Gage Skidmore; Creative Commons via Flickr
Newsom recall a win for accountability

Chantal Lovell

Communications Director

Chantal Lovell
September 15, 2021

Newsom recall a win for accountability

Recently, Brandeis University updated its list of no-longer-politically correct idioms we should eliminate from our vocabulary.

Among them is the one that’s always disturbed me a little, but seems perfectly apropos this week: There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Perhaps more relatable to Californians living in 2021 (who hopefully will never need even a single reason to skin a cat) is the reality that there is more than one way to hold an elected official accountable.

While the mainstream media is drunk off Gavin Newsom’s victory, the governor and elected officials up and down the state should consider:ordinary Californians — Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between — made Newsom answer for his role in California’s downward spiral and they won on Tuesday.

Just think back to this past spring. California remained one of the most locked down states in the country, despite having the lowest COVID rate in the nation at the time. Indoor capacity limits were in place, masks were required indoors, non-essential offices and many businesses were prohibited from opening. The United Teachers Los Angeles and smaller teachers unions throughout the state refused to meaningfully return to in-person teaching, and threatened to keep students at home behind screens even in the fall.

But then, in May, it began to seem as though a recall election could materialize. A grassroots, bipartisan network of Californians had submitted the required number of signatures — and then some — to put Newsom’s political future up for a vote. The establishment powers started their collective shock then panic. Could their guy actually lose? In California? The all-out assault on his challengers kicked into high gear, and even included labeling the leading African American candidate as the “Black face of white supremacy.” In July, a headline-grabbing poll found Newsom’s chances of beating the recall too close for comfort.

The money, especially from government unions, started flowing into Newsom’s campaign. He collected more than $80 million and spent almost $60 million more than his closest competitor Larry Elder, the clear winner of Question 2.

Newsom realized his political future was on thin ice and that, for the first time in his career, he’d have to fight for his job. Suddenly, restrictions began fading into the background, and Californians were permitted to enjoy freedom previously only experienced by elites and lobbyists at the French Laundry. To much media fanfare, Newsom “reopened” California in the summer. Restaurants could more fully reopen, fans were filling stadiums, normalcy was on the horizon. The state’s powerful teachers unions, seemingly overnight, went silent, laid down their arms, and returned to school. The Governor tried to reassure his constituents at every possible juncture that California was “roaring back!”

None of this would have happened without the threat of recall. And while many readers may understandably be discouraged today, remember that efforts to improve peoples’ lives, even if the result is only temporary, are worthwhile.

Over the summer, small business owners were able to reopen, saving countless family businesses from the bankruptcy that loomed. Individuals were able to get off the government dole and return to work, restoring their sense of pride in themselves and hope in the future. Friends were allowed to share meals together at their favorite local restaurants maskless, reviving the sense of community squashed by the pandemic and government’s response to it. Children are back in school where they are learning face-to-face with their teachers, and importantly, playing with other children and experiencing some sense of normalcy.

Many — the California Policy Center included — have speculated that a Newsom win this week could send the state backward in its reopening. Schools may again shut their doors, and relegate children to isolation and increased learning loss. Masks and vaccine mandates could spread. Businesses could close shop, some temporarily and others permanently. The California economy, which Newsom has so proudly claimed is “roaring back” would be silenced, again.

But, the truth is, Newsom and the government unions that elected him would be wise to proceed cautiously. Though Newsom saved his job this week, he will soon find himself campaigning again, first for the June 2022 primary and then, if he’s lucky, for the November General election. Voters should not let their discouragement or relief prevent them from holding Newsom’s feet to the fire these coming months.

David may not have killed Goliath, but he took him down. So much so that California Democrats are working to reform the recall process, ensuring they never face such a challenge again.

The Newsom recall election was just the beginning for ordinary Californians committed to challenging establishment power, special interests, and the status quo. A bipartisan, grassroots excitement has sprung up and is taking hold throughout the state. There are 15 efforts underway to recall California school boards, along with efforts to recall other public officials, from county supervisors to district attorneys. Voters could have the opportunity to vote on not one, but two, ballot proposals in 2022 that would disrupt public education. They might even consider whether to make public-sector unions illegal.

While Newsom is right to breathe a sigh of relief this week, he shouldn’t get too comfortable.


Chantal Lovell is the communications director for The California Policy Center. 

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