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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra addressed President Donald Trump's comment on possibly withholding federal funding to the state in a fight against sanctuary cities, during a visit to state Department of Justice facilities in Fresno, Cal
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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra addressed President Donald Trump's comment on possibly withholding federal funding to the state in a fight against sanctuary cities, during a visit to state Department of Justice facilities in Fresno, Cal
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Shawn Hubler

Deputy editorial page editor, columnist and editorial writer

Shawn Hubler

As Trump tests values, the sixth-largest economy strikes back

By Shawn Hubler

shubler@sacbee.com

February 08, 2017 06:49 PM

Shannon Coulter was a 15-year-old in suburban Pennsylvania when she realized where she needed to be.

“My parents took me on a trip to California and I informed them I was moving here,” she told me over the weekend. “They laughed.”

Within a month of her 1993 graduation from Penn State, she was in San Francisco with an apartment and a clerical job in the Financial District. From that foothold, she built a 20-year marketing career in social media and branding.

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So when candidate Donald Trump got caught boasting last fall about grabbing women by the – well, you remember – Coulter, now a 45-year-old Bay Area marketing exec, was in just the right place to make corporate America think about where it needed to be as the nation’s values were tested.

Taking to Twitter, she asked Nordstrom whether the retailer really wanted to endorse Trump by carrying his daughter’s line of clothing. As her #GrabYourWallet hashtag went viral, a loose assortment of anti-Trump boycotts tipped into a social media movement.

Now – roughly four months, 232,000 tweets and 626 million eyeballs later – Nordstrom has announced it is dropping Ivanka Trump products “based on the brand’s performance.” (“Terrible!” the president tweeted Wednesday; Nordstrom stock briefly dipped, then more than rebounded.)

Neiman-Marcus has backed away from the Trump brand. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls instructed employees this week to toss signs advertising Trump merchandise and mix it in with non-featured brands of clothing. Companies from The Lending Tree to MillerCoors have reached out to ask Coulter what it would take for the vast #GrabYourWallet community to remove them from the GrabYourWallet.org website.

Boycotts don’t last, of course. And tilting at Trump’s craziness is particularly exhausting. But if I were the Republicans, I wouldn’t want 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product organizing against me.

And Coulter – polished, articulate and business-savvy enough to make it easy for companies in the doghouse to regain the group’s blessing – has officially joined the big, blue resistance 3,000 miles west of the White House that Trump recently derided as “out of control.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a kick out of the lines being drawn on this coast around this grabby administration. There’s something thrilling about seeing the world’s sixth-largest economy pushing back.

I’m still hoping to be proven wrong, but it’s clearer by the day that Team Trump is a menace, and that someone has grabbed the, er, backbone of the congressional Republicans who should be checking his nonsense.

So California is stepping up, which makes sense since one American in eight lives here, and two out of three voted against Trump in November.

Maybe some resistance has missed the mark – stop feeding the trolls, Milo Yiannopoulos haters – and maybe some red states are, as ever, rolling their eyeballs.

But I loved Gov. Jerry Brown’s speech rallying scientists against Trump’s environmental threats at the American Geophysical Union. I love that smart California lawyers, from UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, are drawing up battle plans against potential Trump overreaches.

I’m reassured that legislative staffers toiling by Capitol lamplight are prepping for incoming confrontations over climate rules, immigration law and health insurance. I was inspired that close to 1 million Californians – about one in 30 – took to the streets during the women’s marches. I won’t even mind the inevitable onslaught of anti-Trump Oscar speeches. Regardless of who sits in the White House, science, truth, art and the rule of law are things I believe in.

But what’s really interesting is the resistance among business people such as Coulter, who told me she hadn’t been particularly political since her senior year in college. Most companies hedge political bets.

Instead, having failed to influence Trump from within, tech executives are signing onto lawsuits challenging his executive orders on immigration, and rank-and-file geeks are openly organizing against him in Silicon Valley. Uber and Disney, faced with social media pressure, have distanced themselves to greater and lesser degrees from his administration.

Last weekend’s Super Bowl was studded with ads celebrating immigration, diversity, pay equity and other themes cherished in this blue state.

“We don’t want you here! Go on back home!” nativists yelled at the promising young German immigrant in the Budweiser commercial.

“We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong,” reassured the beautiful Airbnb ad.

“What do I tell my daughter?” the father in the Audi spot worried. “That despite her education, her skills, her drive, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

“The will to succeed is always welcome here,” 84 Lumber reminded in a stunning ad that depicted a migrant mother and child dwarfed by a giant wall – and a giant door – at the Mexican border.

Those messages, aimed at a mass market, don’t reflect some “out of control” political mindset. They reflect the non-alternative fact that California is just a better reflection of American aspirations.

Hope, youth, diversity, the future – that’s what we sell daily. Trump may have squeaked into the White House, but long term, his pitch is one most Americans resist: fear, decline, exclusion, some supposedly “great” past he and his cronies are hellbent on forcing us back to.

“We know that people who voted against Trump generate two-thirds of the country’s economic activity,” Coulter old me, citing a post-election analysis by the Brookings Institution.

“Politically, the country is neck-and-neck, but economically, it’s much less divided. We have to fix that income gap, but in terms of values, economically, those (anti-Trump) voters have enormous power.”

Boycotts don’t last, of course. And tilting at Trump’s craziness is particularly exhausting. But if I were the Republicans, I wouldn’t want 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product organizing against me. Or maybe more, if, as it appears, the entire West Coast ends up coalescing into an even bigger blue regional alliance.

I’m older than Shannon Coulter, but I’ll never forget the day I realized that I, too, could be Californian. You just don’t hear people talk about Trump Tower that way.

Shawn Hubler: 916-321-1646, @ShawnHubler