Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Newsom grabs another headline

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli

Dan Walters understands Governor Newsom:

Gavin Newsom is fond of making grandiloquent, headline-grabbing gestures couched in moralistic terms. His tendency first surfaced in 2004 when, as the newly elected mayor of San Francisco, he directed officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a state law passed by California voters just a few years earlier. 

“I had no right to do this,” Newsom to an interviewer last year, when he was running for governor. “We didn’t have the formal authority. But we tried to exercise our moral authority and challenge the laws.” Although his action was quickly slapped down by the courts, it made him a national political figure.

Newsom's mistake on his gay marriage initiative was timing, since it was months before the November, 2004, presidential election. After Newsom's headlines in early 2004, eleven states passed anti-gay marriage measures, helping to increase Republican turnout and allowing George W. Bush to narrowly win reelection. His second term guaranteed that the war in Iraq would continue; he was also able to appoint two more conservatives to the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito).

His capital punishment initiative is timed much better, but Walters wonders if Newsom will pay a political price:

Once again, Newsom is defying the demonstrated will of California voters, who twice in this decade rejected ballot measures that would have ended the death penalty—and if there’s a political price to be paid, it would be for that defiance.

Maybe, but both those pro-capital punishment votes were relatively close: see this and this.[Later: See Opposition to death penalty grows in California as Gavin Newsom halts executions]

Walters didn't mention the poor timing of Newsom's gay marriage initiative, but Phil Matier did in the SF Chronicle:

No sooner did Gov. Gavin Newsom declare a moratorium on the death penalty in California than he was on a plane to the East Coast for a series of national media appearances, including stops at CBS, NPR and MSNBC. “He’s making the case as a leader to hearts and minds, just as he did with marriage equality, when his willingness to go out on a limb made a huge difference,” Newsom political spokesman Dan Newman said.

With, they hope, better results this time. Many Democrats still feel the national blowback from Newsom’s same-sex marriage revolution was one of the reasons Democrat John Kerry lost his bid to unseat George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

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