2020 Election Shows One Reason Why Newsom Will Never Be President

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Gavin Newsom is actually trying to govern California—with balance, with thoroughness, with a mix of idealism and practicality.

And that is why he will never be president. 

In this election season, Democrats may have offered some political surprises. But the party and its voters have been consistent on one point: they hate actual governance.

Being president is a lot like being a governor. But the party and its voters wouldn’t even give a real hearing to successful governors like Washington’s Jay Inslee, Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, and Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick. 

Being a mayor also has presidential similarities. But the most successful modern mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, saw his record ignored by Democrats who justifiably hated his attempts to buy the race, as well as the darker parts of his record in New York. And Pete Buttigieg found that even being a great political talent with a progressive record wasn’t enough for Democratic activists, who didn’t like parts of his record in South Bend.

Mayor Pete repeatedly identified the problem here. Democrats—and many Republicans too—increasingly demand purity. And no good governor or mayor, or any other executive who is diligent and practical, will ever be pure. That person will have a record of mistakes.

Even Elizabeth Warren, a senator and law professor who had the actual experience of standing up a federal agency, was judged to be too compromised. In fact, her campaign faltered when she tried to be compromising and practical about Medicare for All. 

So we are left with two men who, for decades, have run little besides their mouths. And if the pattern holds, look for Joe Biden to falter as Democrats pick apart the fact that he served as vice president in the Obama administration, and on a few occasions actually did things.

The purity candidate is Bernie Sanders, who conveniently hasn’t governed anything in 30 years, since he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. And he hasn’t accomplished much of anything. And he doesn’t seem to have ever changed his mind about anything. Which makes him the perfect candidate for these times.

 As for our governor, Gavin should feel free to do what he thinks right, without worrying about the national political ramifications. Because there’s no way that a person with an executive record as long and complicated as his has any chance of getting the Democratic nomination in this era.

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