In an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle this week, former State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown warned Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) that he’d better take seriously the recall effort aimed at throwing him out of Sacramento. The effort, which is now being shopped around for the required signatures, has been largely dismissed by state Democrats as a desperate move destined to go nowhere. But Brown said that Newsom underestimates the backlash to his coronavirus policies at his own peril, warning that it wouldn’t take much more support to see the effort reach the ballot next year.
“Right now, Newsom’s chances of survival are tied to the pandemic,” Brown wrote. “If California can get the coronavirus under some semblance of control and counties can lift economic restrictions — and here’s the big if, if Newsom can lean on teachers unions and school districts to reopen classrooms — he’ll survive any recall and all but guarantee his re-election. If not, Newsom will be in a fight for his political life.”
Brown advised Newsom that his best way out of this jam is to blame the recall effort on Trump supporters who are upset that their guy did not win the election.
“He must paint the recall effort as an attack by disgruntled supporters of President Trump. That might be helped by news that national Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee are trying to help the recall qualify for the ballot,” Brown wrote. “If Newsom can make it about Trump, Newsom wins.”
Brown isn’t alone in thinking that there might be something to this recall effort. According to Politico, the governor himself is starting to get nervous:
Sources close to Newsom said the governor’s office has been disorganized over the past month and has not responded effectively to damaging headlines. They point to his prolonged delay in naming a U.S. Senate replacement for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as one example.
As Newsom begins his third full year in office, the governor’s team is increasingly concerned with a long-shot conservative recall that could mushroom into a major threat in 2021 if it attracts significant financial support.
Brown is probably right that Newsom is in trouble, but this idea that he can make it all about Trump is a longshot. This isn’t about the national political scene, and we find it difficult to believe that Californians would fall for such a shallow, transparent bit of misdirection. This recall is about the governor’s failure to protect small businesses from a disastrous year and his insistence on mandating nonsensical lockdowns that have done NOTHING to slow the spread of the virus. Like the Gray Davis recall of 2003, this is all about gubernatorial incompetence.
And when you get right down to it, the COVID response is only one small part of that picture.