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Gavin Newsom is taking his cultural crusade too far

Gavin Newsom is trying to foist 'California values' on the rest of the country. Credit: Getty

July 31, 2023 - 7:00am

Few politicians in America have ridden the progressive side of the culture wars more successfully than California’s Gavin Newsom, starting with his early support for legalising gay marriage and marijuana, and more recently taking on GOP extremism on abortion. Both of these stances are widely popular across the country, and may have benefitted both Newsom’s presidential prospects and the party.

Yet increasingly Newsom, as with other Democrats, could be taking his cultural crusade too far. Moves such as pushing for sexual and gender identity issues to be taught at grade school are exceptionally unpopular — as are proposals, now cooking in Sacramento, to allow the state to override parental authority regarding access to puberty blockers. 

Similarly, opposition to allowing biological men to participate in women’s sports has actually grown over the last two years, with even more Democrats now opposed to the practice than in favour. Newsom has also been aggressive in backing race quotas despite all major ethnic groups, including African-Americans, rejecting them

This does not imply minority support of the entire conservative agenda. But Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, may not be the reliable social conservatives imagined by some Republicans; instead, they favour restrictions on abortion by a 10-point margin over other ethnic groups. 

Overall the cultural PC agenda, which is built around identity politics and is increasingly central to the current party belief system, is rejected by Americans by over 20% — and even more so among Latinos. This is partly because immigrants, the determinants of the country’s demographic future, tend to be both more religious than white Americans. Minorities and immigrants have been prominent in parent protests across the country, including in highly diverse places like Jackson Heights, Queens and the Maryland suburbs, as well as in immigrant-rich communities like Glendale, California.  

The Left-wing agenda is also alienating California’s Jewish population. Although not a powerful voting bloc except in parts of Los Angeles, Jews have been a critical part of the California Democratic Party for at least a century. The Jewish-black political alliance, for example, marked the beginnings of LA’s transformation into a liberal, but now increasingly ultra-progressive, stronghold.

Newsom, to his credit, has pushed to ratchet down the antisemitism implicit in the curricula, but the ethnic studies programme being adopted in some large urban districts like Los Angeles remains openly anti-Israel, claiming that Jews and other ethnic groups enjoy “white privilege”. These curricula, according to one recent lawsuit, conflate Zionism with “white supremacy” and portray Israel as an apartheid state bent on genocide. 

Despite the fallout from the Republicans’ abortion obsession, Newsom’s strategy of focusing on cultural issues endangers both his ascendancy and that of his party. After decades of inexorable shifting towards progressive views on cultural issues, the country, perhaps reacting to the antics of gender activists, is becoming not more liberal, but more culturally conservative.   

To be sure, the Democrats may not pay the full price for their adherence to what Newsom might call “California values” in 2024, thanks largely to the presence of Donald Trump. But the cultural agenda will surely continue alienating foreign-born citizens, who tend to be less likely to identify with a party. As the Democrats become ever more locked in the embrace of identity politics, they are in danger of alienating some of their traditional constituencies and significantly weakening their prospects in the years ahead.


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)

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Another politician who shut down public schools, while his kids continued to go to class in private school.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

And big, unmasked dinners at expensive restaurants whilst he shuttered bars and cafes and churches and filled skate parks with sand. The man’s a ghoul.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

And big, unmasked dinners at expensive restaurants whilst he shuttered bars and cafes and churches and filled skate parks with sand. The man’s a ghoul.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Another politician who shut down public schools, while his kids continued to go to class in private school.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, may not be the reliable social conservatives imagined by some Republicans; instead, they favour restrictions on abortion by a 10-point margin over other ethnic groups.”
This is self-contradictory.

Max Price
Max Price
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I was going to say that. The whole article was sloppy.

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

He should have said “but” instead of “instead”

Max Price
Max Price
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I was going to say that. The whole article was sloppy.

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

He should have said “but” instead of “instead”

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, may not be the reliable social conservatives imagined by some Republicans; instead, they favour restrictions on abortion by a 10-point margin over other ethnic groups.”
This is self-contradictory.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
11 months ago

“GOP extremism on abortion”. Surely, the extreme position is the Democrat support for abortion all the way up to full term?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago

I’d say both are pretty extreme to be honest, most sensible countries found a middle ground the majority could go along with decades ago

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I would judge the explicit legalisation of infanticide to be way more extreme than prohibiting all abortion.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The American system of states’ rights allows the states to be separate laboratories of experiment on policies like this. Eventually a national consensus on abortion will emerge, and much faster and more fairly than if abortion policy had been imposed from Washington.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

From what I’ve read a national consensus has pretty much emerged in the States, and a vast majority would be happy having it legal up until the end of the first trimester. Unfortunately both parties are now in the thrall to the simpletons on their edges so they are stuck between choosing between ultra restrictive or overly liberal options

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

From what I’ve read a national consensus has pretty much emerged in the States, and a vast majority would be happy having it legal up until the end of the first trimester. Unfortunately both parties are now in the thrall to the simpletons on their edges so they are stuck between choosing between ultra restrictive or overly liberal options

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I would judge the explicit legalisation of infanticide to be way more extreme than prohibiting all abortion.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The American system of states’ rights allows the states to be separate laboratories of experiment on policies like this. Eventually a national consensus on abortion will emerge, and much faster and more fairly than if abortion policy had been imposed from Washington.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago

Yes, but most American voters are moderates on this issue
The parties have pushed one another towards tribal extremes, which don’t really represent to views of most people.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
11 months ago

Being moderate on the issue of killing unborn children is like being moderate on the Holocaust. (Unless one believes that the child is nothing more than a cluster of cells, who just happen to have a face, beating heart, a brain and unique DNA that no other person ever had or ever will have)

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Perhaps you’re right.
But most people agree that some leeway should be given to mothers in the earliest weeks of an unwanted pregnancy, to stop this dependant relationship from progressing, up to a certain point.
Arguably the laws in many countries have become far too Liberal now

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Perhaps you’re right.
But most people agree that some leeway should be given to mothers in the earliest weeks of an unwanted pregnancy, to stop this dependant relationship from progressing, up to a certain point.
Arguably the laws in many countries have become far too Liberal now

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
11 months ago

Being moderate on the issue of killing unborn children is like being moderate on the Holocaust. (Unless one believes that the child is nothing more than a cluster of cells, who just happen to have a face, beating heart, a brain and unique DNA that no other person ever had or ever will have)

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
11 months ago

Yes! I had that line highlighted as well. Is there any issue more important and profound to a society than the organized and blatant killing of its unborn children?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago

I’d say both are pretty extreme to be honest, most sensible countries found a middle ground the majority could go along with decades ago

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago

Yes, but most American voters are moderates on this issue
The parties have pushed one another towards tribal extremes, which don’t really represent to views of most people.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
11 months ago

Yes! I had that line highlighted as well. Is there any issue more important and profound to a society than the organized and blatant killing of its unborn children?

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
11 months ago

“GOP extremism on abortion”. Surely, the extreme position is the Democrat support for abortion all the way up to full term?

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
11 months ago

Newsom has to stick to cultural adventurism, because that’s all he has. No one will buy his administrative record or his management of the state and its economy. Outside of Sacramento, California is turning/has turned into a universal meme for disfunction. He can’t sell that.

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
11 months ago

Newsom has to stick to cultural adventurism, because that’s all he has. No one will buy his administrative record or his management of the state and its economy. Outside of Sacramento, California is turning/has turned into a universal meme for disfunction. He can’t sell that.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
11 months ago

Immigrants may be more religious than native Californians (though perhaps not, if you count ‘spirituality’ as religious) but is that the difference that matters? Surely immigrants who have prospered after moving to the USA will reject narratives that depict them as helpless victims of circumstance and say that there is no such thing as ‘deserving one’s success’.

Last edited 11 months ago by Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
11 months ago

Immigrants may be more religious than native Californians (though perhaps not, if you count ‘spirituality’ as religious) but is that the difference that matters? Surely immigrants who have prospered after moving to the USA will reject narratives that depict them as helpless victims of circumstance and say that there is no such thing as ‘deserving one’s success’.

Last edited 11 months ago by Laura Creighton
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago

Gavin Newsom is utterly irredeemable in every single sense of the word. Anyone with eyes can see that, so I have no idea what the author thought was the point of this little piece of fluff.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago

Gavin Newsom is utterly irredeemable in every single sense of the word. Anyone with eyes can see that, so I have no idea what the author thought was the point of this little piece of fluff.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
11 months ago

Remember, Governor Newsome recently soundly won his recall election. Enough people in California either like Governor Newsome or saw the alternative as worse.
Your comment that, “…the cultural agenda will surely continue alienating foreign-born citizens,” is starting to play out in some Muslim communities. The Wall Street Journal reported on 28 July how the liberal / Democratic side reacted to Hamtramck MI’s ban on gay pride flags on city buildings. How this plays out in future elections is yet to be seen where our choices are often over who is less worse.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
11 months ago

Remember, Governor Newsome recently soundly won his recall election. Enough people in California either like Governor Newsome or saw the alternative as worse.
Your comment that, “…the cultural agenda will surely continue alienating foreign-born citizens,” is starting to play out in some Muslim communities. The Wall Street Journal reported on 28 July how the liberal / Democratic side reacted to Hamtramck MI’s ban on gay pride flags on city buildings. How this plays out in future elections is yet to be seen where our choices are often over who is less worse.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
11 months ago

You don’t have to be a Trump supporter or even a Republican to enjoy seeing the Democratic Party’s increasing embrace of lockstep dogmatic authoritarianism beginning to turn many of their former supporters against them. They are more and more creating a tyrannical nanny state that promotes anarchy, division and the genital mutilation of children, among other things. They are currently the biggest threat to individual freedom and critical thinking that exists today. They must be stopped.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
11 months ago

You don’t have to be a Trump supporter or even a Republican to enjoy seeing the Democratic Party’s increasing embrace of lockstep dogmatic authoritarianism beginning to turn many of their former supporters against them. They are more and more creating a tyrannical nanny state that promotes anarchy, division and the genital mutilation of children, among other things. They are currently the biggest threat to individual freedom and critical thinking that exists today. They must be stopped.

Mike Korbey
Mike Korbey
11 months ago

I can see the ads now: “He will do to America what he has done to California.” Should President Biden not run, the Ds would be wise to run a sensible Democrat who is a proven problem solver. Could be unbeatable.

Mike Korbey
Mike Korbey
11 months ago

I can see the ads now: “He will do to America what he has done to California.” Should President Biden not run, the Ds would be wise to run a sensible Democrat who is a proven problem solver. Could be unbeatable.