VIRGINIA POSTREL: A California Coup? Gavin Newsom Has a Problem on His Hands.
After nearly a year under some of the nation’s — indeed, the world’s — toughest Covid-19 restrictions, Californians are increasingly frustrated. With little sympathy from elected officials, they’ve endured mass layoffs, wrecked businesses and lost schooling. They’ve even lost their Disneyland annual passes. Yet the virus has still devastated the state.
Now they’re taking out their frustrations on Governor Gavin Newsom, who for many epitomizes governmental high-handedness and dysfunction. It doesn’t help that the governor suffers from what could be called resting smug face. Or that he comes from San Francisco, which exemplifies the combination of scary vagrants, general disorder and sky-high housing prices that makes Californians wonder how their state got so broken. (Not to mention the school district is against George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.) . . .
Democratic officials are trying to stigmatize the recall movement as a collection of dangerous kooks. “This recall effort, which really ought to be called ‘the California coup,’ is being led by right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, anti-vaxxers and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions,” state party chair Rusty Hicks said in a January press conference. A few days later, the Los Angeles Times expanded his talking point into a major article titled “Far-right movements including QAnon, virus skeptics linked to Newsom recall.” . . .
The discontent isn’t just coming from Republicans or Trump supporters. Newsom’s numbers are on the skids among people who used to like him. Two recent polls show a significant decline. Among likely voters, the Public Policy Institute of California found a slight majority of 52% giving the governor a favorable rating — a drop from over 60% in the early days of the pandemic. . . .
Three specific offenses seem to catalyze the change. The most infamous was the birthday dinner with lobbyists at the upscale French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, held even as Newsom was telling Californians not to have family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Faulconer was among the critics who immediately pounced on the governor’s inconsistencies, tweeting that “He can celebrate birthday parties. But you can’t.”
That was in November. By then discontent with Newsom had already been growing for months, probably beginning in July when he announced that schools wouldn’t reopen. As the reality of another year of homeschooling dawned on California parents, many blamed the governor for not working to reopen schools. Interest-group politics, not science, seemed to be driving policy.
To be fair, if you didn’t want to be governed by a corrupt party hack, you shouldn’t have elected him in the first place.