There is something decidedly odd about the California State Legislature’s decision to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder, now back at the prestigious Covington & Burling law firm, to fight the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
The weirdness goes beyond the fact that it may be unconstitutional for the legislature to have hired Holder, given that the state already has its own attorneys who are certainly capable of doing what the state government requires.
One of those attorneys is none other than Gov. Jerry Brown’s nominee for Attorney General, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA). He has a long track record of fighting Republicans on issues like immigration and entitlement reform, and has has made clear he intends to fight the Trump administration every step of the way to protect California’s one-party state and its “progressive” policies. He is also, as the local media noted appropriately at his nomination, California’s first Latino Attorney General.
So why does California need Holder? Does the California State Legislature believe somehow that Becerra lacks the ability to do the job? Probably not, since a committee of the State Assembly approved his nomination this week in a 6-3 party-line vote. Does Holder bring something special to the job of representing the state that Becerra does not? They are both Washington creatures and know how to fight on the national stage. Is there some reason to pay both of these men, working separately?
Note that California has some recent, and bad, experience with duplicating government functions. Much of last year’s political energy was spent in a pointless feud over gun control between Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) — the first Latino to serve in that role in more than a century — and Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic favorite for governor in 2018 against formidable challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, who served as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles.
Newsom wanted to legalize marijuana via referendum. But then he decided to add a gun control referendum, Proposition 63, which bans large-capacity ammunition magazines and requires ammunition purchasers to undergo a background check. Sen. de Léon championed his own gun control efforts through the legislature, triggering a nasty spat.
The potential for clashes between the executive and legislature, even on common policies, is clear. Why would California risk repeating history?
Come to think of it — why did Newsom insist on credit for both the marijuana and the gun control initiatives, without finding any room for de Léon to share the “progressive” accolades?
The Newsom-de Léon fight happened at the same time as the race for U.S. Senate between Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), pitting the state’s first black and Hispanic candidates for the seat against each other. Before she faded down the stretch, Sanchez had carried the hopes of California’s rising Latino constituency. But Harris clinched the biggest endorsements and donors very early in the race.
Over and over again, California’s emerging Latino leadership has offered new leaders to the state. And in each case, the state’s existing Democratic Party establishment has maneuvered to block them.
Eric Holder, who has no roots in California, walked into his new job with no confirmation hearings; Becerra has to jump through the hoops. What is the message there?
One hesitates even to touch the Democratic Party’s identity politics game. Perhaps the real rivalry is between Northern and Southern California: the San Francisco Bay Area has a stranglehold on statewide office, and most of the state’s Latino stars hail from L.A. and Orange County.
Still, it is odd that the California State Legislature decided that as qualified as he is, Rep. Becerra needs a “double” — at a cost of $25,000 per month — from a white-shoe law firm on the other side of the country.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.