President Trump will visit Southern California on Tuesday for the first time since he traumatized the state’s liberal consensus by winning the White House. It’s a free country, so he’s welcome, though he shouldn’t expect much red carpet to be rolled out. According to the White House, he has two main stops to make: viewing border wall prototypes erected near the Otay Mesa crossing with Mexico, and raising cash at a private Beverly Hills fundraiser (minimum ticket price: $35,000). It’s a pity, though, that the president can’t spend more time getting to know us better and, just maybe, leaving with a deeper understanding of why Californians are fighting his policies tooth and nail.
For instance, the president could wander through some immigrant communities in the San Gabriel Valley to meet the people who make them work, taste their foods and hear how they are trying to do what Trump’s grandfather, mother, and wife did: start new lives as Americans. He might learn a thing or two about how immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, create stable families, and add to the economy. A trip to the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah of America mosque in San Bernardino might also open his eyes to the difference between extremist terrorists and faith-embracing, law-abiding Muslims.
The president could travel to Santa Barbara to talk with folks who remember the 1969 offshore oil spill that fouled the coast from Goleta to Ventura, killed thousands of seabirds and marine animals, and helped launch the modern environmental movement, or the 2015 pipeline leak that served as a refresher for what’s at stake. Maybe then he’d get a better sense of why we are so protective of the coast, and so opposed to more offshore drilling.
He could tour the neighborhoods around the now-closed Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon to see what lax enforcement of environmental laws and regulations can do to a community. Families still can’t let their children play in their yards for fear of being exposed to dangerous levels of lead in the soil, and cleaning up the decades of pollution — emitted despite state and federal regulations — has already cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
While he’s in the area, his motorcade could swing by the site of the Crenshaw Line in South Los Angeles, where low-income local residents, felons, veterans and the formerly homeless are helping build a $2-billion light rail line. They are part of a pilot program to construct a modern transportation system while providing training and middle-class jobs to people who have traditionally struggled to find work. It’s already helped many workers move from unemployment or minimum-wage jobs to skilled trades that pay upwards of $30 an hour, plus benefits. But his administration has banned the sort of local hiring preferences on federally funded projects that helped improve these workers’ lives.
Another good location in Los Angeles is the Housing for Health office at the Star Apartments on skid row, where Trump could hear how the county is saving money on healthcare by getting homeless people into permanent supportive housing. Perhaps that would persuade the administration to drop its opposition to using Medicaid dollars to build or buy housing, which could cut healthcare costs even further.
Then he could stop by one of L.A.’s newly licensed marijuana shops. These are hardly the dens of iniquity that U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions might envision. Rather, these legitimate, highly regulated tax-paying businesses are providing a product that would otherwise be sold through the black-market drug trade. Oh, and L.A. has collected more than $2 million in taxes so far.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are worth seeing too. The Vincent Thomas Bridge offers a bird’s-eye view of the 10,500 acres of port facilities that combine to form the nation’s largest and the world’s 10th-busiest container port. That is trade incarnate, which his ill-conceived tariffs threaten.
The president could learn a lot by doing more than a border wall photo op and a private fundraiser. But he’d first have to take a real interest in the people and experiences that have made California a deeply blue state — and made America what it is today. There’s a lot to see here, Mr. President. Do look around.