Why A Newsom Recall Could Succeed

There isn’t a political professional to be found in California who believes the current attempt to recall Governor Gavin Newsom will succeed. With petitions approved for circulation and a deadline of November 17, recall campaign volunteers are trying to defy the momentum of history.

To recall a sitting governor in California today, based on the voter turnout in the November 2018 state election, proponents need to turn in 2 million signed petitions in order to yield, after verification of signatures, addresses, registration status, eliminating duplicates, etc., a net total of 1,495,709 validated petitions. Without millions to pay professional signature gatherers, this is considered impossible.

Except it’s not impossible. Not with the power of the internet and social media. Skeptics should consider only two factors: Are there more than 2 million California voters who would sign a recall petition? The answer to that question, undoubtedly, is yes. The second question is more to the point: Can the recall campaign find 2 million voters in California willing and able to sign a recall petition?

To this second question, the professionals would have an immediate and unequivocal answer. No. But they are mistaken. In today’s fraught political environment, in this season of heightened political awareness, in this digital era, Gavin Newsom is one viral video away from seeing his name on a recall ballot, in a special election to be held in early 2021.

Newsom, to his credit, is taking the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign more seriously than the thousands of members of California’s conservative establishment elite, who remain skeptical. Around the time recall petitions were approved for circulation by the California Secretary of State, Newsom released an official statement in response:

GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM’S ANSWER TO RECALL STATEMENT: WARNING: THIS UNWARRANTED RECALL EFFORT WILL COST CALIFORNIA TAXPAYERS 81 MILLION DOLLARS! IT IS BEING PUSHED BY POLITICAL EXTREMISTS SUPPORTING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S HATEFUL ATTACKS ON CALIFORNIA. In 2018 California voters elected Governor Gavin Newsom by historic margins. As Governor, Newsom is working to 1) increase funding for public education, 2) protect and secure Californians’ health and health care, 3) improve water, roads, and bridges, 4) address the challenges of housing affordability and homelessness, and 5) prepare for the threats of wildfires. Our budget is balanced. Our fiscal reserves are unprecedented. Our economy and employment are historically strong. Yet a handful of partisan activists supporting President Trump and his dangerous agenda to divide America are trying to overturn the definitive will of California voters and bring Washington’s broken government to California with this recall effort. The last thing California needs is another wasteful special election, supported by those who demonize California’s people and attack California’s values. Do not be fooled—California’s police officers, firefighters, first responders, public school teachers, health providers, and business leaders all STRONGLY OPPOSE this costly recall. DO NOT HAND OVER YOUR SIGNATURE, YOUR SUPPORT OR YOUR PERSONAL, PRIVATE INFORMATION TO THIS DESTRUCTIVE RECALL SCHEME.

Who Is the “Political Extremist?”

To lead off by calling the recall proponents “political extremists” who are “supporting President Trump’s hateful attacks on California” is unfortunately typical not just of Newsom, but of all Democrats. They always start by smearing their opponents. But Newsom goes on to defend his record, and every point he makes invites vigorous rebuttal.

Newsom claims to be “working” on five big projects to: “1) increase funding for public education, 2) protect and secure Californians’ health and health care, 3) improve water, roads, and bridges, 4) address the challenges of housing affordability and homelessness, and 5) prepare for the threats of wildfires.”

An objective examination of Newsom’s performance on each of these five projects yields withering criticisms. His drive to increase funding for public education is a gift to the teachers’ unions, who have monopolized public education. For over a generation, they have emphasized leftist indoctrination over genuine education. Their failures have been especially felt in California’s low-income inner cities. Teachers’ unions protect bad teachers and disruptive students, they shut down any attempts to introduce alternatives such as charter schools, and they never saw a tax increase or budget boost they didn’t like. By all means, governor, give them more money.

As for California’s need for “secure” health care, Newsom has not done anything to lift the restrictions on the number of nursing graduates coming out of California’s colleges and universities. He hasn’t even signed a waiver to permit independent contractors to continue to work for clinics and hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis. And he’s willing to spend hundreds of millions to provide free health care to illegal aliens, which, even if motivated by compassion, ignores the challenges facing millions of working citizens who still cannot afford health care in California.

And then there’s “improve water, roads, and bridges.” Where? Newsom continues to try to fund “High Speed Rail,” wasting billions, instead of improving the infrastructure Californians actually need. Has Newsom ever said a word about reforming CalTrans, the state department responsible for implementing road improvements, where additional billions are squandered? Has he done anything to reform CEQA, California’s disastrous Environmental Quality Act, which ties any attempt to improve roads up in the bureaucracies and courts for years, costing additional billions?

When it comes to “housing affordability and homelessness,” Newsom’s record is a corrupt joke. His solution to housing affordability ought to be to deregulate the process of building new suburbs and building infrastructure. Instead, since California’s state government has made it impossible for developers to sell affordable homes and still make a profit, Newsom has conned voters into passing tens of billions of dollars in bonds. These billions are used to pay Newsom’s cronies, who are building “affordable” housing at an average cost well in excess of $500,000 per unit.

As for California’s homeless, instead of providing cost-effective shelters in low-cost areas of California’s beleaguered counties, Newsom, along with all the Democratic mayors, have allowed the homeless to take over downtown areas and choice neighborhoods throughout the state. By the tens of thousands, these homeless squatters openly consume hard drugs, steal to support their habits, harass working residents, and often suffer from terrifying mental illness. Does Newsom challenge any of the laws and court rulings that prevent the state from helping the homeless? Of course not. He wants to build “supportive housing” instead, on expensive real estate. Newsom’s performance on California’s homeless crisis epitomizes cowardice and corruption.

Point five in Newsom’s description of his priority projects is to “prepare for wildfires.” This is laughable. Has Newsom ever acknowledged that poor forestry management is the reason California is experiencing catastrophic wildfires, or that droughts just as severe as those in recent years have occurred for centuries

Has Newsom made any credible attempt to allow timber companies to selectively harvest mature trees, many of them dying, in exchange for also clearing away underbrush? That deal would cost taxpayers nothing. Has Newsom admitted that most of the stress on the forests is because the trees have become too dense due to fire suppression, preventing healthy trees from getting enough nutrients? Or will he keep on bellowing “climate change,” and use that mantra to tighten the screws of the regulatory state?

When it comes to political solutions, Newsom is the extremist. 

He is a puppet of the teachers’ union, an organization with extremist views passed on to California’s captive youth through the public school system. He is a puppet of extreme environmentalists, a powerful lobby that effectively fights any attempts to build cost-effective transportation assets or housing subdivisions. He is a puppet of crony developers who rely on subsidies and tax breaks to build a handful of ridiculously expensive “affordable” or “supportive” housing units, solving nothing. And he is a puppet of the “compassion brigades,” who think letting people kill themselves on the streets with heroin and methamphetamine is respecting their “lifestyle.”

Newsom’s Comeuppance Is Inevitable

While the “projects” Newsom touts as his accomplishments merely reveal him to be a dangerous fraud, what he states next offers clues to his dismal political future. He claims: “Our budget is balanced. Our fiscal reserves are unprecedented. Our economy and employment are historically strong.”

Now we know Gavin Newsom isn’t this stupid. He submitted his statement against the latest recall effort in June. Newsom knew perfectly well that California’s 2020-21 budget is now forecast to have a $54 billion deficit. As for “fiscal reserves” that are “unprecedented”—really? How much? At best, $18 billion, much of which will be consumed this fiscal year, and which in any case is nowhere near the $54 billion the state government will need next year.

More to the point, Newsom’s “historically strong” economy was on thin ice before the pandemic wreaked catastrophic damage on it. 

Has Gavin Newsom ever stuck his neck out and explained that by most credible estimates, the unfunded pension liability for California’s state and local government agencies now tops nearly $500 billion? Where does he think he’s going to find all that money? Has Newsom ever suggested that maybe, just maybe, California’s public sector workers might accept lower pension benefit accruals at least for future work? Of course not. Public-sector unions, along with tech billionaires, own Gavin Newsom.

Instead of focusing on these economic challenges, and calling for meaningful reforms to public education, housing policies, environmental regulations, and how we help the homeless, Newsom spouts Black Lives Matter slogans. He says nothing as the legislature decides to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus—one of the bravest human beings the world has ever seen—from the state capitol rotunda. To be exceedingly generous, and at best, this is useless posturing.

If Gavin Newsom weren’t a coward and a puppet, deserving to be recalled, he would tell the truth: People with low incomes in California will be helped, regardless of the color of their skin, if California’s cost-of-living is lowered through regulatory reform, and the schools are improved by standing up to the teachers’ unions.

Eventually, the majority of Californians will understand these truths and Newsom will be swept into political oblivion. Don’t feel sorry for him. The coiffured aristocrat will merely retire to one of his wine estates, enjoying that life of hereditary privilege and obscene wealth that he so readily condemns in his public statements.

Californians may yet defy the skeptics, and confound the professionals. They may send this embodiment of Democratic Party dysfunction to early retirement.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: Genaro Molina/Pool/Afp via Getty Images

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