Newsom Would Be The First Democratic Governor Since Pat Brown

People are missing the real import of the June election results. California may be about to get its first Democratic governor since Pat Brown.

I say that partly as provocation, and partly as truth. Yes, Jerry Brown and Gray Davis were registered Democrats when they served as governor. But neither governed particularly like Democrats. Both sought the political middle—and both portrayed themselves as tough on crime, and both were cheap. Very cheap.

California has had cheap Republican governors, too – Schwarzenegger and Wilson certainly qualify as such.

Not since Pat Brown has the state enjoyed a governor who wanted to spend, start new programs, and build new things like a Democrat would. Instead, all the cheap governors have created massive scarcity for basic public goods in California, especially education, infrastructure, and housing.

Which is why Newsom, a real Democrat with big plans, will be a much bigger departure than people are realizing. This is a fellow talking about single-payer (albeit without a realistic plan to do it), and about massive new investments in education, from pre-natal to higher ed.

I suspect that, if elected as seems very likely, he will have a very difficult start, and feel a huge backlash, despite the supposed progressivism of the state. Californians might be personally liberal, but they have grown accustomed to have cheap non-Democratic governors.

Newsom will have to show us what a real Democrat looks like. And he’ll have to make the case for spending real money again.