Californians can’t be fooled — the Recall Newsom campaign is not a valid criticism of the governor or his policies. It is merely a California Republican tantrum — a dangerous tantrum that will surely send the state into a tailspin just when it is starting to recover from the tumultuous year it has endured. The underserved communities of California will be the ones most affected if Governor Gavin Newsom’s term is cut short.
There are justifiable reasons for removing Newsom from office, but the recall campaign is running on hateful claims. The Recall Newsom petition dedicates half of the grounds for recall to anti-immigrant rhetoric; for example, it begins its qualms by stating that Newsom has favored foreigners “in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens.” The list of complaints fails to mention the governor’s mishandling of the pandemic, which has had the most obvious impact on his approval rating across partisan lines. The effort is a badly disguised attempt to capitalize on racial tensions and Trump’s legacy in order to inject power into the Republican party after its losses in the 2020 election.
A 2006 study titled “Finding Intersection: Race, Class, and Gender in the 2003 California Recall Vote” comes to the conclusion that the “experiences of marginalization (for racial groups) and privilege (for whites) seem to affect how group members, male and female, make political choices.” The study found that only 21.5% of Black, 44.8% of Latino and 47% of Asian American people voted in favor of the 2003 recall, in comparison to a 59.5% “yes” vote by whites. If people of color were not in favor of the recall in 2003 when it was economically 一 not racially 一 motivated, it is less likely they’d be in support of it now. As the most diverse state in the country, California has a right to uplift the voices of its residents of color. People of color would not benefit from a recall; they’d actually benefit from Newsom’s major policies, like a single-payer health care system, or extended Medicaid coverage for undocumented immigrants, of which two million reside in the state.
Despite his mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, Newsom is taking steps to improve; he’s recently signed a bill in support of workers laid off by the pandemic. He’s also stuck to many of his promises: he has begun to phase out the state’s use of private prisons and immigration facilities, extended Medi-Cal coverage to qualified undocumented immigrants in his first year in office and allocated $50 million to colleges in order to help fight student hunger and homelessness. In 2019, he also signed an executive order that implemented a moratorium on the death penalty. And considering the proven racial prejudice involved in death penalty sentencing, this was a major step for the residents of California to have an unbiased justice system.
Despite such wins, Republicans are gunning for a recall election 一 which is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Moreover, their choice of candidates shows how petty their efforts are. Contemplating candidates like Caitlyn Jenner is a joke, but one that can come true far too easily considering the political climate and California’s voting history with celebrity politicians. The Republican party will make California the laughingstock of the country if it voted in a reality TV fixture like Jenner, a businessman like John Cox or adult movie star Mary Carey at the forefront. To prefer a celebrity or a businessperson as governor shows that Republicans prefer someone who is unworthy and unqualified to hold the highest position of the state, instead of an experienced progressive professional. In other words, they are more concerned with the best interest of the party than the best interests of the people.
The recall effort in and of itself is proof of such carelessness. Instead of focusing on passing legislation, Newsom must now concern himself with campaigning. He has already called the election “distracting,” and it is not just distracting for him personally. During the 2003 recall, there were 135 candidates on the ballot, many of them publicity stunts; such an event will distract from real, urgent issues the country is facing, like homelessness. Moreso, conducting the election will cost up to $400 million dollars that can be spent on actual aid for Californians, instead of being used to appease white political extremists.
Californians must not vote Newsom out of office; if they do, it will be all the more difficult for California to heal and stabilize after the devastating year it has had. Newsom’s legislative track record shows that he cares about California 一 especially about its marginalized communities. That’s more than can be said about Republicans as they conduct a frivolous election that will ultimately only benefit people that are already at an advantage in the political system.