Newsom’ Recall, Part 4: Gavin Should Resign, NOW!

The first three installments in this series my be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  We left off with my posing the question found in this nifty graphic I’ve adapted from a Trumpian who was hoping that Trump would yank the security clearances of everyone who stood in his way.  (This is a good reminder of why we can’t afford a recall in which a sole Donald Trump-endorsed Republican candidate would — don’t kid yourself! — have a decent chance to win.  That would be awful.  Here’s the graphic:

Those are (left to right) three recall Republican replacement candidates with a decent chance to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom: former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faucloner, big league conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, and former State Senator and current widely scorned Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines.

21. Introduction to Part 4

Calling for someone to resign — as I am obviously doing — is a dramatic step, but in this case it’s also in Newsom’s own interest.  He has an uncomfortably high likelihood of getting his butt kicked on September 14 — not a certainty, but enough so that he’s depending on people coming to the polls to rescue him who aren’t likely to do so — and even if hey do they are not likely to forgive his exorting them to do so by eliminating all viable possibilities but a new Republican Governor, with everything that that entails.  If he loses, and California does yield to a Republican Governor because of his recklessness and selfishness and blow his political career, both statewide and nationally, to smithereens.

He will probably not warm to such advice, but by opening up this discussion he may at least have to confront it, and perhaps some especially brave Democrats will tell him that he’s risking too much on people he’s treating shabbily coming to the polls.  If, on the other side, he steps aside — even if he plans to run in 2022, having “checked himself into rehab” for a few months while his Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis gets her sea legs — he gets credit for having averted a possible disaster and making the Republican party look like chumps by foiling their plot.  (No, they would not have enough time to turn around and recall Eleni.)

Newsom’s (and the state’s) dire situation is, seriously, almost all his own fault.  Yes, the basis for the recall is in part specious — but in part it’s not.  He acted badly — within political norms, but still badly — and he happened to blow up the state’s exemplary containment of the virus by doing so. Beyond that, Republican critiques of Democratic governance are not entirely baseless — especially the party’s being owned by special interests whose desires are in part opposed to the general public good.  This isn’t innately sinister — it’s potentially so anytime anyone wants to use public monies for their own benefit.  Such demands may be worth it for the state, in other cases it may not, but when dominating the government, as we Democrats do, we should be pretty damned scrupulous about getting procuring value for the citizenry.

I don’t think that Newsom’s flaws in this are justifies a recall — which takes advantage of lower turnout and a more conservative electorate — but it’s not evil, as laws to suppress the vote are.

The big problem with any Republican recall is that all they really have to offer is a trickle-down, Big-Corporate-plus-Chamber-of Commerce-friendly economy and a willingness to appeal to populist bigotry and elitist barbarity.  (Sadly, centrists Democrats like Newsom offer about as much selling out to special interests — but it’s combined with less bigotry, and they feel really bad about the bigotry and negligence when they bow to it.  (It’s just what the public wants, don’t you see?)  But honestly, that combination is a really lousy way to turn out the vote in a special election:

“We won’t sell you out as much as they do, unless we have to, and even then we won’t enjoy it!”

So yeah — I’m not happy with the Republican Recall, and I’m even less happy that it has a fair chance to succeed.  But we can’t blame the Republicans for taking advantage of Newsom’s actual errors, which are what left him vulnerable to a recall.

These errors do not include his initial actions on Covid safety, which were masterful — making it all the sadder when he later started backed away from them.  We’ve covered Newsom’s worst mistake in Part 2, but we’ll review it here before going on.

22. The Most Devastating Basis for Recalling Newsom is That His Hypocrisy Allowed Covid to Explode

Newsom was negligent at best, more likely highly reckless, for attending the French Laundry event in honor of lobbyist Peter Kinney’s birthday. The more you know, the worse it gets.

  1. Newsom had just issued an order to ban these sorts of indoor events at commercial eating establishments.
  2. His reason for going — I mean, why not just sit this birthday party out? It’s not like Kinney was an eight-year-old waiting for his daddy! — was especially bad.
  3. Newsom was not there for the reason most of us might be: to savor the renowned food.  He was there to signal to other attendees (and those who would later learn about it) that Peter Kinney had so much juice that the Governor would attend his party.  This may not have been intended, but that it happened right after his Covid ban would, if anything, burnish Kinney’s reputation even more.  (“Look, he’s so powerful that even the Governor came to honor him,  despite his own public health order!”)  Must’ve been nice!
  4. Here’s where it veers into the sinister: Newsom’s no idiot; having issued the health order, why would he still show up?  Logically, bolstering Kinney’s reputation was would be part of at least an implicit quid pro quo, one in a long series of mutual back-scratches so prevalent that no given one would even stand out. This favor Newsom did for Kinney was part of a series of actions  that would make Kinney — and more importantly, Kinney’s clientsmore likely to help Newsom in his future political endeavors.
  5. Maybe this “pro” was vague enough not to be illegal — I’ve always steered clear of this sort of transaction, but my sense is that they happen a lot — but it still might be considered rank enough to turn off all but highly partisan voters. But generallyly, voters simply don’t find out about such things; except for some very specialized news venues, it is just not the sort of thing that would make a splash in the news.  So why would he worry about it?
  6. In a sense, that’s too bad. This mutual backscratching might have ended up being  part of why, say, Newsom might make an extremely low profile political appointment that could steer an administrative decision in the direction that KInney’s lobbyist’s client might devoutly wish.  It’s just how things are done, you know; the public never finds out.
  7. Or rather: almost never.  This time, Newsom was supremely unlucky.  (Twice supremely unlucky, in fact.)  The first bad luck was that the story of his hypocrisy came to more than trivial public light at all.  Again, it generally doesn’t.  But it’s the second bad piece of luck that was far more destructive.
  8. California in November 2020 had already been engaged in a massive and protracted moral, political, and psychological struggle around Covid.  Some points of dispute included:
    1. Did the SARS-2 Covid virus really even exist?
    2. How transmissible was it — and among which sectors of the population?
    3. Was a Covid infection as serious a health problem as claimed?
    4. To what extent was mask-wearing useful or necessary?
    5. To what extent were various kinds of social distancing useful/necessary?
    6. To what extent was substantial air flow useful or necessary?
    7. Who should be making the rules as to whether people and institutions had to take precautions?
    8. What if any sanctions should there be on those who did not follow the rules?
    9. To what extent was public health law a valid area of governance at all?
    10. To what extent did the government have valid reasons to engage in this sort of restriction on freedom, rather than letting people self-govern — or did they just like pushing the public around?

Those last four are the rocky shoals on which Newsom foundered.

This story came out, remember, little more than a week after the 2020 general election — way before the results were known — but accusations of fraud and possible coups were already flying around ferociously.  Loads of articles were coming out about how to survive Thanksgiving dinner with one’s family.  Thanksgiving would come on the 26th, but November 25-29 was essentially one long weekend for families and friends to gather — and often tussle about Covid.  Vaccines were not yet generally available.

There may have been no moment in California history where the credibility of the state government about a public health crisis — especially given the massively dysfunctional federal government — was more important than the lead-up t0 Thanksgiving.  Would we give in to pandemic fatigue — or stand strong against it?

And that is exactly when news of Newsom’s violating his own powerful and essential — but infuriating to deniers of the fact or extent of public health orders related to Covid — came out.  Ten days before Thanksgiving: perfect for maximum contagiousness.

As noted in Part 2, the French Laundry was one of the major news stories of Newsom’s political career — the biggest, if you tote up both weeks that bookended Thanksgiving.

California had previously been spared the worst of Covid attacks.  But remember what happened next:

[1]

Newsom wasn’t searched that much even when nominated for and winning the Governorship. But the initial Covid lockdown, the indoor dining ban, and the French Laundry event absolutely dwarfed the merely politics.

[2]

[3]

Massive waves of Covid in the wake of the mere news of Newsom’s flouting his order, followed by months of new infections hovering between 35,000 and 40,000 new cases per week.

Was it all the French Laundry story?  Probably not.  Thanksgiving after more than half a year of quarantine was  a;waus going to be hard.  But California had used its governmental credibility in the area of public health very well until then — and then it blew apart.

23. If California Gets a Republican Governor, It’s Just Because Newsom Has Tried to Hold the Party Hostage

No candidate likes people running to replace them in a recall, but in one with the stakes this high, that’s just tough noogies! But Newsom has responded to his weakness — stemming partly from the Republican advantage in low-turnout elections, and partly because of his “own goal,” which was more like an “own setting his team’s locker room on fire” — was to tell Democrats that they would not even put up a contestants to replace him if he lost.  The only contest was the one that mattered (to him): they had to defeat the recall, or he would take everybody down with his shop.

I don’t like being held hostage by this sort of “give me exactly what or reap the whirlwind” sort of political approach — so I’m not inclined to give in to it.  Whether he deserves to be recalled on his own merits — I tilt very slightly against — my decision rule for now is that if Newsom endorses one good Democrat to gather all of the Democratic votes behind them, then I will support him — but if he doesn’t, then he’s just too much of a selfish asshole to get my vote and I’d rather see him destroy his career.

Why is the Governor being such a shmuck?  I think that it’s because of a reason I’ve left out of the above analysis: he’s planning a run for President as early as 2024 (if Biden doesn’t), possibly against his frenemy VP Kamala Harris.  (He’s in a hurry: given that he’s already 53, he only has until, oh, maybe 2056.)  So he wants to crush his recall to flaint his potency.

If you don’t think that this makes sense … you’re right.  And that’s why getting him to resign and short-circuit the recall is going to be a bit of a task.

His acting like Captain Ahab inclines me away from a comfortable abstention (“let him win it without me”) to a “maybe it would be better if he lost — or at best won narrowly.” I really don’t want a GOP Governor — there hasn’t been a good one since Earl Warren, and he, um, “1066” —  but over ten years since the latest one, a year and a half of Republican obstruction might well be a good reminder to voters of how truly bad a Republican Governor would likely be.  And its failure to engineer turnout even with the “advantage” of extortion  would certainly be a wake-up call to the Democratic establishment about how poorly they understand independent-minded voters — but then again they’ve been ignoring that sort of wake-up call for years.

24. Newsom’s Resigning Would Be a Masterstroke

So here’s my pitch to Newman.  Letting the recall go ahead, when you’ve prevented any decent Democrat from running, suggests that you’re smoking crack.  Stopping the recall cold would not only save the state money — especially gratifying after the Republicans have already spent theirs — but it would be a heroic act of (mock) self-sacrifice.

And — it plays into a a gambit that you’ve already used!

Remember when it was reported that Newsom had had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife — and then supposed went to therapy so that he could come to grips with his wrongful ways?  After too short of a time for any therapy (other than maybe electroshock) to really work, Newsom came back and presented himself to the public as a man cured-slash-reformed.  (I forget, was this before or after he married Screamin’ Kimberly Guilfoyle?  Well after?  OK, then he does have a claim to have been a broken man.)

Anyway, it’s a good model — better if he doesn’t just fake it this time — for what he could do now.

Newson has never come to grips with the enormity of his trip to the French Laundry while (admirably) closing the state down for “regular” Californians.  He hasn’t seemed truly contrite; he hasn’t shown that he gets what was so wildly wrong about what was, after all, just one evening with friends.  (N.b.:  IT WASN’T.)

What is he really thought it through and came to grips with what he did wrong — and why?

25. An Apology for Newsom

What if he said something like this?

“While I’m proud of how I have handled the pandemic in California, as well as building up a budget surplus, and other policies; and my appointments of Alex Padilla and Shirley Weber and Rob Bonta and many other and other people; I have come to realize that I completely blew it when it came to showing people that I was not entitled to special consideration during the pandemic — and I invited this sort of attack.

I was playing the political game of attending events with powerful Californians, because that’s what one does.  I didn’t give sufficient attention to realizing that attending the event was wrong.  It could have been — for all I know, it was — a vector for the spread of Covid leading up to Thanksgiving.  I not only should have taken a rain check; I should have suggested that the venue not host the party and the person celebrating his birthday should honor my policy.

I’m not perfect — but I wish that I had had the self-awareness and courage that week to do the right thing, to do what I was demanding of all Californians.

That’s not me at my best; that’s not me being even adequate.  I have to live with the fact that my violating my own order as I did, when I did, for the reasons I did, were unbecoming of an officer of government.

Frankly, the recall has helped me see that.  I hate to give them credit for a political move, but it has turned out to have an important effect on me.

I’ve come to realize that I should pay some price for my error, to help me learn from it.  So I am going to take my bitter medicine and try to heal.

I’m fortunate enough to have a terrific Lieutenant Governor — a job I know very well — in Eleni Kounalakis.  She is completely qualified to guide the state for the next year and more.  And of all of the good things to come out of this painful “come to Jesus” moment for me, making her the first female Governor in California’s history is something that, despite how it has come about, I will always cherish.  It’s long overdue.  Before long, we will elect one in her own right.

I’m going to spare the state the expense and turmoil of a recall  election. I’ll take some time for some serious self- introspection, be of any help to Eleni that I can be, and decide over the course of the year what if any plans I will make for 2022.  I’m not leaving politics, but I am leaving power — in good hands.  It’s hard to think about it now, but if am ever elected to office again I hope to be a better public steward by the reminder of what can happen when you stray from doing what’s right.

I have a few tasks I need to do before I go, and I will work with Eleni towards a smooth transition.    If it can be accomplished in a week, that would be perfect;in any event, it will be before voting starts.  To ensure that this is definitive, I am announcing my resignation to be on August 14, but I hope that it will be sooner than that.  If you’ll excuse me, I don’t think that I’ll take any questions today, nor do I think that Eleni will, but I plan an availability within the next few days.  Thank you, California, for electing such a superb Lt. Governor that I can do this without regret.

Honestly, my only concern with this possibility is that his pulling the rug out from under the recall proponents and landing them flat on their asses might neutralize his bad qualities so much that he really does improve his position as a Presidential contender.

26. The Fun of Pulling Out the Rug

Imagine the faces of Republicans when he pulled the rug out from beneath them.  Imagine the glee of the press looking for comments.  Imagine Newsom making it all of the way back to his office before he starts laughing.

This would be a masterstroke.  His speech would go down in the history books and be celebrated — probably giving him too much credit — as the antithesis of Trump.  It would so totally devastating that Republicans — unless they had the Lieutenant Governor position, might never try a Gubernatorial recall again, so easy it would be to sidestep. And that’s not only fun, it’s good.

Alas, Newsom won’t do this.  He’ll stubbornly refuse to endorse anyone to follow him — and as I publish it’s still too late for anyone to try.  Instead, he’s going to continue to be the biggest asshole he possibly can be, trying to stay in power through threats, blocking any out Democrats might want.

.OK, if that’s how he’s gonna be, we’ll just find someone that all Democrats, Independents, and Greens can vote for without him.

27. The Eight Possible Tolerable Fates

I used this graphic yesterday, but I didn’t really get to explain it.

These are the eight best possibilities that progressives can hope for, reading from right to left. Right: moderate Republicans Kevin Faulconer and Caitlin Jenner..2nd from right, moderate Democrats Gavin Newsom and Kevin Paffley. Second from left: *someone like* liberal Alan Lowenthal; Lt. Gov. Eleni Lounilakis (despite that she’d not running.) . Left: Greens Veronika Fimbres and Daniel Kapelovitz. Where are the liberal Democrats? Read on!.

Look, Republicans, you know that this series is not for you, and maybe you can find a Tom Tait among the candidates running on your side, please let me know and I’ll add them to this Brady Bunch, probably getting rid of Caitlin Jenner.

The right possible tolerable options are listed from right to left.  Three of them aren’t running, but I’ll get to that. They go from red on the right, through centrist purple to shades of blue, and the way to green.  If you don’t get why … I guess leave a comment?

Newsom, of course, wants the outcome in purple, top of the third column: he survives the recall and remains Governor.  For the sake of safety and closure, I prefer the one in the bottom of the third column: Eleni becomes Governor when Newsom resigns.

One Republican is better (read: more moderate, experienced, and non-Trumpian) than the rest: former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, top of row 4.  He might be an Ahnold-type governor — but that’s not much of a relief; as you may recall, Schwarzenegger was quite bad.

The next best choice is a bad one: Caitlin Jenner, bottom of row 4.  If you’re for her because you like the idea of a transwoman, hang on, I have something to show you.

A bunch of unknown and unqualified Democrats did run, despite Newson, and if you need to vote for one you can look in the bottom of row 3, where you’ll see YouTuber Kevin Paffley, who advises landlords and probably really appreciates the publicity.  In the top of Column 2 you’ll see Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who is not running — it would have great if he did; I’d have voted for him and voted for Newsom if he endorsed him!  Lowenthal is simply there as the sort of plausible candidate that I had hoped had the gravitas and fortitude to resist Newsom and ideally was old enough to be beyond serious retaliation.  I don’t know if anyone fitting that description ended up running; I suspect not, which is a horrible indictment of the institutional Democratic Party , but we’ll all find out soon enough.

That leaves only the two people in the first column.  Two Green Party candidates.  Yes, it truly is time for the Green Party — armed with votes of maybe millions of democrats and leftist and left-leaning independents, to save California and put a stake through the heart of the Recallateers.

 

28: Take the Green Pill!

Either of these candidates, Viktoria Fimbres at the top and Daniel Kapelovitz at the bottom, would have my enthusiastic support and I believe, would be able to govern effectively.  (Chore #1: pass a single transferrable vote system like they just used in New York, so that people can vote Green if they wanna and still vote Blue if they must.  (Or, Libertarian Gold and Red, if you want.  And so on.)

Kapelovitz has more blue in him because he’s a pretty standard ACLU type, which means taking some positions (such as free speech for pornographers, as you’ll see discussed in Part 3, which I think are correct but maybe unpopular enough to deny him a win over one of the really awful Republicans. You can also visit his RedicalLawCenter website.

Fimbres is — well, take a look at these interviews.  The first is from 2015, when she was organizing a Pride celebration, and it shows that she can be fabulous; the second is from her 2019 write-in campaign for Governor, and it shows she can talk policy reasonably well — a little simplistic, perhaps, but appropriately so for the audience.

I look forward to speaking to both Kapelovitz and Fimbres directly, and seeing how they seem able to answer questions of interest to Democrats, before deciding which to endorse.

Want to join me?


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)