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.

Join the discussion


  • 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?

  • 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.

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