On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for a rethinking of the Democratic Party’s tactics, claiming that the party is “being crushed” by Republicans in part because its members are too timid and, as a result, are frequently on the defensive.
Newsom was cautious to laud current party leaders like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during his speech at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas, the territory of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, one of Newsom’s biggest electoral foes.
But he noted that party slogans that worked in the past, such as Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high,” don’t work anymore, since “that’s not the moment we’re living in right now.”
“These guys are ruthless on the other side,” Newsom said. “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom-up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on the offense every single day? They’re winning right now.”
This, Newsom explained, is why he has been running television ads in Florida encouraging people to move to California, newspaper ads in Texas condemning the state’s gun laws, and billboards in seven states encouraging women to come to California if they need an abortion, despite running for reelection as governor of California.
“There’s nothing worse than someone pointing fingers. What are you going to do about it?” Newsom said. “The reason we’re doing those ads is that… the Democratic Party needs to be doing more of it.”
Naturally, the primary reason Newsom can accomplish those things is that he is under relatively minimal strain at home. Despite facing a relatively unknown and poorly funded Republican challenger one year after successfully staving off a recall attempt, Newsom is widely expected to win reelection as California’s governor in November.
Newsom has refuted rumors of a presidential candidacy on multiple occasions, most recently this past Saturday in Texas, but his actions have fueled suspicion that he is considering a bid. Newsom responded, “No, not happening,” when asked if he was thinking about a presidential bid in 2024 or 2028.
“I cannot say it enough,” he said. “I never trust politicians, so I get why you keep asking.”
For the first two years of President Joe Biden’s administration, Newsom called them “a master lesson… on substance and policy.” Later, though, he remarked that strong administration by itself is not enough to win elections, saying that “otherwise Biden would be at 75% approval.” According to a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, over 53% of American citizens had a negative opinion of Biden. According to Newsom, the Democratic Party has a “fall in love so quickly” problem because its members are always looking for “the guy or gal on the white horse to come to save the day.”
“We missed a more important paradigm that leadership is not defined by that person in formal authority, it’s defined by people with moral authority every single day,” he said.
Abbott, who is running against former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, may benefit from Newsom’s tough stance. Professor of political science at Texas State University Kenneth Grasso remarked that some in the Republican Party are worried that Abbott is “not conservative enough.” When Newsom attacks Abbott, “it just benefits him with those individuals,” as Grasso put it, Abbott’s popularity rises.
“If you stress that they’re right-wingers, you call them extremists, using that kind of language, all you are going to do is enhance their popularity in their base,” he said.
Despite the potential danger, Democrats in Texas appear to be excited about Newsom’s visit.
“I like this guy,” Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said of Newsom. “I like the way he’s showing the contrast between what y’all do in California and what the narrow-minded, extremist positions that occur here in the state of Texas.”