The term “rising star” is a term that’s thrown around quite frequently in American politics. It’s used to describe a politician or political newcomer who has become increasingly popular and successful and makes a name for themself in the U.S. political landscape. These rising stars are often discussed as the face of their respective party and even as presidential candidates due to their newfound influence. One of the most notable rising stars today is California Governor Gavin Newsom, a leading progressive who some have floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. But Newsom would be a deeply flawed candidate who needs to stop being praised and should be criticized more.
Newsom’s rise to political stardom isn’t surprising. He’s the governor of the largest state in the country, which also happens to be one of the nation’s bluest states. He became a favorite among progressives for passing legislation on key issues like protecting abortion access and fighting climate change. He’s also become popular among progressives by directly taking on Republican governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott by launching attack ads in Florida and Texas, respectively. But despite this reputation as a progressive who’s more than willing to attack and criticize Republicans, he’s no better than them.
One of Newsom’s biggest flaws is that he’s a massive hypocrite. And while he’s definitely not the only hypocritical American politician, it doesn’t excuse his hypocrisy. The most notable example of this occurred in November 2020, when pictures were captured at a birthday party at The French Laundry restaurant that showed him dining maskless with a large group of people. This led to massive backlash, as California had some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the nation at the time while Newsom was violating his own policies. The backlash grew so large that a petition got enough signatures to force a recall election against Newsom in September 2021. The recall proved to be unsuccessful, as the attempt failed by over 20 points. However, the real impact of the recall is that it ended up wasting $200 million of California taxpayer money. If Newsom had just followed his own COVID-19 policies, then the recall would have never happened and the money could have been used to benefit the state. But because he stupidly thought that he didn’t have to follow his own rules, California taxpayers paid a steep price.
But the effects of the recall weren’t limited to wasting taxpayer money. Newsom was so emboldened by his victory in the “Republican Recall” as he called it that he didn’t bother to campaign at all in his re-election bid in November 2022. While he cruised to a second term, he underperformed Biden’s 2020 vote margin in every single county in the state. His underperformance was echoed across the board, as Democrats who won statewide office this past November also underperformed previous margins. But the biggest impact of Newsom’s underperformance was in California’s U.S. House races, where Democrats failed to flip any of the numerous winnable, Republican-held seats in districts that Biden won in 2020. If Newsom campaigned or made an effort to boost Democratic turnout, many of those seats would have flipped or have closer margins. Newsom’s arrogant refusal to campaign was one of the key factors that cost Democrats control of the House to a party that’s going to be more focused on impeaching Biden than passing legislation.
Now, Newsom has continuously denied that he has any interest in running for president in 2024, but he’s not fooling anyone. His refusal to campaign for reelection proved that he’s more focused on presidential ambitions than the state he runs. But even if he runs in 2024 or sometime later, he would have a lot working against him. Republicans would have a field day against him, as they would likely brand him as a coastal elitist liberal. The Fox News outrage machine would likely bash him all day and night with this label to make their point. The sad part is that I wouldn’t even disagree with this branding — just look at his slicked back hair and the way he talks. And while I do think that Newsom would rally the Democratic base extremely well, his ardent progressive stances and divisive rhetoric would likely make it difficult for him to win over moderate and independent voters in a general election.
My point is this: Gavin Newsom has shown time and time again that he’s willing to put himself over his state to boost his own presidential ambitions. If he does make a run for the presidency at some point, he better be ready to face the onslaught of rightful criticism for his hypocrisy.