Would The End of Trump Mean the End of Newsom?

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)

The defeat of Donald Trump would be a victory for the country, for democracy, and for the many victims of his presidency.

But it could be a disaster for Gavin Newsom. 

President Trump has long offered a perverse sort of protection for Newsom, and other prominent Democrats in our state. Californians, especially Democratic Californians, might be furious with what they were getting from California’s leading Democrats. They might be wondering why huge Democratic supermajorities weren’t translating into more and better education, health care and other vital services. They might wonder why the state’s rules couldn’t move more quickly to build housing, especially with money set aside for housing homeless people.

But opposing Gov. Newsom, or other leading Democrats, felt wrong when those same leaders were battling to protect the state from the president. Why get upset with Newsom when he’s trying to shield us from the madman in the White House? 

Trump also served as a foil—he was easy to blame for our problems, even those problems that predated his administration. He also served to distract media attention from deeper dives into California’s failures in education, healthcare, infrastructure, taxation and pensions.

If Trump loses—and if he actually is forced to leave office—Gov. Newsom will be naked before the world. He’ll have to defend his at best uneven performance in the pandemic. And even once COVID is under control, he’ll have to defend the state’s many systemic problems, pretty much all by himself.

This political shift isn’t to be lamented. It will be good for California, and the world, if Trump goes. And one good thing is the greater pressure it will bring to bear on Newsom and other powerful Californians to do much more to address our problems.

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