What Dumb Bullsh*t Is Media Spewing About Gavin Newsom’s California Recall Blowout Today?

Media/Entertainment

The California recall election was a good, old-fashioned ass whooping. Democrats came out in droves to deliver a decisive two-to-one victory for Governor Gavin Newsom, and Democrats aren't always great about turning out in elections that aren't branded “hope and change" or set to the tune of Fleetwood Mac.

Republicans were hoping for their own Alabama upset: In the 2017 Senate special election, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Donald Trump-endorsed Roy Moore in a state Trump had carried by 28 points just a year earlier. (You may remember, Roy Moore had some girl-shaped issues.) That didn't happen, and it's flummoxed the mainstream media, which normally covers politics from the perspective of "Heads Republicans win; tails Democrats lose." However, Newsom's triumph has upset their game of Calvinball.

Not long after the race was called, Kasie Hunt, whom CNN pays to discuss politics, explained to us amateurs why the seemingly positive results actually spelled doom for the Democratic Party. She tweeted:

Obviously California is a Special Place —

Wait ... hold up ... why is she monologuing like Carrie Bradshaw when she went to Los Angeles during an episode of "Sex and the City"?

but the fact that a Democratic national star in waiting *faced* a recall and then had to fight hard for it midway through the campaign does say a lot about the potential challenges Democrats face across the map (4/)

Twitter

California's recall process is banana pants. It's basically a do-over for sore losers. All that's required is signatures from at least 12 percent of voters in the last election for the office. That's an incredibly low bar that could easily trigger a recall for any governor, no matter how relatively popular. All you need is enough money to fund the signature collection.

The GOP narrative that Hunt kindly parroted is that California voters were appalled to discover Newsom enjoying a fancy dinner while they were stuck in their homes under his COVID-19 restrictions: "CA GOV BIG PICTURE: One of the top Democrats in the country got caught living like an elite while everyone else suffered. Elites vs. the rest is the driving force in our politics right now and Democrats have a tough needle to thread both in California & nationwide."

There's zero evidence that Newsom's French Laundry foray cost him a single vote in the recall. Republicans wanted him out because he's a Democrat and they believed this was their shot. Trump lived it up at his private resort during the pandemic, so it's journalistic malpractice to push the line that Democrats are any more “elite" than Republicans, who regularly fly down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the mad king's ring.

Hunt argued that Democrats are in big trouble if “President Biden can't demonstrate he's capable of getting the resurgent pandemic under control, has another competence crisis a la Afghanistan, can't get his budget plan through Congress, etc." Yes, if Biden fails utterly, that won't speak well for Democrats' chances next year. This is the inverse of the media's magical thinking about Trump: “If he just shows human empathy and a shred of humility, that'll be the day he truly becomes president!"

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She also claimed that Democrats must "prove they can govern for EVERYBODY, and if you look at California — it's not necessarily the best test case for national Democrats." That's some racist bullshit. California, a diverse state with a population of almost 40 million, is more reflective of EVERYBODY in America than the predominately white states where Republicans thrive. Does Hunt think Republicans from Nebraska, Iowa, and Montana need to prove they can govern for EVERYBODY? (You'll note that the media rarely casts Senator Joe Manchin as “out of touch," especially on voting rights, because he represents a state that's 93 percent white.)

Dave Wasserman at Cook Political Report cautioned us to take this ass-whooping in the proper pro-Republican context.

I can't overstate the need to put these off-year races in context. If Newsom survives by 25% (?) and [Terry] McAuliffe were to win [in Virginia] by 5%, they'd be spun as big Dem wins.

These results weren't rims on a Jeep. There's no spinning. Newsom won in a landslide when he was the only game in town.

But that same ~5 pt swing right from the 2020 Biden/Trump margin would easily win Rs the House & Senate in 2022.

Wasserman, however, didn't assume the 30 percent shift in Democrats' favor in the 2017 Alabama special election meant a similar Democratic swing nationwide.

Naturally, CNN's Chris Cillizza delivered the most absurd take on the matter. He actually tweeted these words: "Tuesday night was, weirdly, a very good night for Larry Elder's political future."

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He thinks he can make his statement less bonkers by randomly inserting the word "weirdly." Chris Cillizza, weirdly, is an insightful political analyst. See? It doesn't work. Newsom took out Elder like Foreman took down Frazier in '73. This wasn't Rocky where Elder deserves credit for going the distance. If Republicans are fool enough to back more candidates like Elder, who likely helped turn out the Democratic vote with his more extreme, tap-dancing Trump routine, that's — not so weirdly — very good news for Democrats.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes was right when he tweeted: "I'm sorry but the recall was a complete and unmitigated disaster for Republicans and the forces pushing it. They got destroyed and in some ways it's the first concrete piece of evidence that Trumpism has enduring political costs."

This is such a self-evident observation, replying to an entire media ecosystem worth of "good news for John McCain" bullshit, that Tucker Carlson's BFF Glenn Greenwald snarkily responded, "There's a reason it's called MSDNC." That reminds me of when Republicans back in the 1990s called CNN the “Commie News Network." Greenwald's material is just as stale.

Look, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver might've claimed last month that there was a “pretty decent chance Newsom gets recalled," based apparently on the prediction model where every Democrat in California suddenly vanished, but at least he had the sense to avoid Twitter today.

All I'm saying is the media should consider finding new ways to humiliate themselves.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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