Within an hour of polls closing, news outlets called the California Gubernatorial Recall Election for Governor Gavin Newsom. We won’t know final results for a while, but the No vote ran away with it. As of this writing, the California Secretary of State’s office is reporting 64% No and 36% Yes. Therefore, it is fair to call the Recall Election a big, fat nothing burger.
Funny thing about nothing burgers. They often cost a lot more than a genuine, substantive burger. And good burgers aren’t cheap. Eater ran an article 6 years ago showing the average price of burgers in cities across the country. New York came in highest at $9.52. Los Angeles was close behind at $9.44. San Francisco will set you back $9.24. Prices have only gone up since then. Today, for example, Barney’s basic burger is $11.95.
Now, I’m a vegetarian and I like a good veggie burger. They aren’t cheap either. Vegan outlet Malibu’s Burgers prices range from $13 for the Plain Kayne to $17.50 for the Ghostown Burger.
But what about the price of our recall election nothing burger? How much for that?
Dr. Shirley Weber, California Secretary of State, estimates that the recall election could end up costing the state $300 million.
Let’s say that again: Three Hundred Million Dollars. And, she says, it could end up costing more than that. That’s a whole lot for nothing.
Going into the recall election, media folks and pollsters engaged in a lot of hang-wringing. Folks are upset. They don’t like the COVID mandates. They have to put a piece of cloth over their faces (to curb the spread of a deadly virus). The effrontery!
Even days before election day, Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger insisted that this recall election looked a lot like 2003’s, which saw the ousting of then-Governor Gray Davis and Mr. Schwarzenegger’s win. People were angry then and are angry now, Gov. Schwarzenegger said.
I quite disagree, and the election results bear this out. Gray Davis lost his job because he failed to effectively manage the artificially-induced energy crisis, when Enron had the whole state over a barrel. Gavin Newsom, however, has overall managed the COVID crisis efficiently. Gov. Newsom made mistakes–substantive ones, like reopening too soon last year, not silly ones like the dinner at The French Laundry. But overall, he did good.
The other difference between 2003 and now: today’s Republican Party is fucking nuts.
Say what you will about “voter anger,” this recall challenge clearly came from the right. And the Republican Party supported it. But only about 24% of registered voters in California are Republicans. To overcome that, as many have noted, the recall campaign needed convince registered Democrats and independents to kick Mr. Newsom out. The best way to do that would have been to bolster a candidate that would appeal to Democrats and independents.
Only a centrist like Arnold Schwarzenegger would have a chance of doing that. But today’s Republican Party would never support such a candidate. And while the California Republican Party declined to support any one candidate to replace Gov. Newsom, the one who came out ahead was Larry Elder, a Trump-clone. Trump lost California by about 30 points in both 2016 and 2020. And so far, the recall has failed by about 28 points.
Mr. Elder clearly came out on top, holding around 47% of the vote among the replacement candidates. But since the recall lost overwhelmingly, he has a long way to go to convince folks to vote for him, should he decide to run again next year in our proper gubernatorial election. (Which seems likely.)
All of this is to say that the recall election was a complete and utter waste of money. An obscenely expensive nothing burger. With the economy still recovering from the deadly COVID pandemic, the state could have put $300 million to far better use than on a quixotic recall election, just one year before Gov. Newsom faces reelection anyway. An old-school, fiscally conservative Republican would never have countenanced such an expenditure.
But then again, today’s Republican Party, a very dangerous type of nothing burger, has a different set of values. And using California’s flawed, and perhaps unconstitutional, recall election system to try and win an election fits their crazy agenda.
© 2021, gar. All rights reserved.