Why Gavin Newsom’s Big Latino Problem Could Bring Him Down
Latinos are the only racial or ethnic group that decisively favors recalling the governor.
The California recall vote on Sept. 14 should not even be happening. My home state is deep blue. Democrats hold every statewide office, control both chambers of the legislature, and don’t need a single Republican vote to pass bills.
This is the last place that Democrats should have to fight to maintain the governor’s office. The Democratic incumbent facing recall, Gov. Gavin Newsom, cruised to victory in November 2018—not even three years ago.
California is far from a red state. But being here can sometimes feel like you’re living on the red planet.
For example, it must seem crazy to some people that there could be a recall election where the incumbent gets more votes than anyone else, but he still gets bounced out of office because a majority of voters opted to remove him. Just like it must seem absurd that a weaker challenger with lesser appeal could be elected without getting even half the vote.
But these are the rules of the game. It’s not my job to defend the language in the California constitution. But it’s ironic that the procedure for a recall would turn out to be so inconvenient for Democrats. Again, this is the party that completely controls state government. Democrats could have amended the state constitution any time, but they never did.
Besides, politics is not an exact science. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president with just 43 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Reform Party candidate Ross Perot. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W. Bush thanks to the Electoral College. The same thing happened in 2012, when Hillary Clinton outdid Donald Trump in the popular vote but the Electoral College put Trump in the White House.
Nevertheless, the politics of California are stranger than most. They’ve been broken since the 1990s, when shortsighted Republicans had the boneheaded idea to alienate Latinos by pandering to racists who thought the state was being invaded by Mexicans.
Good plan. Why not make your party’s brand toxic to a group of people that today represents 40 percent of the state population?
Latinos scurried away from the GOP, and into the waiting arms of Democrats who responded by, well, doing nothing. What was already bad customer service by Democrats toward Latinos got even worse. They took that loyal constituency for granted and treated them as an afterthought.
Now Latinos seem to be getting ready to return the favor. Don’t expect many of them to go to the polls to save the job of a governor who never gave them the time of day.
A recent Emerson College/Nexstar poll on the recall election—taken in early August—finds Californians evenly split, with 46 percent in favor of the recall and 48 percent against. But that poll also shows that Latinos are the only racial or ethnic group in the state that favor the recall; 54 percent want to recall Newsom while only 41 percent want to keep him in office.
Democrats, you have a problema. In 2018, when Newsom battled Republican businessman John Cox, the Democrat won the support of 61 percent of Latino men and 67 percent of Latino women, according to CNN tracking polls.
How did that support collapse in less than 36 months? I have a theory. Latinos consider work sacred. Newsom messed with the livelihood of thousands of Latinos by shuttering everything from hotels and restaurants to nail salons and barber shops. Of course, there was going to be blowback.
And Newsom didn’t see this coming? He’s the governor of a state where nearly half the population is Latino and he doesn’t know the first thing about Latinos. No wonder he has become the state’s official piñata.
Newsom should be recalled due to his sheer incompetence in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, which included a heavy-handed economic lockdown that crippled the state. He mismanaged a state unemployment system that mailed checks to out of state prisoners but not to thousands of unemployed Californians who couldn’t pay rent or buy groceries.
Poor Gavin. It’s tough to lead a state when you’re so far out of touch with the people who live there.
But in searching for a suitable replacement, the pickings are slim.
The former Republican gubernatorial candidate who got his clocked cleaned by Newsom in 2018, John Cox, recently attacked another Republican recall candidate, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, as “pro-Mexico.”
Lovely. So Cox is proudly anti-Mexico? That is an odd way to attract Latino voters. Doesn’t anyone know how to play this game?
Republican frontrunner Larry Elder—a Black conservative and radio host who I’ve known for 30 years and consider a friend—has been brutalized by white liberals in the media who despise people of color who think for themselves. Apparently, that doesn’t fly on the Planet of the Woke.
Still, friend or no friend, Elder gets a lot wrong. Like immigration. As someone who grew up in California, he should know that one can attack the immigration system without attacking the immigrants themselves.
Elder could learn a lot from the last Republican to actually earn enough votes to get elected governor of California.
Speaking at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger extended his hand to the foreign-born.
“America gave me opportunities and my immigrant dreams came true,” he said. “I want other people to get the same chances I did, the same opportunities. And I believe they can.”
(Schwarzenegger, by the way, was the last Republican to run the state—and was elected in a recall that should have been an alarm bell to Democrats about that process, but they snoozed through it instead since he did win more votes that the governor he replaced, and governed as a moderate.)
The Larry Elder I met in the mid-1990s—and enjoyed spending time with when I was co-hosting a radio show in Los Angeles—was cut from the same cloth as Schwarzenegger. That Larry Elder opposed Proposition 187, an indecent ballot initiative that punished illegal immigrants by denying them access to basic human services. He called out lazy Americans who made bad choices and then played the victim, while attacking immigrants.
Those people are Black and white and brown. In America, slouches come in all colors. And they need not be enabled by politicians who tell them someone else is to blame for their misfortune.
How did Elder lose his way? Again, I have a theory. In the last decade on radio, my friend has spent most of his time on air talking to white listeners who think that the fact that a Black person agrees with them on keeping out brown people inoculates them from charges of racism.
As if. Too bad there is no vaccine for idiocy.
But there is some good news. Now that Elder is running for governor, he has escaped the confines of his studio and he is getting around the state. In the process, he is meeting and listening to some good folks who have PhDs in common sense.
On Sunday evening, he met with about 15 farmers at a country club in Central California. There, he got an earful from farmers about how—in order to stay in business—they need water. But, as Elder was also told at the gathering, farmers also need labor—the kind provided by the same illegal immigrants that many Californians say they want to keep out.
Once upon a time, California was a place of opportunity. Today, it’s the land of contradictions.