Could California give Gavin Newsom the boot?

There's a lot of talk pooh-poohing the growing popular efforts to recall California's Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The barriers are high - the petitioners have to gain 1.5 million signatures, in each of five counties and that kind of work on a February or March 2020 deadline, takes money.

There also are two petitions going around instead of one, which could split the signatures and doesn't say much for a united opposition with its act together. Neither are revealing just how many signatures they have, and to get to a million, they need 10,000 a day. There are some claims and indicators though that suggest the signatures are rising. It also doesn't help that there are oodles more recall petitions circulating out there, unauthorized, so signatures mean nothing, and the sites themselves are devoted to data-mining.

Another problem is that there have been a lot of recall efforts - 86 to be exact, and only one succeeded, in 2003 against the honorable, if errant, GrayDavis, who is a good and decent man even if he's a left-Democrat. It means that for recall enthusiasts, California itself has been-there, done-that, as recently as 2003, when Davis was ousted. The cure, named Arnold Schwarzenegger, as it turned out, was worse than the disease. More challenging still, the demographics of the state are different since Davis ran the state. Last year, 700,000 residents fled the state for more business friendly climes. But illegals are pouring in (though some of them are fleeing, too, which tells you how bad it is) and half the state wants to move out. They'll eventually leave, and only leftists will remain standing. 

All of that gives Newsom some wiggle room.

But despite the pessimistic outlook, the parallels to the 2003 case are increasing, writes Steven Greenhut, a well-known political consultant, in the pages of the Orange County Register.

SACRAMENTO — As wildfires scorch California and Pacific Gas & Electric turns off electricity in large swaths of the state to reduce the fire risk, our new progressive governor, Gavin Newsom, is facing the first real crisis in his young administration. “I own this,” he said, regarding the fires and related blackouts, but his press conferences have seemed less about a governor who is in control and more about a deer staring at the headlights.

Newsom isn’t the first California governor with national aspirations, but he’s not garnering comparisons to Hiram Johnson (who became U.S. senator), Earl Warren (later chief justice of the United States Supreme Court), Ronald Reagan (the 40th president) or even Jerry Brown (who ran for president). Instead, the media is comparing him to Gray Davis, who was recalled in 2003 during the last round of rolling blackouts. That’s not a particularly good thing.

Temperamentally, the charismatic Newsom and bureaucratic Davis are night and day, but there’s too much here to ignore. “Shadow of Gray Davis looms over Newsom as outages rock California,” is how a Politico headline put it. Newsom won the gubernatorial election by an impressive 24 points, but he faces falling support with one poll showing more people who disapprove (44 percent) than approve (43 percent) of his job performance.

“I’ve seen this movie before,” said Garry South, Davis’ former adviser, as quoted in the Politico article regarding the blackouts. We don’t know how the movie will end, of course. Actually, it’s more like that interactive episode of “Black Mirror,” with the viewer’s various choices leading to a variety of alternate — and sometimes bizarre — endings. Newsom’s decisions so far have been directionless, but there’s still time for a course correction.

He has defended the outages, then blasted PG&E and expressed anger. He has blamed climate change, but he still needs to assure that the lights stay while the entire world figures out how to reduce global temperatures. Newsom isn’t inspiring confidence, which is why his imitation of Harry Truman’s “the buck stops here” has fallen flat.

Say what you will about Jerry Brown, but he never gave us that flailing-around feeling even in the midst of a historic drought or during a budget crisis that spilled nearly $30 billion in red ink. He knew where he was going, even though I often shuddered at his road map.

Newsom's poll numbers are down and Greenhut called that and other parallels 'eerie.'

Davis was ousted in his recall over a bad economy which left a lot of people homeless, a lot of the state suffering blackouts, which included the involvement of then-reviled Enron. Davis's doom also was the result of higher automobile registration fees, and public fury over a plan to extend drivers licenses to illegal aliens.

Sound familiar? It does sound familiar. Some things voters won't tolerate.

Greenhut expresses dubiousness about these current recall petitions succeeding, but he also recalls how quickly the winds shifted against Davis, much to everyone's surprise. He wrote that in this state's politics, things can happen quickly.

Recall backers seem overly focused on Newsom’s progressive policies, but Californians aren’t going to recall a governor because he’s so liberal. Voters already knew that when 62 percent of them voted for Newsom in the general election. Frankly, he’s as likely to be recalled as Donald Trump is likely to win California’s 55 electoral votes in 2020. But that doesn’t mean Newsom should flippantly ignore the warning signs percolating around him. I still remember bumping into a Republican mover and shaker when Democrat Davis was in political hot water, and we agreed that a recall didn’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell.

Shortly after that discussion, however, Davis was in the dock, and 135 candidates — including such atypical ones as Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and publisher Arianna Huffington — were debating the future of California. Davis was recalled by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. Arnold Schwarzenegger received nearly 49 percent of the concurrent replacement vote, thus topping Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Those were weird times, but the people had spoken.

It doesn't sound that dubious. And with Newsom more wedded to greenie socialism than the people's well being, including their need for safe, relible, power, it seems all but given that things again might just change fast.







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