California is arming itself to lead the liberal fight against Trump

Eric Holder was the first African American attorney general.
Eric Holder was the first African American attorney general.
Image: AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
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With an economy bigger than that of France, a population of 39 million, and 4.2 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, California is setting itself up to be America’s leading liberal bastion against the incoming president.

And the state just put its money where its mouth is by hiring a serious heavyweight to fight its legal battles against the federal government: Eric Holder, who spent six years as president Barack Obama’s attorney general.

In a very unusual move, the state’s senate and assembly teamed up to retain Holder, who will head a team from DC firm Covington & Burling, rather than the usual practice of its attorney general taking the lead on legal disputes with the federal government.

The decision signals that the California’s Democratic leaders expect unprecedented levels of conflict with Washington over the next four years—stemming both from a desire to protect already existing liberal values and policies, as well as taking the progressive fight to Trump on new issues.

California Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon has taken an exceptionally combative stance against the president-elect. In a speech last month, he talked of setting up a legislative “firewall” to protect his state from Trump’s agenda, insisting, to a standing ovation, that Californians “need to fight” the president-elect.

Governor Jerry Brown has already promised that California, a global environmental leader, will combat Trump’s climate denialist cabinet by taking on the role of negotiating with other countries on climate change. The state could also provide leadership for Democrats in states and cities around the country on issues like policing, civil rights, labor standards and social safety nets.