November was not a good mouth for Gov. Gavin Newsom.  He was ridiculed for his $350 dinner at Napa’s French Laundry while he was shutting down restaurants for the rest of us.  His children attend private school while public schools are shut down.  His employment department is sending federal bailout checks to convicted murderers.

But the worst political news for Newsom may be hidden away in the November election results for various ballot measures his allies placed on the ballot.  Almost all lost, despite in some cases Newsom’s strong support for them. 

Take Proposition 15.  This measure would have imposed a property tax “split roll”, revising Proposition 13 to raise taxes on corporations and business entities.  This has been a dream of California labor and progressive activists for decades, and 2020 seemed the perfect year to pass it.  There would be massive voter turnout, mostly Democrats rushing to the polls to vote against President Trump.  Split roll would just ride to victory on the anti-Trump coattails. 

They were half right, with liberalized voter registration rules and intense anti-Trump feeling among California Democrats more people voted than ever before, some 17.8 million voters, or 80 percent turnout.  That’s 3.2 million more voters than in 2016.

But despite this massive turnout, labor and liberal groups took it on the chin.  The Labor Federation took positions on nine ballot measures; they won on three and lost on six including the most important ones like Proposition 15 and the Uber-Lyft measure, Proposition 22.  The state Democratic Party took positions on 11 measures, they were on the winning side on only four; they lost on seven. 

Labor also provided most of the money promoting Proposition 15, $40 million of the $67 million spent in favor of this measure, and $16 million of the $20 million opposing Proposition 22.  Uber, Lyft and their allies spent over $200 million promoting Proposition 22, so its success may not be much of a surprise.  But the spending was roughly equal for Proposition 15, yet labor and the Democrats could not convince voters to raise property taxes. 

Perhaps the biggest personal loser in the Proposition 15 campaign turned out to be Gov. Newsom who called it “a fair, phased-in and long-overdue reform to state tax policy.” While Newsom did not actively campaign for the measure, his support was featured in television ads encouraging a vote for the measure.  But that was not his only loss.  Newsom, labor and the entire Democratic establishment put their names and prestige behind Proposition 16, a measure to restore affirmative action in California that was placed on the ballot by the legislature. 

Proposition 16 proponents outspent their opponents by twenty to one, and had the support of virtually all California newspapers, plus Newsom, California’s two US Senators, and almost all elected Democrats.  Yet it was defeated with 57 percent voting no.  With the state Democratic Party’s fixation on race and gender preferences, this defeat could have long range political implications. 

While California Democrats lost badly on the ballot measures, California’s nearly comatose Republican Party came out of the election in surprisingly good shape.  Not only did they manage to claw back four of the seven US House seats they lost in 2018, but they were on the winning side on most of the ballot measures.  State Republicans took positions on eleven measures, and ended up winning on seven, including the important ones, Proposition 15, 16 and 22.  So on the major social and economic measures placed before the voters in 2020, Republicans were the winners and Democrats and Gov. Newsom the losers.

What does this portend for the future?  Maybe nothing but maybe also that Gov. Newsom or his pick for US Senator could be in trouble when they face the voters in 2022.  California Democrats will be somewhat joined at the hip with the Biden and Harris Administration, especially with a California vice president; at the very least they won’t have Trump to kick around anymore, and will have to take credit or blame for the economy two years hence.

For Gov. Newsom to be in trouble in 2022 two things would have to happen.  First, the state would need to feel it must restrain its majority Democratic Party.  We see that in states like Massachusetts and Maryland, heavily Democratic but with popular Republican governors who can put the brakes on majority party excesses. 

Second, California Republicans would need an electable candidate who would be adequately financed.  That would mean no one out of step with this state’s liberal views on most social issues.  Retiring San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer might fill the bill since he could run on his record as competent administrator and successful major.

But what could be most encouraging for Faulconer or any other Republican running in 2022 is the message of 2020: the Democrats and their labor allies are surprisingly out of step with the economic and social issues of importance to California voters.