On September 14th, voters will decide whether to recall and remove Gavin Newsom as governor of California. As socialists, we are no huge fans of Governor Newsom. We would much prefer the option of replacing him with a socialist was on the ballot. However, this is not the election we are currently faced with. Instead, we’re looking at a fascist, reactionary and capitalist rebellion against the very belief that the government has any responsibility or right to improve the living conditions of its people. Newsom getting replaced by a Republican would be deleterious to our mission, and would destroy momentum state-wide towards achieving goals like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. 

We recommend that you vote no on the recall – but remain clear-eyed that the future of California will not be decided with one election. The only way towards creating a better California, a better country, and a better world is by building a mass socialist organization. We need you to join the fight and join DSA. 

Back in 2018, when Gavin Newsom was running for Governor, we offered this analysis in our voter guide: 
Prior to this governor run, Gavin Newsom was a “wine shop entrepreneur” in the early 1990s, backed by a family friend and Getty oil heir. Trading on those family connections, he was appointed by famously corrupt mayor Willie Brown to the San Francisco board of supervisors, touting himself a “dogmatic fiscal conservative”.

Seven years later, Newsom made a slight shift in his “dogmatic” ideology to become a moderate Democrat and win San Francisco mayoral race in 2004, calling himself a “centrist in the Dianne Feinstein mold,” where he helped facilitate San Francisco’s gradual transition into a techno-capitalist dystopia by focusing housing development exclusively on subsidies to market-rate developers and other pro-business policies while using social-liberal issues like support for gay marriage to stave off progressive revolt. In 2011, Gavin Newsom continued his pro-business liberal evolution, becoming a proponent of “smart government”, publishing a book touting technology as the solution to partisan gridlock and citizen disinterest as he took office as Lt. Governor.

There’s a bit of a pattern here: Gavin Newsom’s positions and ideologies have continuously shifted depending on what power and influence he could gain or benefit from. So, although his governor platform is very, very good, including sanctuary state policies, ending private prisons, state bank, single-payer healthcare, universal preschool – we frankly, don’t trust him. This candidacy and platform was about Newsom’s recognition of the progressive, Bernie-Sanders-inspired revolt within the California Democratic party, of using California labor’s justified disgust with charter school fiend Antonio Villaraigosa, and above all, Gavin’s thirst for power.

Three years in, Gavin’s record is about what we expected. He’s advanced a handful of semi-progressive half-reforms: increases in the low income housing tax credit, modest expansions of public benefits like community college, Medi-Cal, and family leave. His “signature housing achievement”, a so-called “rent control” bill, only forbids the most extreme of rent gouges.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom’s record was abysmal, yoyo-ing between appropriate lockdowns with only token protections for at-risk workers, and repeatedly attempting to force reopenings prematurely, only to reinstate restrictions as California hit wave after wave of infections.

Under his watch, tens of thousands of Californians have died, and hundreds of thousands are facing possible evictions or crippling consumer debt as a result of his incredibly weak “eviction moratorium” compromise that sought to preserve the profits of landlords at the expense of renters. Who can forget when Gavin was photographed at a large dinner party with lobbyists in November at French Laundry in Napa, while COVID cases surged across the state? 

It’s not surprising that Newsom is facing backlash. Unfortunately, the majority of the backlash isn’t because he failed to protect Californians. It’s because he didn’t sacrifice enough people at the altar of business. This backlash, taking the form of this recall, is backed by those who can single handedly bankroll an immense signature collection operation: those on the right-wing, those who do not have the interests of California’s working class in mind. The petition itself was started by a former sheriff’s sergeant. The largest donations to support the recall effort came from out of state, including a PAC run by Mike Huckabee. The RNC donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to get people to sign the petition. While the recall campaign wants to capitalize on the general dislike of Newsom, it has always been propelled by the right.

If he loses the recall, it’ll be a victory for resurgent fascists. The system guarantees that the replacement will be worse, due to the fact that California’s recall system goes to the highest vote getter in a crowded field of terrible candidates – if a “yes” vote on the recall passes. That’s right, if the “yeses” win, the governor becomes the person with the most votes on a list of nearly fifty candidates. This is how Arnold Schwarzenegger became California’s governor in 2003. Though the field appears less crowded than 2003, the contenders in this race are still abysmal. A pro-Trump Republican could win. Another right-wing celebrity could take it. Or if we’re “lucky” we could have a Silicon Valley billionaire looking to establish some “progressive” cred. And most importantly, there’s nobody on the list of people who could win that is more amenable to left politics than Newsom.

Aside from the possible replacements, we’ve got another reason that we don’t want Newsom to be replaced. The fight for Medicare for All, right now, goes through California. Newsom campaigned on the promise that he would request waivers from the federal government for California to establish state-level medicare for all. He even did make the request prior to Biden’s inauguration (knowing, of course, that it would be denied). Any hope of winning California Medicare for All rests on a governor willing to request those waivers, and a governor who owes his office to this pro-business recall is much less likely to take these actions than Newsom, as odious as he is.

Ultimately, voting in recall elections, just like all elections, are one battlefield on which socialists have to assess and make tactical choices based on what gives us the best opportunity to win real power. There’s no power that can be won for the Left in this election, but a successful recall will hand more power to our most barbarous opponents on the fascist right.

Vote No on the recall, but let’s not spend any time on the campaign. We have other organizing to do.

DSA-LA’s Electoral Committee, August 12th, 2021