On the California Governor Recall Election

| revcom.us


California is coming up on an election to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. On September 14, in a special election, voters will decide on two questions: first, whether Newsom should be removed as governor; second, if Newsom is voted out, who should replace him. The list of people voters can choose from to replace Newsom, a Democrat, consists entirely of Republicans. And the winner does not have to get a majority of the votes—whoever gets the highest number of votes is the next governor of California. The election has become an important focal point of the struggle between fascist forces and Democratic Party forces nationally.

The Republican Party in California has been extremely weak in terms of winning elections. Democrats now outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in California.1 Trump lost to Joe Biden by nearly 30 percentage points in California last year. Republicans hold no statewide offices and hold less than one-third of the seats in both houses of the state legislature.

Yet Newsom, a powerful, highly connected rising star of the Democratic Party, stands a real chance of losing. This despite the fact that the initiators and early organizers and supporters of the recall effort are a small group of right-wing and some outright fascist political groups including the Proud Boys (although they have been aided at key times by the national Republican Party, and the effort is supported by Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and other nationally prominent Republi-fascist figures).

The website Politico said that the possibility that the California governor could be brought down by a force like this is “either a triumph of democracy, or a confirmation that there are no rules anymore. Absolutely anything can happen.” And further in the same article, there is a claim that “the origin of the entire enterprise was, essentially, a series of flukes.”2

No, Politico:

- This is NOT a “triumph of democracy”—it is the product of a whole system and an electoral system structured, both nationally and in some particular ways in California, to give fascist forces a political advantage.3

- This is NOT a confirmation that there are “no rules”—though the fascists are not playing by the old rules of mainstream politics. They do not abide by elections except when they win; they recognize no other ruling class force except themselves as legitimate. Getting and holding on to power is the “rule” they obey.

- And what got us to this point is NOT a “series of flukes”—this is a society full of fascists, and their social base is roused and ready to go after Gavin Newsom, but the Democratic social base is being lied to about the fascist threat, told to “play by the rules,” has no enthusiasm for Newsom, and many might not even bother to vote in the recall election.

Even in the “bluest of the blue states,” California, fascist forces have found a way to take initiative and threaten to take the very powerful office of governor. Even the fact that they have put this recall on the ballot legitimizes fascism. Republican candidates are running around attacking the homeless,4 attacking COVID-19 mandates,5 casting doubt on climate change science,6 opposing abortion rights,7 and claiming it is “unfair” that Trump is being blamed for the January 6 attempted fascist coup.8

All this is a sign of the intensifying conflicts at the top of society, the determination of the fascist forces to rule, and the fact that these conflicts cannot be and are not being contained within the framework of what politics has been under this system.9


1. California Voter and Party Profiles, Public Policy Institute of California [back]

2. The Three Men Who Could Take Down Gavin Newsom, Politico, March 19, 2021 [back]

3. There is a long history of extremely reactionary initiatives and recalls in California that have succeeded in having great influence in the state and the country. This in some ways is an even more pronounced expression of the national electoral system, which has been set up to give more weight to rural areas and to states that have smaller urban populations (and this underlying advantage is now being greatly heightened by Republican Party attacks on voting rights of Black people and others across the country). In this California recall election, having an election at an odd time when most people are not thinking about voting, and whipping up and mobilizing a mob of reactionary voters to get the rich liberal Newsom, when at the same time the Democratic Party base is not that excited about Newsom, gives real and important advantages to the fascist forces. [back]

4. Republican candidate John Cox, for example, has said he “would force homeless people into mental health or addiction treatment before providing them with housing,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. (“GOP’s Cox: California should force homeless into treatment,” June 28, 2021) [back]

5. On August 4, four Republican candidates running against Newsom “met on the debate stage ... railing against COVID-19 mask mandates and accusing the Democrat of failing the state’s business owners and school children by forcing closures during the worst of the pandemic.” (“Republicans vying to replace Newsom in California recall attack his handling of COVID-19 in debate,” CNN, August 5, 2021 [back]

6. For example, Larry Elder, a top Republican candidate against Newsom, said he is “not sure” if climate change has played a role in the wildfires scorching California and other western states, despite scientific research showing the clear links between warming climate and more frequent and devastating wildfires around the world. (“Recall election: Conservative radio host Larry Elder on Gavin Newsom, COVID and whether Trump lost in 2020,” August 3, 2021) [back]

7. Republican candidate Larry Elder has called abortion “murder” (which is a totally unscientific falsehood—see here for what abortion actually is and why the right and access to it is so important for women). Another top Republican candidate, John Cox, says he’s “pro-life” (that is, anti-abortion) “but not talking about it.” (“Where the Republicans running to replace Newsom in the recall say they stand on the issues,” Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2021) [back]

8. According to the San Jose Mercury News, which interviewed Larry Elder, the Republican candidate “suggested that it was unfair Trump was blamed for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., while Hilary Clinton was not blamed for the arrests and vandalism that took place when Trump was inaugurated in 2017.” (“Recall election: Conservative radio host Larry Elder on Gavin Newsom, COVID and whether Trump lost in 2020,” August 3, 2021) [back]

9. As Bob Avakian points out in THIS IS A RARE TIME WHEN REVOLUTION BECOMES POSSIBLE—WHY THAT IS SO, AND HOW TO SEIZE ON THIS RARE OPPORTUNITY: “These deep divisions, this intensifying conflict, cannot be overcome—all this cannot be ‘put back together’—on the terms, and in the way, that the country has, up to now, been held together under the rule of a more or less unified capitalist class.” [back]



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