by Bradley Tusk
Monday, 6
September 2021
Debate
16:51

Don’t listen to the progressives, Gavin Newsom

If the governor wants to survive his recall, he should remember who his voters are
by Bradley Tusk
Credit: Getty

While California’s economy is the envy of the world, its politics are the mirror-image opposite. The movement to oust Governor Gavin Newsom — a skilled, experienced Democrat— before his term is up is the latest, clearest example. His troubles have a lot to do with the peculiarities of the state. But he also exemplifies all the ways in which Democrats around the country are making their own problems worse.

For too long, Democratic leaders have been trying to appease the progressive wing of the party at the cost of moderate and independent support. Earlier this year, my consulting firm ran Andrew Yang’s campaign for Mayor of New York City. When the race was about recovering from Covid, we were in great shape. But when it shifted to crime and violence, we were finished. That’s because moderates and progressives in the party deviate significantly on this issue; so when Yang suggested in a debate that it wasn’t just homeless citizens who had rights, he was excoriated for it by the far Left and pundits.

This is how Governor Newsom became vulnerable in a state in which his party is the dominant force. Although the homeless and quality of life crises in San Francisco and Los Angeles are not technically the Governor’s responsibility, voters expect their state’s top executive to act when a problem is so pervasive. On this issue, the hard Left is both way off the mainstream, but incredibly vocal about their position.

Unwilling to face a bad day or two on Twitter, Newsom played it safe, mainly offering standard liberal solutions like more money for housing. Not until he was at real risk of being recalled did he start talking about the situation from the perspective of residents rather than the homeless. When voters look at the recall ballot, how many of them are going to think about those tent cities in downtown Los Angeles? Or the problem of excrement smeared across the streets of San Francisco? How many are going to say to themselves, “Things are broken, this guy hasn’t fixed it, we need a change”? A lot more than Newsom ever expected. 

Newsom didn’t ignore the crises in San Francisco and Los Angeles due to his ideology. He did it because he and his team misread the political signs. They confused Twitter for real life. They confused TV news, punditry and advocacy groups for real voters. They over-indexed the metrics that matter to political insiders at the expense of metrics that matter to real people. This proved true in New York City too. While Yang didn’t win, Eric Adams — another moderate candidate who doesn’t reflexively oppose the police, love every conceivable tax increase and hate the private sector — did. He stuck to issues that had broad public support, even if they were unloved by the progressive base.

If Newsom wants to survive his recall, the lesson to him and other politicians should be very clear: don’t confuse the narrow reality that surrounds you with the actual world your voters live in. Your voters don’t care about retweets or praise from Rachel Maddow. They care about policies that make their lives easier and more manageable — not harder and more expensive.

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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
9 months ago

It’s a little late considering that is how is he in this position in the first place. “Oh now that I might get recalled, I totally promise to start caring what normal people think.” How’s that for a reelection slogan?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago

I live on a different continent and even I know that Gavin Newsom is a hypocritical, opportunistic, money grubbing slimeball who trashed San Francisco when he was mayor and is doing the same to California.
I hope sense prevails and that Elder wins.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

We all heard of Zuma getting jailed, and it appears he is now out on compassionate leave.

What is it with these leaders today?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I wish him dead… though he is an ex president, not a leader of a province.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
9 months ago

Not calling black opponents like Larry Elder “white supremacists” because they run against Democrats would also help. Also, fielding candidates who don’t need the likes of Bradley Tusk to keep them on track would be good. You know, people who enter politics because they actually know and care what their state needs themselves, without having to have statisticians tell them what positions to take to harvest the most votes?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

Dawkins discussed ‘memes’ having an evolutionary behavior, this is likely the California issue. Remember the mouse parasite which gets the mouse to commit suicide using a cat – as the parasite needs to be ingested by a cat to complete its lifecycle?

“A mouse sniffs the air, catches the whiff of cat urine, and runs towards the source of the smell… and straight into the jaws of a cat. This bizarre suicidal streak is the work of a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which has commandeered the mouse’s brain and turned it into a Trojan rodent—a vehicle for sneaking T.gondii into a cat.
T.gondii (or Toxo for short) infects a wide variety of mammals, but it only completes its life cycle in the guts of a cat. To get there, Toxo has ways of subverting the behaviour of dead-end hosts like mice.”

And who would not think of Newsom’s targeted voters as ‘Dead-end hosts‘? The meme the Calif. Education System has infected them with is out to get all the power and money they have into the gut of the Fat Cats.

David George
David George
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You do come up with some seriously interesting stuff Sanford.

David McDowell
David McDowell
9 months ago

You’d think all this would be obvious but apparently it isn’t. Our elected leaders seem to actually prefer subsisting in a fantasy world to common sense reality.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
9 months ago

Andrew Yang the moderate. Perhaps my memory is leading me wrong, but isn’t this the guy who, during the Democrat presidential debates, insisted that one of his priorities would be federal funding to provide abortions for trans-woman, i.e. men. So they would have had to go through some fairly radical surgeries in order to be able to get pregnant (which can and have been done), just so they could then abort it. And apparently everyone else should be paying for it. This goes way beyond the pro-abortion/pro-life debate into some seriously weird territory that I would not call moderate.
And, on one of the extremely few occasions he was actually allowed to speak in the Dem presidential debates, he basically just shouted “RUSSIA!” into his microphone. I do in fact tend to think that as long as Putin is in charge Russia will pose a geopolitical threat, not because it inherently has to but because he needs it to for the political mileage it earns him at home. But shouting “RUSSIA!” into a microphone does not make me think of a moderate who has realistic policy proposals on how to handle this challenge.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
9 months ago

gavin will be fine. ballot shenanigans have already started appearing. democrats always find a way to get what they want.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
9 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Flower

You’re probably right. But you’re also probably getting kicked off the internet for saying it. And I’m probably getting booted for agreeing with you.

Steve White
Steve White
9 months ago

This phenomenon is repeated in different forms in other institutions. Take Britain’s trade unions as an example and one in particular. The NEU is the largest education union in Europe with close to 500,000 members. The leaders know they get elected by less than 10% of the membership and then set about appealing to the 10% with all their positions, knowing it is them that keep them where they are in their elected positions.
In reality, this means they keep the woke happy and posture left, whilst not paying enough attention to the pay and. conditions of all members. This makes sense in their world and is the only one they operate in. One day perhaps things will get so bad for ordinary members that they will have to wake up. More members need to use their votes to change this.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
9 months ago

“While California’s economy is the envy of the world”
If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.