The journalist and historian Carey McWilliams once called California “the great exception.” McWilliams was writing in the 1940s as he tried to make sense of the first 100 years of the state’s turbulent history. But McWilliams’s idea that California is a singular place, a nation-state unto itself, has never felt truer than it does now.
On the same night that Americans narrowly elected Donald Trump, Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of his rival, Hillary Clinton. They sent 39 Democrats to the House of Representatives out of 53 seats. They elected Kamala Harris, a liberal Democrat whose father is Jamaican and whose mother is Indian, to the U.S. Senate. They gave Democrats supermajorities in the state Legislature. They passed ballot propositions to legalize recreational use of marijuana, raise the tobacco tax, ban high-capacity magazines, relax parole rules for nonviolent felons, increase transparency in the legislative process, repeal the decades-old limits on bilingual education, and extend higher income taxes on the wealthy. Elsewhere in the country, the Democratic Party lay in tatters. In California, it was dominant.
In the first piece in a series at The California Sunday Magazine, Andy Kroll sets out to explore the relationship between California and Donald Trump’s Washington.