Two Convention Encounters With the God-Like (If You Worship Janus) Gavin Newsom


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(When my Photoshop is back up I will really be able to go to town with this one!)

Belated greetings after my return from the California Democratic Party convention, from which I am continuing to recover. (And, in some respects, to fail to recover, at least for now.) As time permits, I’ll write a lot more about what in holy hell happened there, but for today I’m out to tell only a single story that I have promised to people on one of the closed Facebook pages where I’ve been living for a few days.

The divisions in the party today are mostly still along the lines of “Eric Bauman vs. Kimberly Ellis,” with the former faction “welcoming our new strong-mandibled overlord” and the latter pointing out that the review of ballots and ancillary documents (aka the “not a recount,” aka the “not an audit,” aka the “not a formal investigation,” which in fact shares characteristics of all of those things) in the CDP Chair’s race is not in fact complete, so chill out, Baumanoids.

(A third Chair candidate, OC’s own ravenous attention vampire Lenore Albert, received 7 votes out of almost 3,000 cast — that is not a misprint; and yes it is a single digit — and declared victory nonetheless, celebrating by publishing a photo of her beaming while Bauman stands by her gives her the thumb’s up while she invisibly wraps a tentacle around his neck from which she will hang for the rest of his life.  Seriously, she wants people to accept simultaneously that she was not a “wink and a nod” plant by the Bauman campaign, but is still responsible for his victory.  When someday Bauman sensibly tries to cut the vampiric albatross from around his neck, she will likely make Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction seem like the star of Amelie by comparison. But I am not writing about this yet!)

Other fierce intra-party divisions, though, are already visible — the most entertaining one involving front-running Democratic Gubernatorial candidate and current “Lite (i.e., Lieut.) Governor” Gavin Newsom — a longtime favorite of Orange County’s top “Business Democrats.”  This emerging division will not track the Bauman-Ellis division much at all, so get ready to shuffle your mental deck of who’s with whom.

If Ellis ultimately bests Bauman in the recount audit ballot-counting thing, Newson will be able to take some real credit for an assist to her due to his late intervention in the race.  Like the vast majority of party insiders, he had endorsed Eric Bauman early — as in last year early — because as everyone knew if one is politically ambitious one had better have!  But then, something weird started to happen, and it did not escape Newsom’s attention.  Lots and lots of people were gradually, then suddenly, gravitating towards Kimberly.  This posed both a danger and an opportunity for an ambitious politician like Newsom.  And so he acted, in a way.

Newsom sent out a letter saying that he had endorsed Bauman the previous year and was now happy to announce his support for Ellis.  Wait!  Does “support” outweigh “endorsement,” or is it the other way around?  Or was he engaged in what we in Orange County call a “Correa endorsement” (or sometimes, for egregious cases, a “Solorio endorsement”), in which one supports more than one candidate for the same single office so that one can be on the winning side either way (“Correa”) or because it’s the best way to screw up a decent and therefore disliked candidate (“Solorio.”)

Nobody knew what the hell Newsom was doing.  Switched endorsement?  Hedged endorsement?  Dual endorsement?  Hallucinated endorsement?  Because his support still counts for something, he did not get a lot of strong public abuse at the time, but the adjective I heard and saw the most from both camps in private was “two-faced.”  But this wasn’t mere normal two-facedness, like the Roman god Janus who simultaneously looked back into the past and forward into the future, and therefore had to sit in the back corner during classroom exams.

Newsom’s move was instead sort of like putting the bust of Janus onto a turntable — each head spinning to look backwards, then forward, then both again, at dizzying speeds, until no one could tell what he was actually thinking or saying, and the only certainty was that once there was a winner he would have supported him or her as constantly as our war with Eastasia, I mean Eurasia, I mean….

A lot of this played out in public.  But some of it played out in private, and my wife and I were privileged to watch the turntable revolve one full time.

Starting a little before 9:00 p.m., we sat down at a back corner table reserved for patrons of the pizza place (called something like “A Pizza”) next to Starbucks within the Sacramento Convention Center.  The phone that I use for messages, which is on its last legs, was dying (as usual) and I had needed a place to charge it.  A distinguished looking man was charging his own phone in the top socket of an outlet and I asked if I could use the lower one, to which he agreed.  He then went back to the table, diagonally away from the corner containing the table with the outlet, where he was sitting with three or so other people.

Two of the people, a man and a woman who kept venturing away, were wearing blue Bauman shirts.  (I had taken off my hot pink Ellis shirt, so I guess I didn’t arouse suspicion.)  The other two people appeared to be two older Caucasian men, one a bearded white European and one clean-shaven Middle Eastern.  They all looked sullen.  The four were talking about the election; I wasn’t attending to the conversation, but my wife says that it was somewhat negative about Ellis, but nothing to write home about.  (Oh well, they’re entitled.)

At one point, while the two people in Bauman shirts were gone, another man came up to the table and hunched over it.  He seemed to know the man with the beard.  I think that I’ve seen Gavin Newsom in person a few times, but mostly on screen, and I thought to myself that that looked like Gavin Newson, but I wasn’t sure that it was him.

My wife has an excellent memory for dialogue, from the power of which I suffer regularly, and so here I rely mostly on her memory.  The man told the others that the official results had come out and that Kimberly Ellis had won.  He looked sort of regretful, with pursed lips, and appeared to be sympathizing with the Bauman supporters.  This next statement I also recall clearly:

“Well, what can we do?  We just have to find a way to work with her.”

“We.”  (My wife remembers this as “you”; I clearly remember it as “we” because I knew enough to be shocked by it.)

“This can’t be Gavin Newsom,” I thought to myself in a fit of naivete, “because he just endorsed (or supported) her!”  (Yes, the parentheses were part of my thought.)  This man didn’t seem like a supporter of hers at all, but like someone who had resigned himself to her victory and was encouraging others to adopt the same stance.

Then the man left.  I told me wife that it had looked like Gavin Newsom, but I didn’t think that it was him, because what sort of idiot would say something like that in public where he could be overheard?  It seemed unlikely.

Soon after that, we grabbed the phone and charger and decamped for the Kimberly Ellis “victory party.”  (I was one of her “whips”; by my count I think that I probably convinced about 5-10 undecided voters to support her, which is not bad by whip standards.  That doesn’t count my stories published during the convention, which attracted a lot of eyeballs — even if not comments.)

Among the several speakers from the stage was — yes, you guessed it — the two-faced Roman god Janus, appearing in his avatar of Gavin Newsom, and looking into the future of a Kimberly Ellis-Chaired party.  He burbled with enthusiasm for Ellis.  My wife looked at me and said: “that’s the guy.”  “You sure?”  “I recognize the clothes.  Same guy we just saw.”

Any jury that tested my wife’s abilities would know that this is a definitive identification.

So the same man who was commiserating with Bauman supporters about Ellis’s victory less than a half-hour previous was now enthusiastically celebrating with Ellis’s supporters, coming off both times as exactly what his audience to wanted to see, but without the political acumen to know that he wasn’t being particularly careful about covering his tracks.  (And yes, before someone else jumps in with the observation: not for the first time.)

But maybe that characterization of him is unfair.  Did I say just … “a man”?  Maybe I should say … the likes of a god!

A specific two-faced god, in fact, with much to say — in both directions.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)