California's Power Outages Are Making Gov. Gavin Newsom Resemble Recalled Gov. Gray Davis

That's not the comparison you want if you're a California governor. Newsom should spend more time dealing with the nuts-and-bolts of government and less time preening for the national stage.


As wildfires scorch California and Pacific Gas & Electric turns off electricity in large swaths of the state to reduce the fire risk, our new progressive governor, Gavin Newsom, is facing the first real crisis in his young administration. "I own this," he said, regarding the fires and related blackouts, but his press conferences have seemed less about a governor who is in control and more about a deer staring at the headlights.

Newsom isn't the first California governor with national aspirations, but he's not garnering comparisons to Hiram Johnson (who became U.S. senator), Earl Warren (later a U.S. Supreme Court justice), Ronald Reagan (the 40th president) or even Jerry Brown (who ran for president). Instead, the media is comparing him to Gray Davis, who was recalled in 2003 during the last round of rolling blackouts. That's not a particularly good thing.

Temperamentally, the charismatic Newsom and bureaucratic Davis are night and day, but there's too much here to ignore. "Shadow of Gray Davis looms over Newsom as outages rock California," is how a Politico headline put it. Newsom won the gubernatorial election by an impressive 24 points, but he faces falling support with one poll showing more people who disapprove (44 percent) than approve (43 percent) of his job performance.

"I've seen this movie before," said Garry South, Davis' former adviser, as quoted in the Politico article. We don't know how the movie will end, of course. Actually, it's more like that interactive episode of "Black Mirror," with the viewer's various choices leading to a variety of alternate—and sometimes bizarre—endings. Newsom's decisions so far have been inconsistent and directionless, but there's still time for a course correction.

He has defended the outages, then blasted PG&E and expressed anger. He has blamed climate change, but he still needs to assure that the lights stay while the entire world figures out how to reduce global temperatures. Newsom isn't inspiring confidence, which is why his imitation of Harry S. Truman's "the buck stops here" has fallen flat.

Say what you will about Jerry Brown, but he never gave us that flailing around feeling even in the midst of a historic drought or during a budget crisis that spilled nearly $30 billion in red ink. He knew where he was going, even though I often shuddered at his road map.

Some conservative activists now are collecting signatures for two separate efforts to recall Newsom. They need well over 2 million signatures to qualify it for the ballot. Given that such signatures can cost several dollars each to collect, that's no small undertaking. It's not an impossibility, perhaps, but wake me up when some billionaires make it their pet cause.

This kind of political venting is not unusual. Most modern California governors have faced at least some recall attempt. "Newsom's fortunes would have to dramatically worsen in order for such a vote to have any real suspense," argues the Hoover Institution's Bill Whalen. I agree.

Recall backers seem overly focused on Newsom's progressive policies, but Californians aren't going to recall a governor because he's so liberal. Voters already knew that when 62 percent of them voted for Newsom in the general election. Frankly, he's as likely to be recalled as Donald Trump is likely to win California's 55 electoral votes in 2020. But that doesn't mean Newsom should flippantly ignore the warning signs percolating around him. I still remember bumping into a Republican "mover and shaker" when Democrat Davis was in political hot water, and we agreed that a recall didn't have that proverbial snowball's chance in hell.

Shortly after that discussion, however, Davis was in the dock, and 135 candidates—including such atypical ones as Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and publisher Arianna Huffington—were debating the future of California. Davis was recalled by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. Arnold Schwarzenegger received nearly 49 percent of the concurrent replacement vote, thus topping Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Those were weird times, but the people had spoken.

In the current climate, I'm not sure what California voters might say, other than that they'd like officials to keep the lights on and to control the fires. Whalen suggests that Newsom, who has given his own first year in office rave reviews, "show a little humility." That's a good starting point. If a raging wildfire doesn't remind the governor that he can't control everything, then there's far more trouble ahead.

I would also suggest that Newsom spend more time dealing with the nuts-and-bolts of government and less time preening for the national stage. He should focus on a few fundamentals rather than running after every shiny object. He should recognize that he's governor of the entire state and not just of its progressive elements. He probably won't become the next Gray Davis, but he should heed his own words and start acting like really does "own" this crisis.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

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  1. I own this

    I don’t particularly care for the CA governor, or his politics, but the man clearly grew a pair and is stepping up to take the hit. He goes up a little in my assessment.

    How many other politicians would just come out and say that. Be honest. Not too fucking many.

    1. Hi, my friend has found a movie site with HD quality. Who knows, you also want to watch the copy link on the side STARCINEMAX.COM

    2. IIRC, it’s not uncommon for politicians to say “I take full responsibility” and then just carry on. I’d be more impressed if there were a bit more seppuku (well, at least resignation from office) involved in these admissions.

    3. Many politicians say they own it one or two times, and then give blame others the rest of the time. When he consistently owns it I’ll be surprised.

      After all, this is the guy who opened up and investigation into gas prices right after he raised gas taxes.

  2. Oh golly. An article about Californians gazing at their navels! How fascinating!!!

    1. Well, this is one of the articles that was written for the Orange County Register, so it’s going to be about California. They’re always about California.

  3. You have to remember Governor Newsom has a lot on his plate and he’s doing the best he can, he’s also busy being the Prime Minister of Canada.

    1. Oops, my mistake – I just googled it and it turns out that the Prime Minister of Canada and the Governor of California are in fact two different people. In my defense however, you do have to admit it’s an easy mistake to make, isn’t it?

      1. How did you mix that up? One is black the other is white. I’ve seen the pictures.

        1. He’s wearing whiteface, obviously.

      2. Yes, but you never see them together………

      3. It is easy to tell them apart if you just remember that the Canadian Prime Minister is the one wearing the black face. That is a good rule to solve an admittedly tough problem.

        1. But the blackface one could also be the Governor of Virginia.

  4. We Koch / Reason libertarians should stop being so critical of California. After all, the state is a model for what our open borders policy aims to do to the entire country — transform it into a single-party Democratic stronghold with a powerful economy, a diverse population, and an extremely high degree of economic inequality.

    1. The subtle last few words… you’re on point today. Good work.

    2. When can I preorder your book?

    3. Good, but you left out “the amenities of a third world country”.

  5. “Newsom won the gubernatorial election by an impressive 24 points, but he faces falling support with one poll showing more people who disapprove (44 percent) than approve (43 percent) of his job performance.”

    Democrats love their leaders until the leader has to actually do the job.

    1. Like most democrat policies that can be made to sound good in theory but then………………

    2. Democrats love their leaders until the leader has to actually do the job.

      Labor camps and mass executions don’t tend to poll well.

  6. I look forward to the protests when they start thinning the forest to prevent fires.

    1. I look forward to the fires when they start thinning the protesters.

  7. What did socialists use before candles? Electricity.

    The Democratic Party is in no danger of losing power in California no matter what it does. And the Greens and Tech billionaires who pay the bills don’t give a fuck if the place burns down or people are left freezing in the dark. So it doesn’t matter how unpopular Newsome is. The voters are never going to do anything about it. And the California Democratic vote fraud machine would likely stop the voters from doing anything even if they wanted to.

    Basically, the people of California are fucked. I don’t see it ever getting anything but worse.

    1. There were those of us who saw this coming and did the sensible thing, we fled.

      1. Problem is three quarters of you who fled are trying to remake california in places you fled to.

        1. That’s why I got good and far away.

          1. I thought Virginia was good and far away but we are looking more like California East, or maybe South New York.

            1. Or Northern NJ.

              At the state legislature level, South NJ took a huge red shift on Tuesday. Not enough to break the democrat stranglehold on the state capital, but noteworthy.

              1. Sadly, not in my area = South NJ took a huge red shift on Tuesday

        2. You can take the socialists out of the state, but you can’t take the statist out of the social, or something.

          1. You can take the socialists out of the state, but first you should make them dig their own graves?

      2. What other choice do you have? And that is such a shame since it is such a great place in so many ways. It would be nice if the Progs would just once leave a nice place alone and go infect some shithole or wasteland. But they seem to fuck up the best places first.

        1. I think the tide may be turning. People are super pissed about the PG&E thing, and I can say from my own direct experience that there are a surprising number of Trump supporters in my neighborhood, and I only live 20 minutes from Berkeley.

          1. Not likely to make much difference. All the illegals are going to vote Democratic (whether they realize it or not).

  8. So what are the chances Newsome will be replaced with a small government conservative if he is recalled versus an opportunistic celebrity who’s pretty much every bit as prog?

    1. About the same as me returning to the state.

    2. Pretty good. Ultimately, the only sollution to all of this is to tell the Greens to fuck off and start doing real fire prevention and management. The other thing is to bury the electric lines in fire prone areas. Doing that would cost a lot, but it is exponentially cheaper than the cost of the fires or even the choo choo to nowhere those dumb asses tried to build.

      The fixes are obvious and sensible. But, you are never going to get the Greens and by extension the Progs to agree to any solution no matter how obvious and sensible. So, basically, the place is going to continue to burn down and devolve into a pre-modern society. But, the people who live there won’t do anything about it. So, they must like it that way.

      1. The econutz love the fires because they can scream “climate change!” and people actually listen when it happens enough times. Of course they don’t want solutions.

        1. Oh and the fires are mostly burning the more conservative parts of the state. If they were in the Bay Area, you bet they would come up with something quick to actually prevent them. But since it’s the yokels who voted for Trump who are getting burned, they probably deserve it.

          1. Oh and the fires are mostly burning the more conservative parts of the state. If they were in the Bay Area, you bet they would come up with something quick to actually prevent them.

            Nah – fires are as big of a problem for Malibu and Santa Barbara as they are for Fresno and Yolo. Half of LA County burns every year. There are forest management problems, for sure, but fires and earthquakes are just our tornadoes and hurricanes.

            1. You may have heard of this even. Huge disaster in Berkeley-Oakland hills that killed 25 people and caused $1.5B in damage.

      2. But, the people who live there won’t do anything about it. So, they must like it that way.

        No, but there are a lot of people with an unshakeable faith that the California government as constituted under the Democrats is Good and Well-Intentioned. It’s involving increasingly forceful denial of reality (on an individual level) as more and more time goes by that Republicans haven’t been an meaningful force in CA. But more and more people seem to be waking up.

  9. It isn’t like Ol’ Gray casts a large shadow in the history of California politics, so to be covered by it is something.

  10. Power outages are needed in the socialist utopia of California. It’s a sign of unlimited welth. The best way to implement the blackouts is to cut power to all the clingers that aren’t woke enough tk live on the coast.

    1. I like you better than that other poser….Reverend Kirkland.

      I see what you did. 🙂

  11. these outages only happen under democrat governors because they want to create the chaos so that the public will clamore for the state to take over. Gray Davis admitted this and during his blackout years the state did get control of the power lines not the generation but left the utilities in charge of maintaining the lines. great deal for the state they own the asset but the generators pay for maintenance. and that somehow absolves the state from the problems fires created by the lines they own

  12. “I would also suggest that Newsom spend more time dealing with the nuts-and-bolts of government and less time preening for the national stage.”

    But California has always been about the show. From industrialized showmanship in Hollywood, to industrialized self-image, well, everywhere, the state exists to show us the future/the better way/human spirit freed from reality.

    Why even be governor or other public figure in California, and spend those millions of lives and billions of dollars, if not grasping for the next big role?

  13. So where are the recall petitions? Let’s do it again!

    1. I’m up for it! It was kind of fun the first time, what with Gary Coleman and that porn star running.

      But in all seriousness, I remember both the Libertarians and the Greens having pretty prominent voices during that election because of that chaos (and back then, the Greens didn’t disagree with the Libertarians on quite so much).

      And while Arnold was annoying, we’ve had worse.

      1. Yeah, it’s weird for me to remember a time when the Greens actually had members who believed in free market environmental solutions. That was before Stein and her crew got in and dragged them leftward – partly assisted by the Republicans deciding to cede environmentalism entirely to the left, and thus the conservative conservationists quietly slipped into the night. It’s hard to differentiate them from the DSA these days.

  14. “but Californians aren’t going to recall a governor because he’s so liberal.”

    OMG – Liberals can’t even keep the power on; yet still insist they’re right about everything. They’ve been championing the caveman lifestyle for centuries and now their dream is coming true.

    “Climate Change” — OMG the weather changes!!! That’s certainly a legitimate excuse to lobby for cavemen days. After all; cavemen never suffered from the weather…. Right, Right, Right????

    As the old saying goes I guess, “You can’t fix stupid.”

  15. They wanted policies to address climate change, and now they are getting those policies good and hard (and in the darkness hahaha).

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