With the signatures tallied and the threshold for recall election met, media attention will soon shift to the campaign ahead.
Will an embattled Gov. Gavin Newsom be able to persuade voters that he deserves to stay? Will an ambitious Democrat break party ranks and seek to position themselves as an alternative to Newsom? Will the election devolve into the cacophonous circus that we saw during the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003?
The answers are likely yes, maybe, and yes – with an emphatic “yes” on the circus part. But while the political manipulations, mechanics, and maneuvering will be intriguing, the main story lies elsewhere.
At its essence, this is an attempt to win an election by appealing to a growing, more extremist group of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and white supremacists…
Because this recall is not about Gov. Gavin Newsom — it’s about us. And by us, we mean every Californian who shares values of equity, justice, and accountability. Every Californian who shares the belief that no human is illegal, every person deserves clean air and water, no one should go hungry, every worker should earn at least a living wage, and everyone should be able to access affordable and holistic healthcare.
Gov. Newsom has made mistakes, but holding the governor accountable is not the main focus of this mean-spirited gambit. Supporters of the recall and Republican leaders may claim that their gripe is with the governor’s COVID-19 pandemic response, but the recall petition itself is permeated with anti-immigrant and anti-justice language and reveals a more dangerous targeting of the Golden State’s shared values and beliefs.
At its essence, this is an attempt to win an election by appealing to a growing, more extremist group of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and white supremacists who have proven unable to win in normal times – but see political opportunity in an off-year one-off.
This is a strategic – and profoundly anti-democratic – tactic to roll back the decades of progress Californians have made because of social movements fighting for living wages, immigrant rights, and environmental protection.
The recall election can be an opportunity to both cinch a victory against the voices of reaction and build the progressive political muscles needed to win a broad program for a better California.
In that context, the recall presents two options for Californians: Would you rather put your trust in a majority of diverse Californians that elected Gov. Newsom and that is committed to protecting people and the environment? Or would you rather put your trust in an extremist minority that supports more incarceration, more deportations, and doesn’t believe in the science that can rescue us from both COVID-19 and the climate crisis?
For us, the choice is clear. We need to stand against the recall and exercise our democratic right to remind the governor about what we actually want for our state.
The recall election can be an opportunity to both cinch a victory against the voices of reaction and build the progressive political muscles needed to win a broad program for a better California. That means stressing the need to go from being a state of resistance – in which we mostly challenged the previous president’s agenda with lawsuits and protests – to becoming a state of renewal where policy change makes the California Dream possible for all.
This means that we need to walk and chew gum, to fight the recall and offer an alternative community vision for California for Newsom to embrace.
That would include setting a pathway for a just and equitable COVID recovery; making healthcare more affordable, accessible, and culturally responsive; expanding humane protections for undocumented Californians; protecting individuals, families, and neighborhoods through community safety solutions and less policing and incarceration; creating more affordable housing and tenant protections; and promoting a just transition away from fossil fuels.
We urge everyone to take this recall seriously, and for what it is: a non-election year tactic to strip the values held by a majority of Californians. We cannot allow a few to use the pandemic as a guise for ousting a governor — when the actual goal is to oust the progress we’ve all worked so hard for. There is so much we need and are called to do together. Courage California is joining forces with progressive groups and community leaders around the state to mobilize against the recall, but more importantly, the toxic and racist agenda behind it.
This is not a fight we chose but it is a fight that chose us. Join us in making a shared future for all Californians. Say no to the recall, say yes to us.
Ed’s Note: Irene Kao is the executive director of Courage California. Manuel Pastor is the director of the USC Equity Research Institute.