For conservatives sorting through the wreckage of the unsuccessful California gubernatorial recall effort, there are reasons to be hopeful. Here are five of them.
First, for a liberal like Gov. Gavin Newsom to break a sweat in a liberal bastion speaks volumes. It would be akin to the 1992 Olympic Dream Team struggling to hold off Cuba for the basketball gold medal.
Sure, the outcome was not close, but when Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two-to-one, this race should never have risen to the level it did. Ink should never even have been spilled on its analysis.
Democratic Party big wigs like President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, among many others, should not have been forced to lift a finger, let alone having to go negative on the GOP challenger. Their involvement speaks to Newsom’s arrogance, ineptitude and incompetence.
Secondly, the Golden State has become ungovernable for anyone, especially a Republican. The state is too big, the problems are too serious and the Democratic one-party rule is too strong.
The left is terrified of crossing any of their empowered special interest groups and activists in the green, labor and academic movements.
Issues like homelessness, public safety and housing affordability require big solutions that no Republican governor could implement in the current environment.
Most everyone outside of hardened Democratic partisans agrees that the state is on the wrong track. The left created the mess – let them sort it out without a GOP foil to blame.
Third, the shine is officially off Newsom as a rising Democratic star. Telegenic and slick, he has always been viewed as a man in a hurry, using his current job as a platform to the national stage. With President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushing 80 years old, the Democratic Party is in desperate need of younger leaders. But the bench is shallow.
A year ago, Newsom and the disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were the media’s poster boys of rising Democrat leaders during the pandemic.
How the mighty have fallen. Newsom is of course in better standing than Cuomo, but he is a long way from the 64% approval rating of a year ago.
Fourth, the Democrats tipped their hand on their playbook heading into next year. Their tactics are predictable: nationalize the race and make it a referendum on evil straw men and past foils. With the debacle in Afghanistan fresh in voters’ minds and the current president’s approval rating upside down at 42-50%, the Newsom crew had no choice but to run against the previous president.
That works in a state as blue as California, but come next November, voters elsewhere will be looking for a more compelling argument from the party that controls all three levers of the federal government.
That brings us to the final point. Republicans need to look in the mirror, too. It’s not enough to rely on the greatest hits of yesteryear – they need to introduce some new riffs.
One of the most underappreciated recent political storylines is the enduring success of GOP governors in the bluest parts of America. Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Phil Scott of Vermont have led states through not only the turbulence of the Trump years but also a once-in-a-century pandemic.
They have been elected and reelected in states that have not voted for a GOP presidential candidate this century. They possess approval ratings that they frankly have no business having given the political make-ups of their states.
Their common theme is steady-handed competence. They all eschew the partisan bombs and project true leadership, something sorely lacking in Washington these days.
Eight months in, more voters are waking up every day and realizing that the Biden experiment is a mistake.
Political opportunities await the out-of-power opposing party. At the federal level, neither the odds of victory nor the list of problems are thankfully as steep as California’s, but the lessons coming out of the recall offer a useful roadmap.