After four years of life in the headquarters of the Trump resistance, many Californians are adjusting to life under the Biden administration.
That means Gov. Gavin Newsom must navigate disagreement among Democrats about how to solve some of the state’s thorniest and most urgent problems.
And it’s also a moment of reckoning for the state’s Republicans, who must walk a fine line between the parts of their base still enamored of former President Donald Trump, who tried to subvert the election, and the parts trying to strike a path forward without him.
[Read more about how California’s relationship with Washington changed on Inauguration Day.]
It’s not a perfect analogue, but a lot about this period of political transition has felt familiar to my colleague Manny Fernandez, who covered Texas for The New York Times during the Obama administration and when Mr. Trump took office. (Coincidentally, I was also covering Texas at the time.)
Recently, I caught up with Manny to talk about politics, and about a trip to the Central Valley to report on how constituents felt about Representative Kevin McCarthy, who has shown continuing loyalty to Mr. Trump, even as he has faced intense criticism for doing so. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited and condensed:
So first, tell me how you see politics in California shifting now that we’re no longer the center of the resistance?
I saw a little bit of this play out in Texas in reverse.
When I started in Texas, I started in the Obama era, so I covered the pit of the resistance — the Texas conservative world battling the Obama administration.
That shifted with the Trump era, and it was interesting to watch Texans going from, “We’re a fighter,” to a different posture, where they were trying to find their own footing, because they had defined themselves by what they were against.
[Read more from Manny in May 2016, about what makes Texas Texas.]
Texas Republican leaders looked around for another enemy, and it ended up being the Democratic-led blue cities. The red state leadership turned inward and started battling the cities of Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
So I wonder how will this play out in Democratic-led California, where they’re going from being fighters to being in charge at the federal level. It’s probably easier to define yourself by what you’re against than what you’re for.
Tell me a little about why you went to Bakersfield to find out about Mr. McCarthy.
The idea was to go there and find out what Republicans in his home district think about him.
From the outside, your kind of gut reaction might be, “I’m sure a lot of Republicans in Bakersfield are outraged with him, and can’t believe he’s still loyal to Trump, even after the Capitol riot.”
I found a few moderate Republicans who did think McCarthy went too far.
I also found a lot of Republicans who were pro-Trump, post-riot, and they were not giving an inch. It was eye-opening to see the amount of support that there still is in the San Joaquin Valley.
What was your sense about how Bakersfield Republicans were reacting compared with other Republicans in the state?
For example, Representative David Valadao, a kind of protégé of Mr. McCarthy’s, was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. And Shannon Grove, a pro-Trump state senator from Bakersfield, was ousted from her caucus leadership role after repeating false claims about the Capitol mob in a tweet. So clearly, not all California Republicans felt the same.
It’s this question of, “How pro-Trump are you? How extreme is too extreme?”
On the one hand, with Ms. Grove, the lesson might be that there was a line — albeit an extreme line — that she crossed with that one tweet. Then there’s other parts of the party for whom her tweet wasn’t far enough.
All those clashes about policy about ideology will be shaking out in the next several weeks and months.
[Read more about how to make sense of the attack on the Capitol — from California.]
I want to bring things back to this Texas comparison. Eventually, what we saw there is the lieutenant governor who was very aligned with Mr. Trump, Dan Patrick, pushing a so-called bathroom bill, and then business leaders who were also Republican stepping in to squash it.
Did you see any echoes of that particular tension in the Central Valley?
I saw that more in Bakersfield, among very pro-business, Bush-style Republicans who were worried about Trump. They didn’t like what they had been seeing in the Trump White House.
More rural conservatives seemed to be further right and a little bit more pro-Trump. Those two forces are going to be butting heads throughout the entire Biden administration, trying to get their folks in the Legislature, trying to win their local races.
More on politics:
Kevin Faulconer, San Diego’s former mayor, has officially announced he’s running for governor — either in 2022 or if Mr. Newsom is recalled. He’s a well-liked moderate conservative who was termed out. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
More Democrats are publicly criticizing the governor for his administration’s pandemic response. [The Los Angeles Times]
If you missed it, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia who has routinely repeated conspiracy theories, wrote a Facebook post in which she falsely suggested that a secretive entity had caused the devastating, deadly Camp Fire using lasers from space in order to make way for the high-speed rail. [Media Matters for America]
That is not how the Camp Fire started. [The New York Times]
Here’s what else to know today
The Biden administration is facing pressure to make amends for family separations. [The New York Times]
California’s K-12 public school enrollment has dropped precipitously during the pandemic. The decline is five times greater than the state’s annual rate in recent years. [CalMatters]
Corporate America set 2020 as a deadline for many of its climate goals. Here’s how much (or how little) progress they’ve made. [Bloomberg]
And if you missed it, a California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require large companies doing business in the state to report their carbon emissions and set goals for cutting them. [KQED]
Jack Palladino, the polarizing, hard-charging San Francisco private investigator credited with modernizing the profession, has died after a “brutal attack.” [The New York Times]
New research suggests that football practices pose more concussion risk than games for college athletes. [The New York Times]
Want to see Yosemite National Park’s famous “firefall?” You’ll need reservations this year. Here’s what else to know. [The Fresno Bee]
The University of California, Los Angeles, is a gymnastics power house. And its gymnasts’ routines — think Nia Dennis just last week — often go viral. That’s in part because the team has a secret weapon: the choreographer Bijoya Das.
Read about how she’s training gymnasts to let their personalities shine on the mat.
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.