November 6, 2023 - 6:00pm

Nobles always need jesters, reliably entertaining for the self-satisfied set. In modern America no politician better fits the bill than California Governor Gavin Newsom, the man many well-placed Democrats, and their media minions, would like to succeed the doddering Joe Biden. With a new poll from the New York Times putting the President well behind Donald Trump in five out of six key battleground states, this succession plan may have to be activated sooner than intended.

Newsom, however, exhibits an apparent inability to appreciate the facts. He claims that his state is at the vanguard of American development, all while California’s economy falls behind and residents leave for elsewhere. There has been an exodus of corporate interest, too: Blackstone has just pulled out of the Playa Vista office complex, once seen as the epitome of LA’s tech and entertainment economy. The state’s latest employment report found fewer Californians employed than a year earlier, while the unemployment rate has crept up to 4.7%, the third highest of any state, as the labour force continues to decline.

Putting aside its economic failures, Newsom also laughably presents California as a model of tolerance and freedom. Yet the Governor signs legislation that limits basic speech rights; opposes parental rights over their children; and promotes a radical, allegedly antisemitic “ethnic studies” agenda. All this while seeking to regulate virtually every business, as well as the actions of everyday Californians, in order to satisfy climate goals.

Really, Newsom is a textbook case of gentry progressivism and its disastrous implications for working- and middle-class people. His energy policies may wow the green corporate industry, but the resulting high electricity rates have been devastating for many Californians. Plagued by soaring crime rates and a severe budget deficit, the state is not well-positioned to address these issues.

Yet it is a common conservative mistake to label Newsom as a radical “progressive” in the AOC or Democratic socialist mould. In fact, as he seemingly gears up to run for president, his actions instead follow the gentry mould — strong support for Net Zero, transgender and racial agendas while remaining “moderate” on issues which negatively impact the financial elite.

This was clear in his veto of several progressive bills last month, on issues such as allowing striking workers to collect state benefits. Last year he vetoed new tax schemes in the face of a massive deficit. At the same time, he has merrily signed off to ever more draconian climate legislation, which is yet to alienate his backers from California’s entertainment, finance and tech sectors. In an increasingly post-industrial state, the blue-collar “carbon economy” — manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics —  can pound sand.

Newsom’s gentry politics were also evident on his trip to China at the end of October. He hailed his hosts — the world’s biggest polluters by far — for building Chinese-made electric vehicles which could boost his own mandate against gas-powered cars. He entered a “climate partnership” with Shanghai while doing nothing to question China’s awful civil rights record. After all, California’s oligarchs — outside of Elon Musk, who is shifting his operations increasingly out of state — have little interest in making cars or providing blue collar jobs.

More troublingly, Newsom will have to confront the increasingly neo-Marxist, in some cases antisemitic, wing of his own party. Many members of the Democratic business elite are themselves Jewish or have Jewish friends and associations, and the California Governor may need Jewish money to bolster his White House drive. Yet by appealing to the bourgeoisie, he will alienate many in his party who find his less committed brand of progressivism weak and insufficiently critical of Israel. Newsom might see himself as the future, but could soon come to be judged passé as young Democrats shift to an ever more radical stance, one which has little time for well-groomed jesters.

Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)