It has been a couple of weeks now since the Republican-driven recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom ended in a complete shellacking of the “Yes” campaign. So it’s time to ask, what have we learned from this experience?
Well, for one, we proved, as if any more proof was needed, that the California Republican Party isn’t really very good at anything. Well, they’re good at losing. So much losing. You’d think they’d be tired of losing. But not our intrepid band of right wingers. They honestly thought they could recall a popular Democratic governor, in a deep blue state, and get a right-wing shock jock elected in his place.
In early 2020, I did not know a single Democrat who had Joe Biden as their top choice. Oh, I’m sure there were some, but the progressives yearned for Bernie and Liz, while the moderates were looking at the shiny new pennies like Amy and Pete. However, the greatest fear of the Democratic constituency, the one driving motivation, was a deep and abiding loathing of Donald Trump, and a singular belief that he had to be defeated. And with that clear-eyed assessment, the constituency rallied around Joe Biden because it was believed that Joe could beat Trump, and that was the only thing that mattered.
And you know what? We were right (sorry, insurrectionists).
Here in California, with a party registration of one-quarter of the electorate, the Republicans sought to overthrow the governor. Now, given the dynamics of the recall process, it was a possibility. But in order to get one of their own elected, they had to find someone who would be acceptable to the majority. That was key. Now, I would never vote for Kevin Faulconer, for the simple reason of the five little words he uttered, “I voted for Donald Trump,” but it would have been difficult to tar him with Trumpism. Few Republicans would have had Faulconer as their first choice, but he was the best chance to beat Newsom. And Republicans did tell us that Newsom was an existential threat as governor.
Except that really wasn’t true. Defeating Newsom wasn’t their main motivator. Owning the liberals, now that is what your average Republican voter lives for. Faulconer wasn’t going to own them, he was going to work with them. And in Trump world, that is heresy. And all that did was light a fire under the Democrats, delivering for Newsom a resounding victory.
Now, normally with a real political party you would have the adults in the room lead the party faithful to achieve the real goal, winning elections. The California Republican Party leadership knows this. But having built this howling mob, they have come to realize, too late, that the mob cannot be controlled. The mob wanted Trump, and in Larry Elder they found it. So rather than endorse the only candidate who could have won, they opted to remain silent, a stark abdication of the only reason they have to exist.
And not just the party leadership. Other institutions that in olden days would have been expected to lead, failed to do so. The editorial board of our very own Signal failed to provide any leadership, opting instead to endorse Larry Elder, too. And their reasons were almost comical. A man with 30 years’ worth of outrageous comments like no minimum wage, misogynist statements and promising to reverse Newsom’s masking/vaccine mandates on Day 1 was “sensible” in the words of The Signal.
California is the largest state of the union, with a huge, varied economy. Yet the Signal thought a man with no government experience would be just the person to be governor. This editorial was so farcical in its reasoning I had to check to make sure it wasn’t dated April 1.
So Republicans, you keep trying to “own the liberals,” and we’ll continue winning elections.