Opinion: Republicans Unsuccessful in Recall Election

Controversial California Gov. Gavin Newsom easily defeated a Republican-driven recall election seeking to oust him from office. In the process of trying to remove a strict governor from power, the attempt blew up in Republicans’ faces and changed nothing.

During the recall election, voters were asked to answer “yes” or “no” to recall Gov. Newsom. If a majority voted “yes,” then Newsom would have been replaced by whoever gathered the most votes of the replacement gubernatorial candidates. Newsom received more “no” votes, ensuring that he would stay in office. To no avail, conservative talk show host Larry Elder received the most votes to replace Newsom.

Although the recall was unsuccessful, Californians had many reasons to be upset at their governor. At the height of the pandemic, Newsom was caught mask-less at a birthday dinner in a fancy restaurant while telling Californians to stay at home and wear masks in public. He also instituted some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the United States.

All Californians, not just Republicans, had the right to express their distaste for Gov. Newsom’s leadership, but the recall election was an unsuccessful attempt to smear the governor. 

Newsom was never likely to be recalled.

In 2003, California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in favor of celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger, “The Governator”. Davis had a measly 26% approval rating by the time of his leaving office. Newsom, on the other hand, has had tremendous support and a steady approval rating of 57%.

The election did make Newsom somewhat nervous, as evidenced by his need to bring in Democrat leaders President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and others to campaign for him. Newsom raised $72 million to campaign against the recall. Along with his high approval ratings and how left-leaning the state is, there was no way that Newsom was getting voted out of office.

The futile effort killed any semblance of Republicans selling fiscal conservatism. The election cost California taxpayers at least $276 million according to the California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. After all this money was spent, California is in the same spot as it was before — just more broke. 

The GOP accomplished nothing through this recall except costing everyone money.

Larry Elder, dubbed by President Biden as a “clone of Donald Trump,” dominated the replacement ballot and was indeed the Trumpian figure of the election. 

Before Elder entered the race, polls were relatively tight on Newsom’s recall as the Delta variant surged in California. When Elder entered the race and rose to the top of the contenders’ list, Newsom began to gain traction in the polls to secure a position. Juan Rodriguez, Newsom’s campaign manager, said regarding Elder, “When Elder became the leader of the recall movement, that’s when Democrats started getting fired up.”

Elder’s presence as the alternative to Newsom led the governor to a comfortable win in the recall election. The surge of anti-Elder votes is a warning to the Republican Party.

The ideology behind Trump followers has been put under the microscope during this recall. What had been the base of the Republican Party for the last four years, a key part of winning the 2016 presidential election, now appears to be vulnerable in general elections and a unifying factor of the Democrat Party. Elder, allowing himself to be labeled as a new Trump, did not have the appeal that his campaign hoped for to win this recall.

As evidenced by the large turnout of Democrat voters and the lack of moderate backup, Trump’s Republican Party has lost its ability to appeal to voters outside the GOP base.

In the span of a few weeks, Republicans lost an election, cost a state hundreds of millions of dollars, and exposed Trump’s vulnerability. The recall was nothing more than a botched political stunt by Republicans, and it showed liability within the GOP without accomplishing anything.

Browder is an opinion writer.

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