IIt was anger over Gavin Newsom’s pandemic restrictions that ultimately put a recall vote on the ballot. But the California governor doubled down, putting his policies on coronavirus at the center of his campaign and cataloging his main opponent, right-wing anti-mask and anti-vaccine radio host Larry Elder, as a powerful Trump representative.
That winning strategy could have national implications for both Democrats and Republicans already looking toward the 2022 midterm elections.
“Democrats running in other parts of the country next year would do well to study Newsom’s handbook very carefully,” said Dan Schnur, a professor of politics at various universities. “Newsom was able to take the Covid problem, which could have been a fatal weakness for him, and was able to turn it into a considerable strength.”
The anti-mask and anti-vaccine stance of the Republican-led pullout was undermined by the rise of the Delta variant and a wave of infections that overwhelmed hospitals in California and across the United States, said James Lance Taylor, political scientist. from the University of San Francisco.
“In at least some states, particularly the blue states and some purple states, Newsom’s strategy has provided a model for Democratic candidates,” Taylor added.
The fact that Newsom triumphed over retirement by such a large margin also placed him in an ideal position to run for national office in the next few years, Taylor said. The state saw a big spike in Covid last winter, and Newsom has had to overcome major mistakes, including an initially slow vaccine launch, but overall, the governor could argue nationally that his pandemic leadership saved lives.
The withdrawal has also exposed the potential limits of Trumpian politics in a post-Trump era, says Mindy Romero, founder of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, a nonpartisan research organization. A more moderate candidate might have lured Democrats willing to try something new, a strategy that helped Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger prevail over Democrat Gray Davis in California’s last recall election in 2003.
“A lot of people voted against impeachment because they feared a Larry Elder would become governor,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they were happy with Newsom.”
In fact, several voters the Guardian spoke to before the election affirmed fears that California, under Elder’s leadership, could go the way of Florida and Texas. “I’m with a lot of people who would like to remember Gavin, but who are not necessarily in favor of Larry Elder being there,” said John Friedrich, a retiree who lives in Stockton, California, about an hour south of the city. capital. , Sacramento.
Still, that might not weaken the GOP’s ties to Trumpism. Elder, who did not win the governor’s seat, nevertheless obtained the highest share of votes among Newsom’s contenders, indicating that while he lacked broad appeal, he did energize the state’s right-wing minority and vocalist. . Elder, who hinted at a race in 2022 in his concession speech Tuesday, has recycled the former president’s “big lie” conspiracy theory that the lost election by Republicans was rigged against him.
“What we’ve learned from the recall is that Republicans are unprepared for a post-Trump era. They are supporting Trump, ”said Schnur, who has advised conservative candidates. “If they want to retake the majorities in Congress next year, that has the potential to be a big problem.”
However, the peculiarities of California’s withdrawal process and the state’s unique political structure confuse attempts to see it as a broad barometer for national politics. Conservatives opposed to Newsom, a widely popular governor who won office in 2018 by a historic margin, were able to trigger a recall election by gathering just 1.7 million signatures in a state with 22 million registered voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one here, which means that any Democratic candidate already has a significant mathematical advantage, regardless of their strategy.
But the fact that the race even seemed closed weeks before Election Day could be a lesson to Democrats in California, and nationally, that they will have to work hard to rally apathetic voters, especially minority voters who they have long felt abandoned by their elected leaders.
When August polls found that distracted and disconnected Democratic voters, especially Latino voters, invent About 32% of eligible voters could cost the governor his seat, Newsom’s campaign was turned upside down. “There was a mad race to the finish to speak to as many Latino voters as possible,” said Christian Arana, vice president of the Latino Community Foundation. “But what this election really demonstrated was that reaching out to Latino voters must be early and often.”
Votes are still being counted in California and neither the final tally nor the demographic breakdown is yet available. But according to Political Data Inc calculations, only about 30% of ballots mailed to Latino voters were returned early, while ballots mailed to white voters had a 50% return rate. Fewer people tend to vote in special elections than in presidential or partial elections, but in all cases, “participation in the elections is not representative of the population,” said Romero.
“Voters of color have helped make California such a solidly blue state and were clearly key to Newsom’s victory,” he added. “Now I think Democrats can turn this into an opportunity to get to know voters better and build a better relationship with voters of color.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism