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Gavin Newsom’s Game

Posted on Saturday, October 7, 2023
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AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Camman

Gavin Newsom's new Senate pick Laphonza Butler being sworn in.
Laphonza Butler is sworn into the Senate on October 3, 2023 by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Almost no one had heard of Laphonza Butler a week ago, but Gavin Newsom wants everyone to know how proud he is of his “incredible” pick to replace the late Diane Feinstein in the Senate. “You in some ways can’t even make all of this up, if I had to literally design from the mind of imagination, put pen to paper, someone I would like,” is how Newsom described Butler to Politico.

 Gone was any concern about stepping into a divisive primary over the Senate seat. Despite promises to appoint a caretaker—in fact Newsom had justified not choosing any of the leading candidates in the election on the basis that he did not want to influence the primary—the governor is now all but urging Butler to run in words that sound like an endorsement.

Newsom’s Senate appointment is the latest flex in what is, if not a challenge to Biden, an increasingly brazen indifference to the feelings of Democrat power brokers and institutions. In appointing Butler, Newsom ignored the urging of the Congressional Black Caucus to appoint Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Butler was also formerly a senior advisor to Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign, but Newsom seems to have not consulted the current vice president and former California senator on the pick.

Newsom’s decision also followed a series of interviews where the governor expressed contrition—perhaps feigned—that he and many others got their COVID-19 responses wrong. Last week, he vetoed a bill which would have allowed California courts in custody disputes to remove children from parents who refuse to affirm their gender identity. He followed that decision up with another veto of a bill which would allow workers to collect unemployment payments while on strike.

These gestures are reminiscent of the sort Bill Clinton might have embraced thirty years ago, but Sister Souljah moments have been out of fashion for almost a decade, and virtually unheard of among white Democrats when it comes to transgender issues.

Newsom, for what it is worth, denies he is running a campaign of any sort, instead pitching himself as Biden’s top surrogate. “The train has left the station,” Mr. Newsom has said of concerns about backing Biden. “We’re all in. Stop talking. He’s not going anywhere. It’s time for all of us to get on the train and buck up.”

By his own account, Newsom’s outspokenness is an act of loyalty. He is planning to debate Ron DeSantis next month as an alleged service to Joe Biden and his good friend Kamala Harris, with whom he speaks regularly.

And should anyone question his motives, or suggest there are any other ambitions at play? Well, they are the disloyal ones, Newsom says. They are the ones who need to face the reality that Joe Biden is running and Gavin Newsom is behind him 100 percent.

Critics and much of the political media are quick to dismiss these claims, but Newsom comes from an older tradition of political smarminess, one whose practitioners pride themselves on the self-imposed limitation of technically telling the truth. It is best, then, to take Gavin Newsom at his word. His exact words.

Joe Biden is currently running for president. Gavin Newsom is 100 percent behind Joe Biden as long as he is running, and has absolutely no intention of challenging him.

Gavin Newsom, however, does not necessarily believe that Joe Biden will definitely be the nominee come next year. Gavin Newsom’s agenda is to be able to move into that vacuum should it arise. His opponents, then, would not be Biden, but rivals for Biden’s crown.

In this light, absolute and over-the-top loyalty to Joe Biden makes perfect sense. It allows Newsom to simultaneously portray self-promotion as selfless service, and slam criticism of Gavin Newsom as disloyalty to Joe Biden, or at very least a decision to engage in conspiratorial intrigue rather than focus on the mission of reelecting Biden.

Newsom’s political and policy moves make more sense when one understands the unique nature of the California governor’s apparent strategy.

His approach is more akin to a campaign waged to succeed an aging paterfamilias in the Soviet Politburo or a third-world autocracy. In such cases, absent a coup, which is off-the-table for any candidate unassociated with the military or security agencies, the incumbent is only leaving office in a coffin. The path to power lies not in challenging the man who has it, but by casting aspersions on the loyalty of rivals to the succession, while also undermining the power bases of rival candidates.

Newsom’s solicitude towards Biden’s reelection campaign represents the first element of this strategy. His “triangulation” represents the second.

Conventional wisdom states that the path to victory in a party primary is to win over key interest groups and use their promotion to gain the profile needed to win. Newsom understands the changed nature of the game he is playing. He already has an alternative road to national prominence. There is little the promotion of LGBT+ groups or far-left activists can do to raise his national profile. By contrast, their continued strength provides a potential means by which his rivals can match his prominence. By warring with them, he weakens any potential platform they provide his foes, and makes any decision to oppose him appear as pique at his principled refusal to pander.

A similar rationale justifies Newsom’s choice of Butler. The normal political calculation would have been for Newsom to choose between candidates on the basis of the usefulness of their political coalitions. By picking an outsider, Newsom created his own. He has now appointed both of California’s Senators. Furthermore, Newsom has sent a message to every ambitious figure outside of an existing Democrat faction or power structure: he will reward fealty.

Newsom is far from the only Democrat to give thought to the possibility Joe Biden might be unable to run in 2024. But he has clearly thought more deeply about what that would involve and what would be required to replace Biden on the ticket.

Under this scenario, the Democrat nomination will not be determined by a primary. Joe Biden will run, win 85 percent of the delegates, and then if he drops out before the convention, those delegates will determine the nomination.

Newsom grasps that this sort of insider contest is the only sort where a candidate with D.C. Beltway but no wider electoral appeal such as Pete Buttigieg can aspire to viability. He also knows there will be enormous pressure for a consensus pick, and that the D.C. network, divided between Harris and Buttigieg, and the Democratic Governors, who seem to distrust Newsom and are likely to back Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, will oppose his candidacy. They would likely agree on a unity candidate, who we must speculate will not be Newsom.

Newsom’s only hope to resist pressure to defer to a unity candidate is to present himself as such an obvious successor that any process which excludes him from consideration looks like a stitch up. He is running a campaign therefore less to directly secure the nomination and more to convince everyone in the country that he is Biden’s obvious successor, and that passing him over would be undemocratic.

It is a complicated game Gavin Newsom appears to be playing. The California governor seems to understand the rules better than his rivals, who are trapped in the mindset of a primary campaign. Newsom knows this. Anyone who witnesses the smirk on his face during recent interviews knows it as well.

In the meantime, we should take Gavin Newsom at his word. He will not run against Joe Biden. He will fully support Joe Biden. Joe Biden will be the nominee. Until he isn’t.

Then, much as Newsom’s Senate appointee was a placeholder until she wasn’t, Gavin Newsom will find what he can offer his party too incredible to resist.

Andrew Camman is the pseudonym of a regular writer on current affairs who has taught history at the University level for eight years. He has worked on Capitol Hill and is familiar with the historical development of the American and British political systems.

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Max
Max
9 months ago

The same dog and pony show. Newsom is trying to plant himself as the VP candidate with Biden since he knows Biden won’t complete a second term. Let’s see what the Nov 30 debate comes up with although MSM will down play the DeSantis side to uplift the Newsom side.

David Millikan
David Millikan
9 months ago

Newsom is scamming just like Dictator Beijing biden. Neither can be believed or trusted.
They flip-flop on everything so they can maintain POWER and CONTROL through their constant corruption and lies.

Rich
Rich
9 months ago

Evil breeds evil. What ever happened to the most qualified?

invictus
invictus
9 months ago

Gavin Newsom is attempting to hide the (filmed and documented) fact that he painted himself with black-face some time ago to ridicule and mock those who aren’t white. Fact is that Newsom is actually a white privilege proponent and who, such as longtime anti-civil rights fiend Joe Biden, likes to pretend he’s not by appointing a black person to some post or other.

MikeUSN
MikeUSN
9 months ago

Competency, experience and even living in California aren’t requirements to a Democrat like Newsome. She checks 3 boxes and that’s what matters.

Oliver Holmes
Oliver Holmes
9 months ago

Newvin Gasom what a Puttzz, disappear already plastic manic

Tplorable
Tplorable
9 months ago

Gavin Newsome is a dum$uck!

Granny26
Granny26
9 months ago

Anyone that votes for Newscum ….or Biden is BRAINDEAD. Both are the scum of the earth. Newscum is only interested in $$$$$ and Control and Biden is himself braindead.

Patrick Switzer
Patrick Switzer
9 months ago

I will do everything in my prayers to stop them

Dave
Dave
9 months ago

Nice having a Senate seat paid for by this woman millions of dollars donated so now she gets to sit in Dianne Feinstein’s place!

Jay
Jay
9 months ago

Newsom has been running for President since he decided to run for California governor. Why would he do anything But support the current dem parry leader? It puts him in good with current leadership, set him up as a loyal successor and allows him to start making a powerbase separate but still within the primary dem umbrella. This article is stating the most obvious and slow build-up of a presidential run this century. Why’d they pay someone to write a summary of dozens of other articles?

Chuckiechan
Chuckiechan
9 months ago

Newsom bolted a money raising organization to the federal level deep pockets for his presidential run. She is there to do nothing but open up national sources of donations for Newsom.
Newsom has shown that every box checker for senate in California is as dumb as Kamela Harris. One sheep, same wool. He had to outsource.

Jess
Jess
9 months ago

Gavin Newsome running behind the scenes as the Trojan Horse.
One has to admit it’s a diabolical scheme, but one that might actually work. At the end of a political food fight, he’s the only one left, with no egg on his face! It’s a classic misdirection obfuscation of his actual record in office. This makes him a very dangerous politician on its face. Voters had better be paying attention least they put in office a man with no scruples very much like a Joe Biden!

Rick
Rick
9 months ago

Newsom gave California Dems the middle finger.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

Good thing Newsome has lots of oil in his hair then…

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

Newsome, Harris, Biden,… weren’t these the names given to the three heads of the monster that Godzilla fought? And like Gidhorah they cause massive destruction wherever they go!

Joanne4justice
Joanne4justice
9 months ago

I believe that Gov Goofy is playing political games. He SAYS he chooses not to run for president? And he has notably vetoed some stupid Dem legislature bills ? Perhaps to get support from CA Republicans and c onservavatives ??? However, a HUGE mistake to vote for him. He has run the Ca economy into BILLIONS $$$$ OF DEBT!

Something, Something
Something, Something
9 months ago

Newson is always too smart by half. I expect the debate with DeSantis will weaken him, not make him stronger. It will probably have less to do with DeSantis then because he will say something too loudly or too softly for some special interest group. They will call for his head, he will have to apologize, he will look weak.

Andrew P
Andrew P
9 months ago

Of course, if Biden leaves office in a coffin, Harris will become President, and be the party nominee for 2024.

Dasraa
Dasraa
8 months ago

Didn’t anyone notice this woman does not even live in CA, she lives in Maryland, how can she represent CA? Isn’t that anti constitution?

Joanne4justice
Joanne4justice
9 months ago

GOOFY Gavin is gamey. He would run in election for his Dumbo Conrades. However, would be yet another disaster for America if he should succeed! This man has ruined California He should not be given opportunity to do the same for USA!

Patriot Eric
Patriot Eric
9 months ago

Greatest President of modern times …. Donald J. Trump!!

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

I actually lived there from 1974 to 1987. I know you’re being sarcastic but California started its decline with Jerry Brown. Gavin is just another nail of the same!

Sue
Sue
9 months ago

Why are there rules and policies to follow and just because you are in power you don’t have to. Some example for people. Don’t do as I do, do as I say. Can’t say that I am a lemming…I won’t run over the cliff just because the guy in front of me did. And I won’t follow a liar and a deceiver.

Melinda
Melinda
9 months ago

Hey, salad is healthy food!

Melinda
Melinda
9 months ago

Maybe so, but he’s history. We have to live in the present.

Cynical American
Cynical American
9 months ago

A commenter on another thread said that by choosing Ms. Butler, Newsom created a situation where the African American candidates (I believe there at least 3 in the running) vying for this Senate seat in 2024 would cancel each other, and Rep. Adam Schift would emerge victorious. Wouldn’t that be a convenient way to betray the minority voters in the Dem Party; you know, the party that (supposedly) supports diversity!”

Rik
Rik
9 months ago

And why is that Punkydoodle?

Rik
Rik
9 months ago

Meaning what Punkydoodle? . . . Your comments always lack substance! Why do you HATE AMERICA SO MUCH?

Secret Service agents rush Donald Trump off the stage.(AP: Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden greets President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, California.(Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe)
President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to discuss his approval of a FEMA disaster declaration in response to the impacts of Hurricane Beryl, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

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