By Brian Schrader
Vote. It’s really that easy. Even better, specifically vote no on whether to recall Gavin Newsom. Democracy depends on it and here’s why.
Elections are one of the hallmarks of our democracy. They give the People say in their government and they work to ensure that corrupt behavior by politicians is punished at the ballot box in regular intervals.
However, elections are not incorruptible; their power rests on the assumption that elections are free, fair and highly participatory. A high-turnout election ensures that the will of the People is expressed and their preferences are noted. A low-turnout election is a recipe for rule by an unscrupulous and illegitimate minority of voters.
What does this have to do with Gavin Newsom? Well, in the 2018 Gubernatorial Election, in which Newsom was elected, over 64% of registered voters cast a ballot—the highest percentage since 1982. And in that election, Newsom received nearly 62% of the vote—an overwhelming victory. By all accounts, the 2018 Gubernatorial Election was one of the most representative elections in recent California history and Newsom won with an almost unheard-of level of support from Californians. When he was elected, Newsom was only a few points less popular than baseball, America’s favorite pastime.
Fast forward to 2020 and a small minority of California voters, comprising about 13.5% of the 2018 electorate managed to force a recall of a popular governor. This hyper-polarized group, which had been trying to recall Newsom since 2019, is now attempting to subvert democracy and elect a candidate with extremely narrow appeal.
To make matters worse, the rules of the recall election mean that if the governor is recalled, his replacement will be the candidate with the most votes regardless of whether they earn a majority of support from voters. There is no runoff. With over 40 candidates in the race, it’s likely that a replacement governor could be elected with less than 20% of the vote. Add on to that the simple fact that recall elections historically have a much lower turnout than general elections and you have a recipe for minority rule in California.
Some recall-sympathizers may see this election as a chance to “balance the government” and place a Republican in the Governor’s Office, but such arguments distort the word “balance” to such a degree as to be meaningless. Californians have already spoken. We made the overwhelming decision to elect a Democrat as governor in an incredibly high-turnout election. Recalling a popular governor in a low-turnout election and replacing him with a fringe candidate who fails to impress even a majority of voters in that election isn’t balancing anything; it’s frankly destabilizing.
Republicans in California (and nationally) have learned that they cannot win elections by actually appealing to a majority of voters. Instead, they abuse the rules of our democracy to subvert the will of the people and institute minority rule. We’ve seen this same tactic play out across the country and California is next. Republicans know that their only real shot at power is through these kinds of shenanigans. Instead of adapting to reality and adopting a message with broad voter appeal, Republicans resort to subverting the democratic process itself.
California needs a strong, visionary, forward-looking governor who focuses on the problems of inequality, climate change and homelessness. For his faults, Gavin Newsom has pushed forward policies and legislation to tackle these issues. By-and-large his prospective replacements are either Trumpists, QAnon supporters, or other opportunists looking to take advantage of a glitch in the system.
We should never have gotten to this point, but unfortunately we have — thrust here by a persistent and virulent hatred of a popularly-elected governor. The way out of this predicament is simple: vote. Vote no on the recall of Gavin Newsom and we can avert the subversion of our democracy. If you haven’t already, open the ballot you got in the mail, vote no, and mail it back. Then tell others to do the same.
It’s never been so easy to avert a catastrophe. Vote.
— Brian Schrader is a local business owner, software developer, writer and San Diego resident living in Normal Heights.