warmer feelings for Kim Jong Un, the thug who starves his own people – “We fell in love,” Trump once said of North Korea’s dictator – than for a majority of citizens under his rule on the West Coast.
He has higher praise for a traitor and slaveholder, Robert E. Lee – “a great general” – than for the states working under a hostile administration without seceding from the union.
His energy and environmental policies would hasten the collapse of some of nature’s finest handiwork, from a pristine coastline that he tried to open to oil drilling, to forests that will soon be aflame again because the president will not do anything to stall climate change.
His trade war is a bullet that could wound the nation’s most trade-dependent state, Washington, which produces apples and wine and software and coffee and jetliners and trucks and global health care for the world.
To Trump, everything “Out West” is like occupied territory. Almost daily, he issues legal missives and executive orders intended in some way to make life worse on the West Coast.
But here’s the good news for E Pluribus Unum: He’s losing. Badly. The West Coast is crushing it against Trump.
Using the law to fight a bully, the Constitution to challenge an authoritarian, and facts against Fox News-driven fantasy, California, Oregon and Washington have stalled some of the most despicable of Trump’s retrograde policies.
And this is the place to say that, yes, Trump loathes the rest of Blue America as well, and many of those states are on the front lines against Trump.
But this president has a particular strain of hatred within his tiny dark heart for the Pacific states. And they hate him back. After the wipeout in last year’s congressional elections, only a mere 38-mile strip of the Pacific shore in the Lower 48 states, in Washington, remains in Republican hands.
In California and Washington, the ranks of the uninsured have fallen to record lows because of Obamacare. Would any other sitting president go out of his way to reverse that lifesaving progress? He recently directed his Justice Department to try to kill the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.
If the law stands, and the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions keep their legal protections, you can thank California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, for leading an aggressive coalition to defend Obama’s greatest legacy.
Federal judges have repeatedly sided with California against Trump on air pollution, toxic pesticides and oil drilling. In April, the Interior Department was forced to suspend a plan to drill off the Pacific shore. And a federal judge in Oregon has so far backed a far-reaching attempt to hold Trump’s government responsible for averting climate change.
West Coast governors have defied Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military; they’ve opened their National Guard ranks to the people Trump is trying to shun from service.
Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, has filed 36 lawsuits against the Trump administration and has not lost a case. His first takedown of the tyrant halted, nationwide, the initial Muslim ban.
Last week, Trump went to bat for social media extremists and conspiracy theorists, issuing a warning to the Silicon Valley companies that are trying to banish the hatemongers: “We are monitoring and watching, closely!” Actually, they’re monitoring and watching him – closely. It’s, um, what they do in Big Tech.
Under Trump’s guidance, the United States is running up debt faster than one of his bankrupt casinos. It’s what he does. By contrast, California, after raising taxes on the rich and wages for the poor, after extending family leave and health care, is projecting a $21 billion budget surplus for the coming fiscal year.
Talent and capital can go anywhere. It’s drawn to the West Coast, because creativity doesn’t grow well in nurseries of fear and tired thinking. Washington was named the best state for business in 2017, and the best place for workers in 2018.
We'll soon look west for a replacement for Trump. By moving their presidential primaries up to March, California and Washington have assured that the one-in-seven Americans who live in those two states will have an early say.
It’s only fitting, given how much they’ve contributed to the fight against the Trump blight on the Republic.
Timothy Egan is a Seattle-based columnist for The New York Times.