SANTA ANA, Calif. — Manuel Guerrero is terrified by the impending presidency of Donald Trump and how it will affect Latinos like him. But huddled over the trunk of a Toyota Camry as he put the final touches on a posterboard sign, he vowed that he and his fellow Californians would fight.
“California is not gonna take this,” he said as he held the sign, which read “F--- Trump.”
Then Guerrero, a 30-year-old artist, walked toward the sidewalk in front of a gas station parking lot, where he and a few dozen others protested, chanted, and waved Mexican flags amid a haze of exhaust and marijuana smoke. They crossed a six-lane highway as passersby honked their horns and pumped their fists out open windows.
California has long been in the vanguard of American politics, routinely enacting liberal legislation and policies long before the rest of the nation and a hotbed of support for Democrats such as Hillary Clinton. But in the aftermath of an election in which the country as a whole shifted to the right, the Golden State is now out of step with the rest of the nation by moving even farther to the left.
“In California, we are decisively going in a different direction than the rest of the country,” said Kevin de Leon, the Democratic president pro tempore of the state Senate.
The electoral map illustrates the United States’ geographical and political divides in bright red and blue relief. But nowhere on Tuesday was the gulf between liberals and the conservative tack that won the electoral college more stark than here in California and other parts of the far West.
Nevada chose Clinton over Trump, an outcome driven in large part by the state’s growing Latino population. It was one of the few states to send a new Democrat to the Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto, who will become the country’s first Latina senator. Nevada also legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and voted to require background checks for most gun purchases and transfers. Oregon elected the nation’s first openly LGBT governor. Washington raised its minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2020.
Here in California, voters legalized marijuana, enacted the nation’s first background checks for ammunition purchases, banned large-capacity gun magazines, increased the tax on cigarettes and vaping devices, reinstated bilingual education, boosted income taxes on the wealthy, and banned the sale of single-use plastic bags.
The state also elected Kamala Harris, a Democrat, to the Senate. Harris will become the first Indian American and the second black female senator. The state overwhelmingly voted for Clinton in the presidential contest, with 61.5 percent of the electorate — one of the highest in the country — casting ballots for the former secretary of state, compared with 33.3 percent for Trump.
Months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) joked about building a wall around California to “protect it from the rest of the country” if Trump is elected, a quip that is now recirculating. Some are even calling on California to secede from the rest of the country. A group that had previously dedicated itself to that cause rallied on the statehouse steps in Sacramento on Wednesday, stating a goal of getting a secession referendum on the 2018 ballot. Its leader tweeted on Thursday that he has received 18,000 emails in recent days.
Online, people are using the term “Calexit,” a take on Britain’s “Brexit” vote to sever ties with the European Union.
Shervin Pishevar, the co-founder and co-chief executive of San Francisco venture capital firm Sherpa Ventures, tweeted Tuesday that he would begin and fund a “legitimate campaign” to help the world’s sixth-largest economy become its own nation, “New California.”
“It’s the most patriotic thing I can do,” he told CNBC. “The country is at a serious crossroads.”
De Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said Wednesday in a statement issued in English and Spanish that they felt like “strangers in a strange land” after the election. The men ordered attorneys to look at how a Trump presidency would affect federal funding of state programs, investments that rely on foreign trade and federal enforcement of various laws, including those relating to immigration. They vowed to “lead the resistance” to any efforts to “shred our social fabric” or Constitution.
“California is America before America is itself,” de Leon said in an interview. “That means the good, the bad and the ugly, not just the good things that happen in California.”
In 1994, California voters passed an initiative designed to set up a state-run immigration system and deny most benefits, including education, to undocumented immigrants. Backlash to the proposition, which was strongly backed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, is widely considered a watershed moment that eventually led to the decimation of the Republican Party in the state.
Today, California allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and access in-state tuition at public universities. The state is also one of the most diverse in the nation. According to the census, 38.8 percent of Californians identify as Latino, 14.7 percent as Asian and 6.5 percent as black.
Those demographic changes are spurring political ones here in Orange County, once a mostly white bastion of Republicanism that has become increasingly Latino and Asian. While blue-collar Democrats who switched parties to vote for Trump in the Rust Belt helped propel him to the presidency, voters in Orange County chose a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the 1930s.
“I’ve always referred to Orange County as the ‘Orange Curtain’ because it’s so conservative,” said Adriana Garcia, a 40-year-old Democrat who lives in Newport Beach. She cried as she talked about a Trump presidency, concerned that it might subject her, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, to racist and sexist hatred she has never experienced.
“I thought it was wild” that Orange County tilted for Clinton, she said. “I’m sad more places didn’t.”
Neighboring Riverside County also flipped to Democrat from Republican in 2012, as did Nevada County in the state’s north.
Protests flared across the state Wednesday after Trump’s victory, with dozens arrested. A group of high schoolers in Berkeley walked out of class. In Oakland, more than 7,000 people took to the streets. In Los Angeles, hundreds of people blocked freeways. In front of City Hall, some protesters burned a giant papier-mâché Trump. Fewer protesters camd out in L.A. on Thursday night, but those who did marched through the streets, halted traffic, threw bottles and set off fireworks. At least 185 people were arrested, a number that will likely rise, said Norma Eisenman, a Los Angeles Police spokeswoman.
Here in Santa Ana on Wednesday night, protesters spent more than an hour continually crossing the four-way intersection, walking in a square from the gas station to an auto-parts store to a food stand where some picked up Mexican corn, to a 7-11 and back to the gas station. They held signs reading, “Not our president” and “Dump Trump,” and yelled profanities about the president-elect. A 2-year-old held a sign reading, “Stop white supremacy.” Some wore bandannas around their faces, prepared for the police to deploy tear gas.
The group marched along the main street and the protest ballooned in size, with 650 people ultimately standing in an intersection until 2 a.m. Participants got into a standoff with police, who fired beanbags and used other nonlethal crowd-control methods; police said the crowd members threw bricks, bottles and other objects. Ten people were arrested, including three juveniles, on charges including disorderly conduct and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department. He said that a brick was thrown at a police car and that three others were seriously damaged. Two businesses also were damaged and 167 police officers from the county responded.
Many here expressed anger at white Americans, saying they helped propel Trump to the presidency and endorsed racism and xenophobia.
“Can I give you a hug on behalf of white people?” Jennifer Hellman, 36, asked Guerrero as the two stood in the parking lot of a strip mall of mostly Latino stores. “We’re not all like this.”
The two embraced as a woman on a bicycle rode by, screaming an expletive about Trump.
Oliver Lopez, 33, and his wife, Lucy Dominguez, 37, stood in front of a neon gas station sign, arms around each other and each holding a sign that read, “Peace.”
Dominguez said she chose the sign because the nation needs peace in this moment. She was born in Mexico, became a citizen and voted for Clinton. She was angry about and hurt by Trump’s assertion in his campaign kickoff speech that some Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists.
“I’m not a rapist. My family are not rapists,” she said.
Lopez said he is glad he lives in California.
“It gives me a sense of safety,” he said. “We’re leaning more to the left.”