By Ethan Nikfar
Earlier in April, California’s secretary of state announced that recall petitioners gathered and submitted over 1,626,000 valid signatures to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, surpassing the required amount by over 100,000 signatures. Newsom, who just a few years ago was being touted as a future presidential nominee, has faced mounting criticism due to his inconsistent COVID-19 response. Liberals have espoused anger at him reopening the state too fast, while conservatives have expressed their displeasure with the state’s business-crushing Draconian lockdowns.
In the recall election, voters will first be asked whether or not they wish to remove the governor. If a majority support the removal, then they get to vote on a replacement. Recent polls (for what they’re worth) have Newsom comfortable and treading above water. A KABC/SurveyUSA poll from early May has only 36 percent of voters backing his removal, while 47 percent wish him to stay.
Many voters point to California’s 2003 recall of then-Governor Grey Davis as a glimmer of hope for this year’s election. But unfortunately, political dynamics were glaringly different nearly two decades ago. In 2004, George W. Bush lost the Golden State by only 9.95 points. In 2020, Donald Trump lost the state by almost 30 points. The state has turned much bluer since the last recall election.
So, is there anything Republicans can do to halt the one-party control?
Chances are slim, but California Republicans would be wise actually to interest themselves with the deep-blue state’s politics. In 2020, GOP candidates got destroyed across the state, but conservative ballot initiatives fared well.
For example, Uber, Lyft, and other gig-economy firms went to task and drafted a proposition to prevent the classification of independent contractors as full-time employees. This prevents hammering in independent contractors and freelance writers who wish to work on their own time. If the proposition did not pass and the California courts’ idiotic rulings became law, it would have probably resulted in Uber and Lyft ceasing operations in the state. Labor unions and progressive activists fought hard against the proposition, but 58 percent of voters voted in favor of it.
When Californians attempted to disavow their state’s constitution and enshrine racial and sexual preferences in college admissions and government employment, voters also struck that down.
How about prohibiting cash bail? California voters said: No, thanks.
What happened when the state tried to allow 17-year-old primary voters the ability to vote if they turned 18 before the general election? Californians rightfully rejected it.
Democrats also wanted to expand the ability of the state to enact rent control, one of the most failed policies of the last century. Voters were also not down with that idea.
So, what does this suggest? California voters are attitudinally liberal and may hate GOP candidates, but they are not necessarily opposed to conservative ideas. Running on the correct issues and presenting the correct image to voters is key to being competitive.
In the past, GOP politicians have attempted to run on issues such as education, where they express support for school choice and school vouchers. That may work in a state like Florida, where there is evidence that strong support for school choice helped propel now Gov. Ron DeSantis to victory over Andrew Gillum. But, Ron DeSantis is a once-in-a-generation kind of political talent and Florida is an evenly divided state; California is not. It is impossible to run on an issue in California where the solution from Democrats is to throw more money at the system. Republicans have to run on issues that all Californians are fed up with.
What are those issues? There are two main problems California Republicans need to be pressing forward: crime and quality of life.
The state’s major cities saw a significant uptick in homicides and car thefts last year. It is no coincidence that it corresponds with the anti-police rhetoric and subsequent “defund the police” sloganeering by prominent Democrats.
All Americans, including Democrats, are interested in keeping their communities and families safe. Even minorities, which progressives are supposedly fighting for, are not invested in the “defund the police” idea. 81 percent of black people want just as much, if not more, policing in their neighborhoods. The demonization of police gravely cost Democrats in down-ballot races; Republicans would be foolish not to utilize it in this year’s recall election.
Republicans also need to highlight the decreasing quality of life within the state. Schools in California have been closed for over a year at the behest of selfish teachers’ unions, even though the evidence points to schools being safe to reopen. And, as it turns out, parents are frequently unable to go to work because small children cannot be home alone on Zoom. Newsom’s allegiance to teachers’ unions has not only displayed scientific ineptitude, but he has also alienated a key voting bloc.
Moreover, at least 161,000 homeless people currently reside in the state. The homeless drop syringes (and defecation) on streets around young children, spread disease, and decrease access to public spaces. Most parents do not like to have their children playing in and around public parks dominated by such distasteful conditions.
But, most importantly, GOP candidates have to address California’s housing crisis. Housing prices are so high that if you factor in their costs, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Policies such as zoning laws and rent control that limit the supply of housing have drastically increased prices. The GOP would be wise to present an alternative by deregulating the sector and allowing for the construction of more houses.
None of this will guarantee a GOP victory later this year. Even if they take up the measures most appealing to voters and back a candidate with the combination of moderate appeal and name recognition, they will likely still lose. But this recall will be the best chance the GOP has anytime soon of freeing Californians from their authoritarian governor.
Mr. Nikfar is a sophomore at Chapman University majoring in Pre-Pharmacy and a columnist for The Hesperian.