AMAC Exclusive – by Seamus Brennan
Though Larry Elder did not ultimately prevail in his long-shot bid to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) in Tuesday’s recall election, his defeat should not be discouraging to Californians wanting a real choice in government. In fact, this week’s election brought many hopeful signs for the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party in California and elsewhere.
Here are five key takeaways from this Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election in California.
California’s problems are now on full display—and Newsom is up for reelection next year
For the first time in recent memory, Elder’s campaign brought many of California’s longstanding problems to the forefront of our national discourse—problems that Newsom and his allies in the media have routinely ignored. Elder’s campaign motto, “We’ve got a state to save,” speaks to a profound disconnect between the rule of the progressive coastal elite and many who live under its rule. Under Newsom’s governorship, many have lost their jobs and watched their communities fall prey to rising taxes, crime, and homelessness. “It’s time to tell the truth,” Elder’s website declares. Even though his candidacy failed, tens of millions of Californians have now, perhaps for the first time, gotten a glimpse of the truth. Anger against Newsom’s autocratic policies has steadily increased—and that trend is likely continue.
Conservatism in California has a new face
The recall received widespread attention in the national media, which means millions of Americans are now well-acquainted with Larry Elder and his platform. Elder’s growth in both national popularity and in California politics is beneficial to the conservative movement in two ways: first, Americans now have a better grasp of why California is a failed state and why Gov. Newsom’s policies are harmful to Californians; and second, and perhaps most importantly, conservatives in California, of all backgrounds, can now coalesce behind Elder as the growing movement to save California marches forward. If Elder wants to, he likely has a good shot to be the Republican nominee for governor next year—when he will have far more time to make his case to voters.
Democrats were so scared that they had to drastically outspend Republicans
If the closing weeks of the recall campaign indicate anything about the current state of the Democrat Party, the overarching theme is that Democrats are scared. In the days prior to the September 14 election, Newsom recruited both President Biden and Vice President Harris to campaign on his behalf, called in former President Obama to cut an ad, and spent behemoths of cash. Newsom-allied forces opposing the recall raised an estimated $83 million leading up to Tuesday’s vote—nearly double the amount raised by all pro-recall effort candidates combined. Elder reportedly raised only $14 million. In the deep blue state of California, this pattern is in many ways shocking: if Newsom had to fight this hard and shell out this much cash to save his governorship in the biggest blue state in the nation, it seems clear Democrats will be facing a real battle next November.
Republicans are on track to win competitive House in CA districts next year
Spurred by Democrats’ political spending spree and Newsom’s no-holds-barred effort to smear Elder as an existential threat to Californians, Democrat turnout far exceeded that of Republicans. But even so, the “yes” vote on the recall is on track to outweigh the “no” votes in several competitive U.S. House districts, including Orange County. As journalist Dave Wasserman writes, “Even a 20-25% ‘No’ margin statewide” may be consistent with “an environment in which Republicans take back the House & Senate in 2022.” Should Wasserman’s prediction hold true, Newsom’s victory is far from the progressive triumph many Democrats are holding it up as; rather, if current trends hold, Newsom’s victory could quite easily give way to GOP House pickups in the far-left state and bolster Republicans’ chances of taking back the chamber next fall.
The problems with mail-in ballots were once again apparent
Regardless of whether voter fraud was a factor in the recall election, California’s voting process shows the dire need for states to enact voter integrity laws. On the heels of all the problems already associated with the massive use of mail in ballots in the 2020 presidential election, California still is allowing mail-in ballots to come in up to a full week after Election Day. Moreover, as Arizona senatorial candidate Blake Masters points out, the California voting envelopes are thin enough to see through with a cellphone flashlight and thus determine how one voted. If anything, this episode and others like it will encourage more states to enact laws that will protect the sanctity of the secret ballot and decrease the likelihood that questions will arise.
The movement to unseat Gov. Newsom in the deepest of blue states was always going to be an uphill battle, and Republicans ought not be discouraged by Tuesday’s results. Instead, they should look to Tuesday’s election and understand that Republicans are well positioned for victory next year and thereafter. As Elder said on Tuesday night, “We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.” And the war is only just beginning.