California on Inauguration Day

California on Inauguration Day

Good morning.

Former President Donald J. Trump had already left the White House by the time many Californians woke up on Wednesday.

And by 9 a.m. on the West Coast, the nation had a new president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and a new vice president, Kamala Harris — the first woman, first daughter of immigrants, and the first Democrat from California to hold the role.

In his first address to the world in his new job, the one he’s been working toward for decades, President Biden made an urgent call for unity, a plea to move forward.

“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded,” he said. “We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

[Find all the coverage of every aspect of the inauguration here.]

It was, to say the least, a big change.

For many Americans, the day marked an ending — a return to a kind of normalcy. Millions of Californians were no doubt among those breathing sighs of relief.

But Wednesday was also the beginning of a new era, for the United States as a whole, and in particular for California, which for the past four years has largely been defined by its opposition to Washington.

Here are some themes to watch going forward:

How the Biden administration’s big policy shifts will play in California

After the ceremonies and the scaled-back parade, Mr. Biden got to work. He signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations aimed squarely at undoing what aides described as the Trump administration’s most damaging policies.

That included orders revoking efforts to exclude residents who aren’t citizens from the census and bolstering the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

[Read more about President Biden’s immigration plans.]

On the climate change front, Mr. Biden signed a letter to re-enter the U.S. in the Paris climate accords, and reversed the rollbacks of auto emission rules, which had been a major point of contention between California and the Trump administration.

The president has said these measures are only the start of more sweeping changes. And in California, progressives who may view these first moves as insufficient will no longer be fighting a Republican White House, but negotiating with members of a Democratic administration — one that Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged California’s full support.

[Read about all the orders in more detail.]

How a leadership dominated by Californians will affect Washington

In the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, as the leaders of Congress bestowed gifts on the new president and vice president, the significant California contingent was pretty tough to miss.

There was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat from San Francisco, presenting the pair with the two American flags that flew above the inauguration ceremony.

“If we’d had the lunch, we would’ve had California wine, right, Madam Vice President?” Ms. Pelosi joked.

[Read more about the presentation of the gifts.]

And the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, gave them portraits of themselves being inaugurated not long before.

“As a very proud son of California, it’s my honor to present to a very proud daughter of California,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Although Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Pelosi have been congressional leaders for years, Ms. Harris’s ascension will no doubt change the dynamics, bringing a Californian’s perspective to the executive branch for the first time in decades.

Plus, she’ll be a tiebreaking vote in an evenly divided Senate.

[Read the full story about the new vice president’s role.]

How California Republicans will adapt to the post-Trump era

While Mr. McCarthy was a friendly participant in the inaugural traditions on Wednesday, he is representative of the fraught position of California’s Republican Party.

In a speech last week before Mr. Trump was impeached, Mr. McCarthy said that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” But those comments came after Mr. McCarthy voted to object to election results, along with the majority of his Republican colleagues. And Mr. McCarthy didn’t vote to impeach.

[Read about the reaction from Mr. McCarthy’s home district.]

Now Mr. McCarthy — long known as “the guy everyone liked,” as Miriam Pawel recently put it in an opinion piece — is facing calls to resign, even from members of his own party. The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board went as far as to call him a “a soulless anti-democracy conspirator.”

At the same time, he has faced backlash in his own district for not being supportive enough of Mr. Trump.

It’s tough to say how those forces will shake out at the ballot box down the line, but there are signs the party is shifting.

As The Sacramento Bee reported on Wednesday, a pro-Trump Republican leader — Shannon Grove, a state senator from Bakersfield — was ousted from her caucus leadership role after repeating false claims about the Capitol mob.

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Read more:

  • “That was very weird.” Hours after being sworn in herself, Ms. Harris administered the oath of office to Senator Alex Padilla, who replaced her, as well as Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, newly elected Democrats from Georgia. [The New York Times]

  • Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, also made his share of history: He is the first male and first Jewish spouse of a vice president. [The New York Times]

  • Wait, so where will Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff live? There’s an official residence. Here’s what to know about Number One Observatory Circle. [The New York Times]

  • Although there was heavy security at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, not much happened. [The New York Times]


If you do nothing else to catch up on Wednesday’s proceedings, you should watch Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” here. If you saw it the first time, watch it again. (And read her words here.)

On a day when so much history was made with so much symbolism-laden spectacle — Lady Gaga sang the national anthem in a serious gown, Jennifer Lopez performed a Woody Guthrie song, and the first woman of color to become vice president was sworn in by the first Latina Supreme Court justice — Ms. Gorman’s voice was the most memorable.

Ms. Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in American history, grew up in Los Angeles, and described herself as “a skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” who can dream of being president one day, “only to find herself reciting for one.”

And as my colleague Nick Corasaniti pointed out on Twitter, Ms. Gorman actually told The Times in 2017 (at age 19) that she had presidential aspirations.

“This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States,” she said. “So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”

On Wednesday, she described the United States as she sees it: “a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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