A year ago, as the presidential campaign swung into high gear, no one in either major political party — except Donald Trump — took seriously the possibility he might win the Republican nomination for president.
Turns out Trump was right; everyone else was wrong. It didn’t matter how much he lied: The fact checking service Politifact finds there’s significant untruth in 84 percent of what Trump says publicly, but he’s expanded his likely voting base from about 30 percent of Republicans during the early primary season to at least 40 percent overall. (Hillary Clinton’s falsehood rating: 63 percent.) That’s a huge achievement, demonstrating his adherents don’t much care what he says. They figure after years of watching his television reality show, they know him and what he means, even when he’s lewd.
Meanwhile, some recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton winning New York by a 20 percent vote margin and California by at least 17 percent. Sure, she consistently has had a small overall edge over Trump in national polling, but with so much of her support coming from just two states, she could win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College if Trump wins battleground states like Ohio and Florida by thin margins, still getting all their electoral votes.
So despite revelations of past vulgarity and misogyny, victory for Trump is possible, even if oddsmakers give Clinton better than a 70 percent chance of winning.
If Trump wins, there could be enormous effects on California, with its tough environmental laws and its giving citizens more rights than the federal government does, in everything from marijuana use to assisted suicide in limited circumstances.
Federal law almost always trumps (no pun intended) state laws, and it’s likely a Trump win would leave Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. So there could be plenty of actions to reverse the agenda pushed here for the last 12 years by Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.
They’ve insisted on tougher pollution standards for cars than the federal ones. Brown this year won an extension of the state cap-and-trade program aimed to cut down greenhouse gas production and reduce dangers of climate change.
But Congress and a President Trump could pass laws with completely different standards and negate what California has done.
If Trump wins, the bullet train project that’s been the apple of both Brown’s and Schwarzenegger’s eyes could abruptly stop. Yes, there would still be funding from voter-approved state bonds, but no more from the federal government. And if Trump and congressional Republicans outlaw cap-and-trade programs, another bullet train funding source would dry up quickly. Viaducts already underway or built in Fresno and Madera counties could become monumental bridges to nowhere.
While Brown in the interest of fighting climate change resists letting coal trains traverse California to ship supplies from ports at Oakland and elsewhere, a Trump-controlled Energy Department would likely demand the use of California ports for coal and shale oil exports to places like China and the Philippines.
If Trump imposed heavy new tariffs on Chinese goods, prices for furniture, toys and many other categories would rise precipitously in California — unless there’s a sudden revival of domestic makers for these items.
And if Trump really does build a long, high wall along the Mexican border (regardless of who pays for it), the flow of undocumented immigrants will slow. That would raise prices for everything from hotels and car washes, roofing and strawberries, just some of the industries employing many of the undocumented.
There are signs that illegal immigrants, who often anticipate political events that may affect them, realize Trump could win. One indicator: Undocumented immigration increased considerably in late summer, with a near-record 10,000 Central Americans — most traveling as families — caught at the border in August, for a total of more than 68,000 in the first 11 months of federal fiscal 2016. Altogether, 370,000 undocumented migrants were apprehended in those same 11 months, surpassing the total for 2015 with a month to go.
When big numbers of the undocumented try to crowd in, it usually means they anticipate changes in immigration policy — and only one candidate promises that.
All of which means a Trump presidency would have huge consequences for California, even if the state votes heavily against him.
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Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com. 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 www.californiafocus.net.