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How Gavin Newsom Survived the Recall Effort

California Gov. Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., Sept. 14, 2021. Photo Credit: Fred Greaves/Reuters

Politics is the art of making yourself electable and your opponent unelectable. For the past two presidential elections, presidential candidates ignored the former and emphasized the latter. This has led to the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections becoming an election where America held their nose and voted for who they believed was the “lesser of the two evils.” And in this recall election, this mentality dominated. 

At the time of this article’s writing, 63.9% of the vote wanted Newsom to stay in office, while 36.1% wanted him recalled. Notably, these figures were similar to a social media poll the Outspoken Oppa did last week. 

This was a blowout. There is no way to sugarcoat or spin this. Gavin Newsom survived; Larry Elder lost.

In the next few days, the media will attempt to say that Gavin Newsom won because of his policies, significant leadership, or how he remains a national hero in the fight against COVID-19. None of that is true. Newsom won because the media sparked fear in the hearts of millions and advanced the narrative that this recall was nothing more than a power grab. 

Like Trump in 2016, Biden in 2020, and now Newsom in 2021, the only reason why the winner won was that they made their opponent more unappealing than themselves. For Newsom, his opponent was not Larry Elder; it was what he apparently represented: Trump. What Newsom and so many members of the media argued was that Elder was an outgrowth of Trump and that Trump will essentially be the next California governor. 

Newsom constantly said, “While we defeated Trump, we have yet to defeat Trumpism.” President Biden called Elder a “Trump Clone.” When President Obama ran an ad for Newsom, he showed pictures of Elder and Trump taking a picture together. Democratic leaders knew that Californian moderates were tired of Trump, so they stuck with this narrative that Elder was Trump. Even though Elder’s staunch Libertarian ideas of dramatic government reduction contradicted Trump’s policies, Democratic leaders knew that calling him a Trump clone would scare away voters.

However, it wasn’t just Democrats that stoked fear of another Trump political leader. The media, specifically the Los Angeles Times, published relentless negative coverage of Elder. In an emotionally charged and biased column, LA Times Columnist Erika Smith called Larry Elder, an African-American, the “Black face of white supremacy.” She justified this seemingly absurd title by saying, “Elder opposes every single public policy idea that’s supported by Black people to help Black people.”

What are the public policy ideas that support Black people to help Black people that Elder opposes? According to Smith, Elder rejects the task force studying reparations for Black Californians, critical race theory, criminal justice reform, and racial profiling’s existence. On a side note, those last two are not true considering that Elder has told horrific stories of his father experiencing traumatic racial profiling and that he does advocate for criminal justice reform, just not in alignment with liberal criminal justice reform. 

In any case, usually, if one were to accuse someone of being a white supremacist, they would provide evidence of that person despicably saying “whites are superior” or some idiotic rhetoric on how minorities are inferior. However, in the case of Elder, he is supposedly a white supremacist because he disagrees with the columnist on policy. The author provided no quotation of Elder saying white supremacist quotes because there are none. In reality, he condemned Newsom’s education policies for disproportionately harming minority students. To this day, this column, which gives me high hopes on becoming a journalist because of its low standards, is still published in the Los Angeles Times. 

In addition to that column, the Los Angeles Times published articles titled “Elder joining California recall was best thing for Newsom,” “Recall candidate Larry Elder is a threat to Black Californians,” or “If Elder is elected, life will get harder for many Californians.” All of these articles were written to make Elder unelectable as opposed to making Newsom electable.

This was Newsom’s strategy as well: attack Elder and hope the voters do not remember the quality of their life in the past year. Just like that, the recall effort shifted from a referendum on Newsom’s hypocritical COVID-19 policies to a referendum on what Larry Elder might do if elected. Newsom painted this recall effort as solely Republican-led and motivated by MAGA white supremacists, although the recall election, at its pinnacle, had nearly 50% of the vote, which meant Republicans, moderates, and even some Democrats once supported this recall. Even though small business owners were angered at Newsom’s economic and COVID-19 policies, Newsom insisted this was a Republican power grab.

Considering the media has constantly attacked the character, moral fiber, and policies of every Republican candidate since H.W. Bush, the media thwarting the people’s perception of the election does not surprise me. What surprises me more is that people cannot spend half an hour to validate and fact-check these columns, so they can have a more informed vote. 

I watched this election unfold since March 2021, when I wrote an article as to why there was significant bipartisan support for the recall, and since then, I have seen time and time again the media and our most powerful political leaders paint Larry Elder as if he was going to reinstate Jim Crow laws. It seemed desperate and incredibly obvious, but to my friends, some of who I respect greatly, the media was acting objectively, and the Democrats were just campaigning honestly. 

Obviously, Elder shoulders blame for his loss. He was inexperienced and had damning past remarks. Admittedly, Elder’s rise gave Newsom momentum, and had someone like Kevin Faulconer lead the recall effort, Newsom might have been recalled.

When all is said and done, democracy thrives on informed votes and active political participation. This recall election will honestly not be as consequential as people make it out to be. But it shows that if the full force of a political establishment can sway a vote with a few pictures of Trump and false conflations, then it questions who really is voting on that ballot.

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