In four days, the Californians will finally decide whether to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. It is, without question, the most important political story in the United States right now, with far-reaching implications not only for California governance but also for national politics and Democratic dynamics through the 2022 midterm election.
Unsurprisingly, everyone and their uncle raid the state in an attempt to influence voters. Vice President Kamala Harris was here this week. President Joe Biden will fly in. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gathered with Newsom. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was busy editing campaign ads for the governor.
A month ago polls pointed to dead heat, with many showing Newsom would not meet the required 50 percent threshold; Just two weeks ago, although momentum shifted slightly in Newsom’s favor, the numbers indicated it was still a nail bite. But over the past week, as more Californians tuned in to the election and more people actually returned their postal ballots, it looks like this more likely that Newsom will survive – and possibly, according to some of the recent polls, by a fairly comfortable margin.
Call me a Cassandra, but I’m not resting yet. While Newsom’s position seems far stronger than it did in early August, I am not convinced that the governor has gone completely out of hand. I think Newsom will survive, but I would be amazed if he did so in the same way he won governorship in 2018.
Newsom still has a huge problem getting key parts of the California Democratic constituency to vote. Less than one in five Latino voters had their ballots cast a week until polling day, compared to one in three white voters. Only 15 percent of 18 to 34 year olds Eligible voters had cast their ballots, compared to nearly half of the seniors. If those core constituencies are down in the next week, the Democratic governor’s margins could shrink significantly. This is not an unlikely scenario as it is the first time since late 2019 a majority of Californians Pollsters who ask if the state is going in the right direction say they think it is not.
They are concerned about forest fires and water scarcity, the resurgent pandemic, the high state unemployment rate and the huge fraud rates related to jobless claims during the pandemic; they are angry with sky-high house prices and the large numbers of homeless people on the street; they are concerned about crime, hunger and displacement. In a nutshell, while Newsom is having considerable success on its key issues at the end of the legislature, pumping money into welfare programs that benefit millions of its state’s residents, many Californians are simply not satisfied. That makes it a particularly volatile electoral environment that Newsom has to navigate.
However, key Republicans and their right-wing media claque have already begun to de-legitimize a likely Newsom victory. On Newsmax earlier this week, Donald Trump has announcedwith no evidence that the governor’s election was “rigged” and that the Democrats are producing postal ballot papers to maintain their power in the state. Fox News Tomi Lahren told her audience that Newsom could only win through “cheating”.
That demagogic nonsense was toxic in 2020 when Trump ignited his ragged fascist mob to question the legitimacy of democratic elections, and he’s just as toxic in the 2021 authoritarian path.
In the meantime, the real risk to these elections, and indeed to future elections across the country in the months and years to come, is not a bizarre campaign to go door to door and steal ballot papers from mailboxes. It is that GOP agents at an event hosted by the ridiculous and dangerous MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has long been one of Trump’s chief cheerleaders and proponents of electoral conspiracy theories, released Dominion’s voting machine software into cyberspacewhich essentially provides nefarious actors with a perfect opportunity to break into critical voting machines.
For anyone who cares about electoral integrity, this is the real scandal this summer, up there with the efforts of the GOP in Texas and other conservative-controlled states to make it harder for citizens – especially poor and / or non-white citizens – to vote. Californians have a chance next week to defend themselves against efforts by the GOP to question and sabotage any election results that are not going their way. You have a chance, by voting NO to the dismissal, to also fight back against an increasingly extreme political party that is adopting the kinds of crazy laws that are now coming out of Greg Abbott’s Texas. Let’s hope you take this opportunity.