California Should Recall Our One-Hit Wonder Governor

This article was written for and published in the California Globe.

What does Gavin Newsom have in common with the boy band Hanson?

Both delivered us a one-hit wonder decades ago and have struggled to top that success ever since. While the three Hanson brothers are still making music today, none of their work will ever top their catchy 1997 “MMMBop” tune. Likewise, Gavin Newsom has never managed to repeat the magic that propelled him into the national spotlight in 2004 when he defiantly started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the newly elected mayor of San Francisco.

He rode that rainbow wave to the Lieutenant Governor’s office in 2011. He rode it into the Governor’s office in 2019. Now he’s hoping to survive this year’s recall election against him so he can ride it into the White House in 2025.

His defiant act of civil disobedience back then made it possible for thousands of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California and eventually led to the codification of marriage equality in state law. It is a great story, and he deserves credit. But that was seventeen years ago. Since then, he has been in positions of greater power and responsibility as lieutenant governor under Jerry Brown and now as governor himself, but has failed to be that young, inspiring, revolutionary that he was as Mayor of San Francisco… and that California needs today.

California has a slew of problems and over a decade of one-party rule by the Democratic Party. So, California’s problems cannot possibly be blamed on Republicans because Republicans have not been in power. And that is not to say that the Republicans should be in power. What we need is that 37-year-old revolutionary in the governor’s office willing to do something big and bold to usher in fundamental change, but Gavin Newsom would rather ride his wave and play it safe.

Presidential ambitions.

This year we have an opportunity to remove Newsom from office and replace him with a governor who will usher in fundamental change; a governor with the willingness to ruffle feathers and rock the boat to achieve the changes California so desperately needs. There are many areas of public policy where the next governor could start rocking this proverbial boat.

For instance, we can see the failure of one-party rule in Sacramento. We know the failure of the two-party system thanks to the example of Washington. We can fix the root of so many problems in California simply by ending one-party rule in a two-party system and replacing it with proportional representation in the State Legislature. We need a governor with the political will and courage to do this even though helping third parties to which you do not belong thrive may not make sense politically. Where is Gavin Newsom on this?

While on the topic of proportionality, we need a governor with the political will and courage to, again, do what may not make sense politically – set a national example by amending the State Constitution to award California’s Electoral College votes to candidates for president on a proportional basis.

First thought may be: California is a blue state, why would we help Republicans?

California’s Electoral College votes haven’t swayed an election result since 1872. In every year since then, one of a few things has happened:

1. a candidate won California and the Electoral College by a margin larger than California’s Electoral College votes (they would have won even without California).

2. a candidate won California but lost the Electoral College (they would have lost by a greater margin without California).

3. a candidate lost California but won the Electoral College (they still won the election).

4. a candidate lost California and the Electoral College, and the margin was greater than California’s Electoral College votes (they would have still lost the election even if they had won California).

So, awarding California’s Electoral College votes on a proportional basis would have no immediate effect on the result of presidential elections. But California doing so could set a chain reaction that would lead the rest of the states to adopt this change, thus reforming the Electoral College. Californians want to reform the Electoral College. Where is Gavin Newsom on this?

Meanwhile, a sizable number of Californians believe not only that California as the fifth largest economy in the world with a population of nearly 40 million could be an independent country, but that it, in fact, should become an independent country. In my travels across the state of California I have heard a common theme when the topic of “Calexit” comes up under the big blue tent I prop up at parks and beaches to interact with the public: if only.

To be sure, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin must have thought the same thing for years before Gavin Newsom came along and just suddenly made it possible for them to become the first same-sex couple in the country to receive a marriage license.

We need a governor with the political will and courage to take this kind of bold just-do-it approach to reform state government, to improve representation, to enact comprehensive police and criminal justice reforms, to codify into state law that healthcare is a human right, and to layout a roadmap to independence from the United States. These are the reforms and the agenda I believe Californians can and should support, first by voting yes to recall Gavin Newsom.

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