Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom, 55, will be sworn into his second and last term on Friday, Jan. 6. This marks the start of Newsom’s 26th consecutive year in elected office.
Given Newsom’s ambitions and age, will he run for president in 2024?
Newsom, like Vice President Kamala Harris, got his political start when former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown appointed him to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission. The next year, Brown appointed Newsom to fill a vacancy on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — at age 29.
Seen from one vantage, Newsom has several strengths. He’s governor of the most-populous state. California is the vanguard of the progressive left in both politics and culture. California is the source of most of the funds Democrats raise, with $369 million raised in the 2022 midterms, 65% more than from second-place New York.
And Newsom starts 2023 with several new left-wing laws he signed: a COVID-19 gag rule law that threatens to revoke the licenses of doctors who stray from the party line on the virus; a law, SB 107, making California a “sanctuary state” for out of state minors trafficked into the state to have so-called “gender-affirming care” — in other words, sterility-causing castrations, hysterectomies, double mastectomies, and hormone treatment; another law allowing nurses to perform abortions without a supervising doctor in the first trimester; and, finally, a law creating a 10-member appointed council to set wages and working conditions for fast food restaurants with the ultimate goal being to unionize all 700,000 fast food workers — almost doubling stagnating membership of non-government union members.
But even as Newsom’s progressive successes in California multiply, will it be enough to help him earn the Democratic nomination for president or to win election in 2024?
Likely in anticipation of a 2024 challenge, President Joe Biden has pushed for a complete reordering of the Democratic primary calendar, pushing South Carolina to the front of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, while also moving Georgia and Michigan ahead. This move is widely seen as boosting Biden — and Harris — with Black Democratic voters seen as being less receptive to Newsom’s woke cultural agenda.
Should Biden decline to run, or should Newsom successfully make the case that it’s time to move to a new generation of leadership — Newsom would be 57 at the start of new presidential term, Biden, 82 — Newsom would confront another, even bigger challenge: he’s (accurately) seen as far left.
Newsom, as California’s governor, is further to the left in both character and deed than was Biden before his election in 2020. Biden’s big advantage then was the moderate image he cultivated with the media’s ready assistance. Newsom has no such moderate mask — he’s as woke as they come, potentially setting up a titanic struggle in 2024 that would be more about philosophy than personality.
And what about that California philosophy? How might the rest of the nation view the Golden State and its governor?
California, for all its natural attributes and tremendous goodwill built up over generations, is living on its legacy — the water system that makes life possible for the two-thirds of residents who live in Southern California, the freeway system, the vaunted University of California — all were developed 50 to 100 years ago — with little progress since.
Meanwhile, California’s nation-leading income taxes, crushing regulatory climate, rocketing energy costs due to climate change rules, and over-the-top COVID-19 lockdowns, have accelerated the state’s population loss. And to top it off, California’s budget widely swung from a $97 billion surplus to a projected $25 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.
It appears that some of the Golden State’s luster is becoming tarnished. California has become a nice place to visit (if you can keep your rental car from being broken into), but people just don’t want to live there anymore.
Not to worry though; should Newsom manage to get himself elected president, he’ll be able to save California. He’ll do this by applying the vast and expanding powers of the unelected administrative state to erase meaningful differences between states — essentially, bringing every state down to California’s level via a flood of executive orders.
When the nation has become San Francisco, and we’re no longer able to move to freedom, the promised workers’ utopia will be awesome.