Get him out of here The American Conservative
Someone has to pay for the amazing inequality and injustice of California. One recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom will suffice.
California Governor Gavin Newsom watches during a press conference after visiting Barron Park Elementary School on March 2, 2021 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
The last time California had a gubernatorial recall election, they literally rewrote the alphabet to do so.
It was about the voting papers, which in 2003 had two questions: First, did you want to call Governor Gray Davis back? and second, regardless of whether you did it or not, which of the 135 candidates vie for his job liked you best In accordance with California law, the large number of names couldn’t just be listed in alphabetical order. That would have made too much sense. Instead, California created a new alphabet by having (I don’t make it up) a state official blindly draw letters from a can.
Sing with me now: R, W, Q, O, J, M, V …
This episode symbolized the entire 2003 California recall, a delightfully insane exercise in Carnival Democracy. Even the relatively sober winner Arnold Schwarzenegger was still a bodybuilder who once played a murder robot in a movie. To qualify for the vote, all candidates had to do was pay a fee and submit the signatures of 65 registered voters. Among those who crossed this very low threshold were Davis’ own Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, porn star Mary Carey, actor Gary Coleman and web mogul Arianna Huffington. Carey campaigned for a platform where breast implants could be taxed and lap dances made tax-deductible, a rare case of California tax liability. Another candidate, Michael Wozniak, promised to legalize pet ferrets.
California had opened its doors to Demosand the brightly colored leaves fluttered in. Now the Golden State is considering another recall, this time about the governor and part-time model Gavin Newsom of Men’s Wearhouse. Activists say they collected the 1.5 million signatures the state constitution needs to trigger a recall, while even the governor himself admits it likely is. And why not? I’m not a fan of political instability, but there are far worse things than democracy that runs amok. One of them is the Gavin Newsom governorship.
Newsom’s biggest mistake was its inability to get the coronavirus under control. That in and of itself isn’t exactly an indictment – many states have fought – but Newsom has also imposed some of the most criminal bans in the country. That Florida has roughly the same COVID case and death rate as California, despite opening its beaches last spring, isn’t just a right topic of conversation. Even the New York Times noticed going to Miami and grumbling that the place had a “boomtown feel” to it.
Meanwhile, California has not only been hit by painful victims, but also a feeling that the victim is not being evenly distributed. There is a long list of elected California officials caught disregarding the same COVID restrictions they have placed on others. And at the top is Newsom, who was infamously photographed last fall in the tony French Laundry Restaurant with an exposed and socially indifferent dinner.
The issue here is not just hypocrisy but inequality, a reliable feature of California politics. According to a 2018 study by Zippia, the state’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, is the fourth highest in the nation. In fairness Florida is number five, but people are also moving there en masse, which suggests the problem is less urgent. In contrast, the Los Angeles County to Texas freeway is clogged with U-Hauls as California has the lowest population growth in its history. The complaints are always the same: high taxes, exorbitant cost of living. Still, Newsom has raised taxes. And his signature initiative, a brilliant plan to ban the gas-powered car by 2035, will continue to strain the power grid, another reason for California’s middle class to worry.
The biggest problem in California is the lack of housing, which has driven up the cost of living, and Newsom has promised action in his credit. He wants to build 3.5 million new houses by 2025. Still, California is nowhere near on track to meet that benchmark, thanks in part to the failure of a Senate zoning reform bill. Which brings up a necessary qualifier: Gavin Newsom is not the only cause of California’s troubles. The state has been declining in several administrations and legislatures for decades. Even the Terminator (paradoxically) failed to repair the damage.
However, California’s problems also believe in a deeper flaw in the progressive government: it often increases inequality and not the stated aim of protecting against it. Unleashing the state to solve problems first and foremost empowers the state, that is, those it employs and those who have the means to distort its favor. And even the best intentions of this elite often deviate from their bottom line. The privileged and connected spout “black lives matter” from one side of her mouth and “not in my backyard” from the other. We’ll definitely help the poor, they say, and even pay a little more taxes for it. Just don’t build low-income housing near my home, apartment, settlement, vineyard, or any other vineyard.
Throw in rules and regulations for nanny and endless environmental bureaucracy that makes it nearly impossible to build anything bigger than a balsa wood airplane. The result is not only high taxes, but high rents, house prices, and other costs of living and doing business. Before you know it, the middle class decides it has had enough. It goes into a state you’ve long mocked when a huge hatchback truck slammed into a piano parlor. That leaves you with the young Silicon Valley kings who can afford the confiscating costs (and in turn make them even higher) and the poor who keep government generosity. And then even the tech freaks pack up and leave and threaten you with a death spiral.
This isn’t a way to run a tree house club, let alone run the most populous state in the country. And while Newsom isn’t the worst thing to come out of California – he turned down the infamous San Francisco ban on Happy Meal, presumably out of compassion for plastic action figures – he’s the one currently on the shipping box. So why not try to remember him? Even if the campaign is unlikely to be successful, it would force Newsom to defend its record. This would mean accountability for the acceptance of the ideology in California to practical reality, its economic problems, and pandemic mismanagement.
Deposed former Governor Gray Davis recently emerged to defend the current one, groaning that “no one has been given a harder hand than Gavin Newsom”. And that’s true. A coronavirus and raging forest fires can mean a long briefing in the morning. But then we could also add: No state has been given a harder backhand by its own elites than that currently led by Gavin Newsom.
Because it’s California, home of the Beach Boys and the Pump House Gang, the gold rush and the sun-spotted dream. It’s a national treasure, a circled star on our map. The fact that the Californian jewel was reduced to part of the Facebook fiefdom, part of Greece on the Pacific, should shake every American to the core. So bring the adult entertainers to the doors with the campaign brochures and point out that in this case “Crystal Luvv” is at the end of the alphabet. Democracy is not the solution to everything, but it is a test that progressivism must pass now.