Last week, the California Democratic Party attempted to link the Republican-backed drive to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom to the riotous invasion of the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of soon-to-be ex-President Donald Trump.
“This recall effort, which really ought to be called ‘the California coup,’ is being led by right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, anti-vaxxers and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions,” state Democratic chairman Rusty Hicks said.
It was an overreach, as media accounts quickly pointed out, to compare the clearly illegal and violent incident at the Capitol to the constitutionally protected recall process, and Hicks grudgingly conceded the recall’s legality.
If anything, the effort signaled Democratic worries that the campaign to collect enough signatures to place Newsom’s fate before voters may succeed. Organizers say they’ve collected about two-thirds of the 1.5 million signatures needed to qualify the recall.
However, had they done their homework and not overreached, Hicks, et al, could have made the very valid point that while right-wing extremists are not leading the recall drive, they are certainly trying to make it happen with outright lies.
And What Are These Horrendous New Laws?
Rightist propaganda outlets are flooding YouTube with videos that profess to be giving viewers factual information about Newsom and the state he governs, but are plainly attempting to stir up support for the recall with misinformation.
For instance, a youngish man who calls himself “John Williams” and describes himself as a financial advisor, has posted numerous videos excoriating Newsom and backing the recall.
“Newsom wants essentially to destroy California and turn it into a communist state where he is the ruler, the dictator and god over 40 million people,” Williams declares in one.
In another, posted on Dec. 30, he tells viewers that Newsom has signed five new laws that would take effect on Jan. 1.
“Freedom, liberty and justice died – all thanks to these new laws,” the video claims. “California as we once knew it is gone forever and it’s all thanks to these new laws signed into effect by Gavin Newsom and they become official next week. This is absolutely insane!!”
And what are these horrendous new laws? In fact, Newsom signed only one of the five cited, Assembly Bill 3121, which creates a commission to study reparations for California’s role in the enslavement of Black people.
All Four Can Be Legitimately Criticized
The other four cited are not new laws, but merely recently introduced bills that would declare racism to be a health crisis, extend a moratorium on renter evictions, push social media platforms to police their content, and make voting-by-mail permanent.
All four can be legitimately criticized, but they haven’t even had legislative hearings, much less been passed by the Legislature and signed by Newsom — and saying otherwise is a bald-faced lie.
Another YouTube misinformation site is called “California Insider,” a subsidiary of Epoch Times, a right-wing propaganda outlet founded by members of the Falun Gong religious movement and one of Trump’s most ardent cheerleaders.
California Insider generates a steady stream of seemingly straightforward interviews focused on California’s shortcomings due to poor governance by Democratic officeholders. It often features well-known Republican political figures.
Whether Newsom deserves to be recalled is debatable. But he certainly doesn’t deserve to be slandered by misinformation, lies, and guilt-by-association. Hicks could have made that legitimate point instead of engaging in overheated character assassination himself.
CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.