Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to Trump-proof California

Gavin Newsom’s Futile Bid to Trump-Proof California

Never one to miss an opportunity for posturing, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to “Trump-proof” the state if the former president wins later this year. Newsom is particularly concerned about a Trumpian reversal of California’s stringent environmental regulations, which have become a mainstay of his governorship. Yet as the 56-year-old continues to spout on presidential politics, his record in California suggests that the rest of the country may choose to Newsom-proof their own states.

The working and middle classes in California are struggling. The state suffers from the highest unemployment rate and slowest job growth in the country — as well as the highest percentage living in poverty. As a result, there’s growing net out-migration that even the Newsom-friendly LA Times has been forced to acknowledge.

Politics plays an important role. Indeed, California’s state government has managed to undermine one of the world’s most innovative economies. The state was recently ranked the least tax-efficient in the nation, which is encouraging even more people to leave. In addition, surveys show that although the national mood is sour, many believe their states are moving in the right direction. California, however, is an outlier, with only one-third feeling things are getting better. Proposals to raise high taxes even higher, in part to cope with the deficit, likely won’t make them feel any better.

Much of this can be traced to the climate state religion embraced by both Newsom and his predecessor Jerry Brown. California has the toughest climate laws in the country: it has adopted an early start towards EV mandates, banned future oil and gas drilling, and implemented regulations designed to make it all but impossible to develop single family houses in the periphery.

Add to that the state’s regulatory regime, and the problems mount further. The enforcement of higher salaries for fast food and hospitality workers, for example, is particularly tough for smaller businesses. It is also brutal for anyone involved in the carbon economy — factory workers, truck drivers, farm hands, construction, and oilfield workers — which is tied to energy use. Latinos and other ethnic minorities who make up the vast majority of these workers therefore pay a heavy price, as a new report by Soledad Ursúa and other researchers lays out.

This is partly why California’s climate regime has been described as a “green Jim Crow”. The Golden State now has the highest energy prices in the continental US, meaning that only the wealthiest can afford to get by. These costs have also made house-building difficult, with construction now at a 10-year low. Thanks to restrictions on suburban family residences, prices remain artificially high as a result.

California’s climate intentions may seem virtuous, but they are ruinous to the most basic aspirations of the state’s working class. It’s no wonder, then, that there are already signs nationwide of a growing disenchantment among Latinos with progressive policies, and this unrest may eventually force Democrats to change course. Rather than wanting to brace for an unwelcome outbreak of Trumpism, more people may believe that California’s fashionable progressivism is what really needs to be cancelled.

This piece first appeared at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and and directs the Center for Demographics and Policy there. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Bureau of Reclamation, via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.