2016: The Year in Review
In retrospect, we all should have seen 2016 coming. Both the federal and the state election results were the product of trends that had begun in 2010. California voters continue to embrace a sustainable, innovative future – and continue to support high speed rail as a part of that future. The defeat of Prop 53 and the restoration of a Democratic supermajority in Sacramento are further evidence of that trend.
Outside the Golden State, however, more and more Americans continue to turn away from the future. Perhaps its because Democrats outside California are more afraid to embrace a sustainable future, or because other states are beginning to enter a kind of downward spiral in which Tea Party government further saps belief that things can ever get better. But Trump’s victory is the victory of those who would rather break everything and smash civilization than allow a sustainable, post-oil 21st century model to be built. Older Americans have decided that, rather than hand power over to the younger generations, they’re going to cling to power as long as they can, suspicious of these crazy ideas the young folks have.
Had Democrats won the White House and the U.S. Senate, as looked possible at several points in 2016, perhaps there would have been renewed hope of federal support for California high speed rail. But that would have required a reversal of the post-2010 trends, and that hasn’t yet happened.
So instead, the lesson of 2016 is that California really is on its own. For education, for health care, for immigration reform, and for high speed rail, California has to do it by itself. The federal government won’t help, and will likely be a hindrance.
Because Trump and the Republican Congress are ideologically opposed to doing anything about climate change, California will have to act alone there as well. That should bode well for the future of cap and trade. Governor Jerry Brown is determined to save it, and with a Democratic supermajority, he’ll be able to do it – even if that supermajority is hamstrung by oil-funded moderates, especially in the Assembly.
The financing plan for California HSR remains the same as it was in 2008, at least in concept: some state money, a lot of federal money, and then some private money toward the end. It’s time for the state to acknowledge that no more federal money is coming, and develop a financing plan that can be done from within California alone (with international and private partners as needed).
California’s HSR project continues to weather lawsuits and biased media articles. Now it’s going to have to weather a Trump Administration. It will be able to do that – as long as California’s leaders in Sacramento are willing to forge their own path toward building a sustainable 21st century society.