California Governor Gavin Newsom Won The Recall Vote And Gave A Masterclass In Leadership
Tuesday night, Californians decided that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom would get to keep his job, as he won the recall vote in the state. Newsom was the second person in California to face a recall vote. The first paved the way for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to become governor.
The high-profile recall vote was seen as a proxy on how the state should have been managed, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. If he lost, his future in politics may have been over. A victory will signify that he did the best he could, and would be a way for Newsom to redeem himself to detractors.
Newsom faced sharp criticism from both Republicans and members of his own party. The issues involved cross-party lines. Residents complained that he poorly managed the state. Citizens pointed to ever-increasing high tax rates, an out of control homelessness crisis and frighteningly high crime rates. Newsom released thousands of inmates, many of whom committed violent crimes, in a purported attempt to stop the spread of the virus in prisons.
Adding to the laundry list of lack of leadership, he presided over escalating housing prices, making purchasing a home out of reach for many working families. Wildfires blazed once again, after Newsom should have known that this would happen, as there weren't any effective forestry proactive measures taken. The air quality suffered, harming the environment.
Infuriating small business owners and parents of young children was Newsom’s seemingly haphazard and capricious openings and closings of public schools and small businesses.
He’s also accused of being hypocritical and abusing his power and privilege. When state officials said that residents should avoid large gatherings of people outside of the immediate family to stop the spread of the virus, Newsom attended a maskless dinner party at the French Laundry, an exclusive Napa Valley restaurant, with lobbyists in attendance. Right after photos of the dinner emerged, Newsom called for reinstating restrictions and mandatory mask-wearing. Although public schools were closed, Newsom’s children were enrolled in private schools.
I wrote the following draft of this article before the elections ended: If Newsom holds onto his job, he should immediately demonstrate positive, all-inclusive leadership. Instead of taking a victory lap, waving off critics and attributing the recall to angry partisan Republicans, Newsom should be open and honest about the decisions he made.
His constituents understand that managing the most populous state isn’t easy. During an unprecedented pandemic, the job is nearly impossible. A bold leadership move by Newsom would be to be humble. He should actively listen to his critics and opposing viewpoints.
Now would be the time for him to acknowledge and apologize to residents who were harmed by his policies and orders. An honest and earnest explanation of why he took certain actions would send a conciliatory message. He should show signs of modesty and a willingness to learn and grow.
Within the week, while it's still fresh in everyone's minds, Newsom should set forth realistic and achievable plans to deal with the homelessness problem, high taxes, unaffordable housing prices, crime and other issues important to the state’s residents. He should bypass traditional party orthodoxy and bring into the conversation Republicans and leaders with new and different insights. Instead of the usual divisive politics, Newsom would show that he’s a leader of all Californians. This type of leadership could actually catapult him toward not only keeping his seat as governor, but possibly positioning himself for the presidency in the future.
He rose to the occasion and didn’t use his big victory to vilify his opponents. Newsom said he was “humbled” and “grateful” for the public’s vote of confidence. He strongly rejected “divisiveness” and called for unity and an end to partisan bickering.
Referring to his four young children, Newsom registered concern that they, and all young people around the country, are growing up in “a world that’s divided,” causing them to be “fearful, isolated and disconnected.”
He added emphatically that the media and adults owe it to future generations to “disregard the false separateness” narrative, as “we have so much more as a state and nation in common.” He closed his public statement with a quote from his political hero, Robert Kennedy, “to make more gentle the life of this world.”