For the moment, anyway, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has no real competition as the spokesman for an increasingly frustrated blue-state America in a really dark time for our democracy.
Yes, he’s taking on this role because he can, in a heavily Democratic state that agrees with him on what he calls the GOP’s preferred program of “gun care and health control.” His campaign is flush, and unlike some other Democratic governors, he doesn’t have to worry about his chances of reelection this November.
Still, Newsom is goading his political adversaries in a way that’s unusual enough on the left that his fellow Democrats might take a minute to learn from the governor’s “own the rads” approach, instead of seeing it solely as a sign of presidential ambition.
It probably is that, too. But whether or not anything comes of that aspiration, he’s filling a need right now.
In buying campaign ad time on Fox stations in Ron DeSantis’ and Donald Trump’s Florida starting on July 4, in going on Trump’s Truth Social and in taking on DeSantis every chance he gets, Newsom is doing what those fed up with their party’s perpetually weak messaging need him to do.
In pushing for legislation that would let Californians sue anyone who sells an illegal gun, he’s answering in kind the Texas law that lets private citizens sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
And in providing free medical care for low-income residents who are undocumented, he’s making the state as a whole stronger and healthier while also counterprogramming against the right’s hysteria about “illegals” and migrant caravans.
Back in March, Newsom argued in his State of the State address that a right-wing “national anger machine” is “actively exploiting the anger of the anxious,” and it is.
But he’s also channeling the growing anger and anxiety of the left over a series of precedent-shattering recent Supreme Court decisions and revelations about Trump’s multi-pronged coup attempt after losing the 2020 election.
A month before Roe v. Wade was reversed, Newsom asked, “Where the hell is my party? Where’s the Democratic Party? Why aren’t we standing up more firmly, more resolutely? Why aren’t we calling this out? … And yes, they’re winning. They are. They have been. Let’s acknowledge that. … Where’s the counteroffensive?”
Good question, then and now. A counteroffensive is not a one-man job, and our governor could use some company.