California Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t afraid of y’all. And by “y’all,” I mean the gun manufacturers and Republican culture warriors who have gotten quite used to the defensive crouch of Newsom’s fellow Democrats.
“The Texas abortion law is an abomination. It’s outrageous what the Supreme Court did, but they did it. They opened a door that is going to put women’s lives at risk. And we’re going to go through that same door to save people’s lives,” Newsom said. The California bill would award $10,000 and attorney’s fees to private citizens who turn in people illegally selling, manufacturing or distributing assault weapons or ghost guns.
“We’re going after these guys. We’re putting them on the defensive. I don’t hate gun owners. I don’t hate guns. I hate violence,” Newsom said. “I can’t take it anymore. No one can take it anymore. How many times have I been to a damn press conference where you heard the same words? And the words are no longer ‘thoughts and prayers.’ It’s that ‘I’m sick and tired of saying “thoughts and prayers.”’”
Anticipating the inevitable challenges to the legislation, Newsom made clear that he isn’t afraid of the fight to come. “There’s no principled way the U.S. Supreme Court cannot uphold California’s law on assault weapons and ghost guns,” Newsom said. “So we’re calling the question, and we’re moving aggressively … and we’re getting serious about this in a way we haven’t in the past.”
Newsom’s willingness to fight Republicans on their turf is exactly what Democrats need to replicate. Stand strong in your beliefs and fight for them, even if it makes friends nervous and angers the other side. The governor has always operated this way.
That’s why I couldn’t resist asking Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, what he thought about the overwhelming recall last week of three of that city’s school board members who had largely focused on stripping schools of “objectionable” names. He wasn’t the least bit surprised by what happened. Acting on your passions and beliefs must still be in line with why folks put you in office. “If you are focused more on renaming things than focusing on fundamentally getting to the nuts and bolts of the job that you are hired to do, that’s a problem,” Newsom said.
But because this happened in the bluest of cities in the bluest of states, is it a warning sign to Democrats about the excesses of that dreaded term, “wokeness”? Nope, Newsom said: “I don’t know how one defines it. I know how one politicizes it.”
By today’s standards, Newsom could have been accused of “wokeness” in 2004 when, as mayor, he issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of state and federal law. Everyone was angry with him, especially Democrats who were furious he willfully waded into the latest front of the culture war during a presidential election year. But Newsom never wavered then and has no regrets now.
“Is that the definition of wokeness? I thought it was the right thing to do,” Newsom said. The 2015 Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry validated his moral conviction and political courage. And he’s urging his fellow Democrats to be similarly bold about the big issues of today.
“We all just need to … recognize what we’re up against, which is mishegoss, which is full-time propaganda coming from a disciplined far extreme right that will continue to racially prime, continue to promote these cultural wars in any way, shape or form,” Newsom said. “I mean, they’re banning books.”
In the face of this, the governor who successfully crushed a Republican-led recall effort against him last year said that Democrats must “address these things a little bit more head on, a little bit more forcefully.” That means fighting back on the terms set by Republicans.
More Democrats need to speak this way. It tells Republicans they aren’t as feared as they once were. More importantly, it shows the base that Democrats will no longer cower the way to which we’ve become accustomed. They are willing to fight like Republicans for what they believe in.
“That’s what we’re doing on guns,” Newsom said. “We’re leaning in. And, again, I’m not naive to their success. But it’s an old playbook here. And so let’s not all act surprised as Democrats and victims around this.”
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