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A conversation with Gavin Newsom: Part 5



[In Part 4, Governor Newsom was talking about moral authority, and how it’s the one thing that Democrats have left, after the shellacking we’ve taken. Democrats should not get into the mud with Republicans, he said, quoting Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.”

GN: I’m not willing to give up the moral authority.

SH: It’s politics!

GN: It’s the politics that have gotten us into this position. So if we want to pave over the old cow path, then we should expect nothing less than the status quo for the next decade or two.

SH: I wish you were angrier.

GN: I am angry. I think you can win, but with different kind of engagement.

SH: So Democrats will allow SCOTUS hearings. It will be a strict party-line vote, with an anti-choice, tea party Republican as the new Justice of the Supreme Court.

GN: It’s likely.

SH: And we could stop it.

GN: No. We can delay it.

SH: Democrats could filibuster.

GN: Republicans will go to the nuclear option and remove the filibuster. They will. Just a fact. I mean, it’s a fact. We can delay, and we will delay, and we should. We should scrutinize, and we should be aggressive, and there’s a hundred other Federal appointments we have to worry about. So you’re gonna get Scalia back, so it’s five-four, which is where we’ve been. The bigger concern I have is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health! That is an ominous prospect.

SH: Okay, so let’s move on. This is a little controversial, and it alludes to the story we were talking about, those two guys who believe in Jesus Christ. In my judgment, the conservative evangelical movement is a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

GN: [big laugh]

SH: They’re entitled to their rights, but—

GN: [still laughing] In what way are they a clear and present danger?

SH: These are people who don’t believe in science. They don’t believe in global warming. They believe that Adam and Eve played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

GN: That is—

SH: Because the world is only five thousand and something years old, everything was created in six days—

GN: Yeah. It is interesting.

SH: And they just elected Donald Trump President.

GN: Played an outsized role in that. Not exclusively, but an outsized role. I mean, some of my neighbors [in Marin County] elected Donald Trump.

SH: How do you deal with people who are irrational and immune to fact?

GN: It’s, um—there are ideologues on both sides of the political aisle.

SH: Democrats don’t have anybody that crazy.

GN: I dunno. You should have governed with me when I was Mayor! There are some folks on the left that I think are a bit out there. Yeah, I don’t like ideologues. I like open argument with people who are interested in evidence, who are fact-based. And I think the vast majority of people are. But there is a potent and powerful group of folks that are not, and it’s increasingly alarming.

SH: So you’re equating what I’m calling the craziness of evangelicals with San Francisco liberals?

GN: No. [laughs] I’m saying that—I didn’t even equate, I just said factually. My point of view is, I agree one hundred percent with you that ideology gets in the way of progress, but ideology is by no means an exclusive right of one group or the other. I see ideological rigidity impacting our politics on both sides of the aisle.

SH: This is beyond ideology. This is, is people who want a theocracy in the United States.

GN: Well, there’s those folks. I will say, it seems to me—and this is just me—that ten, fifteen years ago, that was even more apparent and present in our politics: prayer in school, George W. and others—I was more alarmed then than, candidly, I am now. I think it’s dissipated a little bit. That’s my own humble opinion. And I think Donald Trump is a complete fraud when it comes to his religious—

SH: The Bible is his favorite book!

GN: It’s laughable.

SH: Could he do a Sister Souljah moment?

GN: Well, there’s nothing Sister Souljah because he never even believed it in the first place, so are you gonna say, “I don’t believe in it now”? Folks like [George W.] Bush were true believers. Guys like Pence are true believers. I’m more worried about them being in control. So, yeah, you’re right—Trump was able to completely bamboozle them in this election, and, boy, how easily they were bamboozled. I mean, by a serial—

SH: –liar.

GN: No, not necessarily a liar, I mean, this guy was the antithesis of their values.

SH: Groping.

GN: Yeah. Even his current wife acknowledged he had relations with that person they paid off at the Enquirer. I mean, this guy—

SH: They fell for it anyway. He was a bad guy, but he was their bad guy.

GN: Yeah, yeah. He said the right thing, and he said it with conviction. But people…I think a lot of folks who identify with institutions, religious and otherwise, there’s a very patriarchal history there, and people identify with a strong man, the father figure, the guy who’s going to take care of the family. And he sort of connected with that—that strength. The sexism is pretty overt, too, and we don’t talk enough about how sexism played a dominantly outsized role in this Presidential election.

SH: The misogyny against Hillary Clinton.

GN: Significantly so. “She doesn’t look the part” [of a President], very overt statements that played a huge role.

SH: Terrible.

GN: In ways that are much more, I would argue, than what we’ve dominantly focused on, which is racism.

SH: Do you care at this time to come out with the things you’ll do in your first 100 days as Governor?

GN: [big laugh] Ha ha! It is important to repeal and replace! What executive orders can I undo of Jerry Brown? [laughs]. But that’s getting ahead on my skis! Not even close to thinking about that. Actually, I am Acting Governor [Brown was out of California that day] so I can begin today!

SH: Kamala [Harris] got huge play when she was elected [Senator], with the predictable chatter about Presidential timber. On the other hand, a young, attractive, Democratic Governor of California will automatically—

GN: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure [former L.A. Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa [California Treasurer] and John Chiang, all of us— [EDITOR’s NOTE: Newsom refers to other potential or actual Democratic candidates for Governor next year]. I think—

SH: You don’t think about it [being President]?

GN: No. And I’m dead serious about it, I do not. I really don’t. I would say something differently, if I did think about it. But I honestly don’t. I’ve been to Iowa for Hillary Clinton, stumping. I’ve been on the road and not seen my [4] kids. I’ve been on the red-eyes and barely didn’t even know where I was on some of those morning shows. It’s not a life. I can’t connect that with any aspiration. It’s not in my cards.

SH: Why are you a politician?

GN: I mean, it’s one of the reasons I didn’t run for U.S. Senator.

SH: That was a deal with Kamala.

GN: It wasn’t a deal with Kamala. And, by the way, perhaps it could have been; it wasn’t. We could have had that conversation; we never had that conversation. The reason I didn’t even lean into that was, I’ve got kids. I don’t want to screw that up. I don’t want to regret having kids in rehab, and hearing what a horrible human being I was in ten years. And I want to make sure I have a relationship with them that thrives, and Washington, D.C. is not the place to do that.

SH: And Sacramento is?

GN: Sacramento is a day trip, it’s back and forth from all over the state.

SH: So if your political life were to end, would you be happy being a businessman again?

GN: Yeah.

SH: Is that what you would be—a businessman?

GN: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what I would do.

SH: Go back to PlumpJack?

GN: No, I wouldn’t go back to PlumpJack, though it keeps growing. We just did four new businesses. You know, we’re going to win [in 2018]. I want to win. So I don’t think about a backup plan. But the good news is, I have the privilege of being myself in this campaign. I’m going to run a campaign I won’t regret, and what that means is, if I lose, I won’t regret the process, because that’s because I’ll say what I think and be the person I am, privately, publicly, and if that doesn’t meet the moment, I’ll have no issues with that, and I’ll have a wonderful life outside of politics. Whereas a lot of folks in politics desperately need it, their identity is tied to it, and there’s no real life outside of it—they may be a little more hesitant, more reticent, less willing to say what they think. And that’s not me. If I had a billion dollars, I’d buy a winery and build a restaurant [which Newsom already has done through PlumpJack]. So I’m blessed beyond words.

SH: Well, Governor Newsom, I think we’re done, unless there’s anything else you’d care to add.

GN: [laughs] I think we got it!

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