Did Democrats Just Create a Path for Trump to Take California?

Matt Vespa,

A win in California would be an electoral wipeout for Democrats in 2020. Is it possible? The last time a Republican won the state was back in 1988 when Bush walloped Dukakis, but it was by a razor-thin margin. Given the Golden State’s deeply entrenched Democratic bastions, is it even possible that this state is in play? I mean what could cause Democrats to cross the aisle here.

What could state Democrats possibly do to create a pathway for a hated man like Trump to a run to flip the state? Oh, could it be their nonsensical freelance law—AB5—that has reaped havoc on the state? Yep. The Democratic Party has received a face-full of buckshot over this bill.

During the Conservative Political Action Conference, RedState’s Jennifer Van Laar and Kira Davis were watching a vote over the bill—and both have railed against it extensively. Just Google AB5 and you can see the various stories about how up to a million jobs or more are put at risk by this trashy piece of legislation. Megan McArdle had a good summary of it in her Washington Post piece back in December:

In September, the left-leaning media website Vox.com ran a triumphant headline about a bill that had just passed the California legislature: “Gig workers’ win in California is a victory for workers everywhere.” Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, would go into effect on Jan. 1, essentially making the gig economy illegal in the state.

AB5 forbids businesses to use contractors unless the companies can pass a stringent requirement known as the “ABC test.” It’s designed to ensure that all workers are classified as employees unless they perform their work independent of supervision, have an established business doing the same sort of work for multiple customers and are doing work that isn’t part of the company’s core business. Meeting one or two of these requirements isn’t enough; you must meet all three.

At the time of AB5’s passage, I noted that its aim was a mite quixotic, given that its primary targets, such as Uber and Lyft, were still unprofitable. If they couldn’t make a profit using drivers as contractors, it was hard to see how they could afford to turn the drivers into staffers with regular schedules, hourly pay and benefits. AB5 seemed more likely to drive these firms out of the state, taking their part-time jobs and their useful services with them. And not just gig-economy companies; in passing, I also noted that AB5 seemed to ban most freelance journalism.

It turned out to be a bit more complicated than that; the legislature had actually created a special exception for journalists, allowing them to write 35 articles annually before they’d be considered employees. That still seemed unworkable to this journalist, and should have to anyone who’s ever been near a newsroom — the law would, for example, make it illegal to use a UCLA professor as a weekly columnist without taking on the prof as an employee.

And then, the layoffs began. There’s also the arts community that has been torpedoed by this bill as well. The Lake Tahoe Music Festival, which was a 40-year annual event, recently announced that AB5 is the cause for its shuttering this year:

New CA employment law AB-5 requirements add to the challenge of meeting our financial goals and create the final stressor on our small non-profit organization. For several years we have experienced the same slowly eroding philanthropic support of cultural life faced by other small arts organizations in our state. We now join many who also face increased uncertainty regarding employment costs and infrastructure needs associated with AB-5. So we will bring our festival to a close with pride in our long-time contribution to community life in North Tahoe and Truckee.

The Island City Opera in Alameda had to put a hold on their March concert over concerns about AB5 (via SFCV):

Right at the beginning of the new year, Island City Opera made an announcement, which has immediate reverberations in musical circles, likely to be the first of numerous similar statements:

“It is with a heavy heart that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we must postpone our current plans for the March 2020 production of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers.”

The reason?

“As of Jan. 1, 2020, the State of California put into effect new regulations. Island City Opera (ICO), with the guidance of legal counsel, has determined that these new rules apply to ICO and present significant new administrative and financial requirements.”

This is what happens when you get single-party rule from Democrats. They just don’t know how to run things, and a California liberal is a special breed of incompetence. Liberals feel more government power increases the social good. That narrative just took a .45 caliber round to the face, though it’s not like there haven’t been warnings about how the Left governs for decades. Davis wrote over at RedState that this bill and the nasty responses from its defenders in Sacramento could be what puts California in play in 2020. Davis is a California native and she feels if Trump acknowledges the pain, cites the bill by name at one of his many rallies in the future, and promises to fix the issue—scores of California liberals could vote for Trump. At the end of the day, you cannot feed yourself on Medicare for All. Total revolution doesn’t pay the bills. That’s what a job does. And though California liberals are dense as hell, they know a job is more important than all the rest. If this is a possibility, then please pass the popcorn. One of the most liberal states in the country may have created a pathway for Trump to take California—talk about a dream scenario (via RedState):

I’m about to make a purely anecdotal statement, so take it for what it’s worth but…

I’ve never seen so many Californians willing and eager to cross the aisle to vote Republican as I have in the last two months. There are many who will back me up on this.

Do they want to vote for the California GOP? No. Do they want to vote for Trump? No. That being said, more than anything they want to be heard and since the California Democrats are willfully ignoring their voices, many feel a GOP vote will be the only way to make an impact. They’ll go back to voting for the party they love and are loyal to, but they’re for sure not going back to it if they don’t have jobs or are forced to move out of state because of AB5.

The stakes are real and critical and I’ve never seen so many people throwing aside political divisions for a unified cause. We vote with our wallets and Newsom and Gonzalez have taken the last dollars out of our wallets and then thumbed their noses at us for complaining about it.

Obviously Trump can’t repeal AB5 as President, but he can do something that would be hugely effective for the lawmakers who are willing to do just that. What we need is for him to show up in all the places tradition says he doesn’t belong and make a simple statement…

I hear you. I know you’re hurting, this isn’t fair and AB5 is wrong in every single way. I’ll stand with you to fight this where I can.

I cannot stress enough what a game-changer it would be to have this president mention California voters and this bill by name. I know the popular vote thing has been a thorn in his side since 2020. If nothing else, a popular win in California would be quite a vindication. But besides what it would do for him personally, it could change the down ballot elections significantly.

Democrat voters are desperate for help. Don’t shut them down because you hate their politics. Give them a reason to change their minds, at least for one election.

If there is a pathway, then obviously Trump should consider it, though he has to consider sinking tons of resources into Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida as well. California is an insanely expensive state to run a campaign. The media buys alone are outrageous and there will definitely be a handful of folks within the Trump 2020 team who would argue that those funds should be spent elsewhere in states where the president has a better shot of winning. Still, I don’t see the harm of mentioning it at rallies, especially hitting Democrats for pushing bad policy. I still think Bernie Sanders will be the 2020 nominee and this could be a great way to thread the Vermont senator’s ruinously expensive public policy with that of the incompetence engulfing California. You can imagine Trump saying it now:

‘Crazy Bernie has some bad ideas, there’s a reason why he’s called crazy. He wants to take away your health care, let government run your lives, and that’s seems to be the Democratic way—they always need to take something away from you. Just look at California, where Democrats have decided to take way one million jobs away from contractors. AB5 is what they call it—job killer. Not good.’

We’ll see what happens, but Trump has won states that no Republican has won since the Reagan-Bush era. He overran the Rust Belt. Could he put California back into the GOP column in 2020? At the very least, maybe AB5 could force Democrats to spend a lot more money in the state that they never should have to worry about. That’s a win in itself maybe. My god, if Trump could take back California, could you imagine the media meltdown. Sadly, it’s not as delicious given Chris Matthews decided to bolt from MSNBC last night.

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While many on the Right are boasting about 1972 numbers if Bernie is the nominee, I don’t see that just yet. Bernie could very well win with a coalition of young people, Latinos, and union workers. That’s the Obama coalition. Now, if Trump can win California, then it will be like a repeat of when Nixon skewed McGovern. But a Trump re-election win, with or without Calfornia, would be just as sweet.