by Paul Moomjean

Oh, what a difference a year makes. In late March 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom was looking like the right man for the right time. Working with local politicians, first responders, and President Donald Trump, California was feeling poised to beat the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly and forcefully. Then a funny thing happened on the way to recovery – the damn virus took over, and Newsom was at a loss for effective ideas. The state shut down, millions finding themselves unemployed or underemployed. One year later, the state has gone through a rollercoaster of lockdowns and reopenings, but now the one person on the unemployment chopping block line is Newsom himself. Due to a series of disastrous public relation blunders and inconsistent leadership, the once-promising politician is about to see how loyal the Golden State is to liberal leadership with a looming recall movement building steam in a state that loves its direct democracy.

The last California recall election was in 2003, when then Democratic Governor Gray Davis was booted out by the state’s voters and replaced with movie star and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over 135 Californians ran on the recall ballot including respected politicians like Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante and Congressman Tom McClintock, but also a flood of washed-up TV actors, porn stars, and possibly your next door neighbor did as well, making the proud state of California a laughing stock. 

While many saw the recall as a political stunt, there is a real history of these types of elections. San José State University historian Glen Gendzel stated in an interview, “direct democracy, for better or for worse, has become California’s most distinctive and emblematic political institution. Initiative, referendum, and recall elections were added to the state constitution in 1911.” Happy 110th anniversary.  

The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “organizers say they submitted more than 2.1 million signatures through the March 17 deadline, but the state will not report the final county-level numbers until late April.” The recall organizers need 1,495,709 valid signatures to have the special election. That is only 12% of the 12,464,235 votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election.

Newsom’s polling isn’t ideal, as only 31% of Californians agreed Newsom was doing “an excellent or good job in handling the pandemic overall.” That is a stark decline from 49% last September. Yet even with those poor numbers, 49% of Californians polled think a recall election is the wrong direction for a state trying to bounce back.  

Overall, organizers believe Newsom will be booted out because he’s not the man to handle the various needs of the state ranging from vaccine distribution to the state’s homelessness crisis to getting kids back to school to dealing with numerous fraud issues with the EDD and unemployment fund distribution. While none of these issues are purely party-lines issues, recall supporters believe there is a conservative base ready to take back the state.  

“More than 6 million people in California voted for Trump, so there’s no shortage of people willing to sign something saying get rid of every Democrat if you give them enough time,” one organizer told the news source Vox.

While scoring big wins early on in the media and now watching his favor decline, Newsom, like Trump, was in a no-win situation when the pandemic ate up the economy and began taking the lives of people, overcrowding hospitals and creating a sense of chaos. 

Leadership is hard, and when the state is healthy, Newsom is not the worst governor to have. He’s bright, charismatic and not a total Leftist, like Jerry Brown before him. Yet he’s a terrible judge of practical political behaviors. Getting caught eating indoors at a dinner party at The French Laundromat, shutting down restaurants after business owners spent a fortune on outdoor dining plexiglass, heaters and seating, as well as letting Hollywood work with conditions while others were forced to stay home or lock their doors permanently, proved he wasn’t the man for this crisis. When he locked down the state and Florida opened up, the gator state saw an increase in their economy with comparable COVID-19 death and positive test cases to that of California. 

While the Republicans seem to have pointed to Newsom as the problem, they haven’t provided a solution. And if a qualified candidate doesn’t appear, then what’s stopping us from going down crazy town again and elect future Republican Governor Bruce Willis? 

Yippee Ki Yay, California.