Commentary

LGBTQ Californians can’t risk losing all the progress we’ve made by recalling Gavin Newsom

Then Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family at San Francisco Pride in 2013
Then Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family at San Francisco Pride in 2013Photo: Shutterstock

With the recall election for Governor of California officially taking place in just a few months’ time, the people of the nation’s most populous state will soon decide the fate of not just incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) but also the progressive agenda for the rest of America. California has for decades helped to lead the way for liberal policies and values, and that is on the line in this upcoming race as much as anything else.

Last week Californians finally breathed a huge sigh of relief when the state re-opened completely after almost a year and a half of confusion, anger, and fear caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many residents channeled their emotions over the ongoing crisis at Governor Newsom, which became particularly pronounced when he was photographed back in December attending a dinner party at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant which flouted the spirit of many of the same rules and restrictions he placed on businesses and the public.

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I must say, despite being a liberal Democrat who has been a longtime fan of the Governor, that I shared that frustration and disappointment. I live in West Hollywood, a city that was hit particularly hard due to its large number of small businesses, some of which are now gone for good. I was one of the first prominent members of my community who vocally argued for the re-opening of small businesses, a position that was criticized by some who felt it was too premature.

I bring up that point to emphasize just how passionately I care about and empathize with those who have suffered because of the lockdown measures that were put in effect. I also share a deep concern about the increasing level of homelessness in the state. There is no doubt that it is a serious and alarming challenge that needs to be addressed. But I also think it’s important to keep things in perspective.

On almost every other level, California is in a strong position. We continue to lead the way on many of the issues that concern the entire country: LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, the environment, the legalization of cannabis, expanding voting rights with automatic registration. We even continue to have, despite the setback we’ve had with coronavirus, the number one economy in the United States. We are one of the largest economies in the world and a leader on the global stage.

We are undoubtedly in a better position than any other state in terms of our dynamism and foundation for the future, including Texas and Florida. In fact, the truth is that it isn’t even close, despite the narrative spun by Fox News and other right-wing “news” outlets. Speaking of conservative propaganda, it’s ironic that many in that media ecosystem would criticize Governor Newsom for being a power-hungry politician focused on his career when everything he has done during his tenure in public service is in complete contradiction of that.

It was Gavin Newsom after all who almost sacrificed his career on principle by marrying gay couples in 2004, so much so that President Obama reportedly refused to take a photo with him during his run for President because the then-San Francisco Mayor was too polarizing and toxic a figure. Newsom came out for marriage equality ahead of virtually any other major American politician and put his entire political future on the line to support the LGBTQ community.

He also fought hard for pro-marijuana and gun control initiatives, neither of which was a given to pass before he took a strong public position on their behalf.

Then there is the issue of the candidates who have sprung up as challengers to the Governor. Of those who have announced, Caitlyn Jenner is the most high-profile, a reality television star with no relevant experience whatsoever who was caught blatantly lying about whether or not she voted in the last election.

In terms of the others, all of the credible contenders have said that they voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, a position that is untenable in a state that voted to throw Trump out of office by an enormous margin. Even Jenner, supposedly the most moderate Republican candidate, refused in a recent interview to answer definitively whether or not Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency. That is a level of delusion and denial of reality that we cannot accept.

The severe right-wing positions that have been taken by the alternatives to Newsom are out of touch with the people of this state. I can promise you one thing, Governor Newsom may not have every answer to our problems, but Caitlyn Jenner and the other prospective candidates have none. We cannot afford their extremism or their ignorance. The way the recall system is designed, there is a good chance that if the Governor is removed, whoever replaces him will be someone who received a significantly smaller number of votes.

That could lead to someone like Richard Grenell, the former Trump ambassador who is also considering a run, might become Governor and institute policies that we decisively rejected last November. We simply cannot take that risk. We have had some struggles, but California is back in business, and that’s why I strongly urge all of my fellow Californians to vote against the recall and keep Governor Newsom in office.

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