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A conversation with Gavin Newson: Part 3



[In the previous post, Lieutenant-Governor Newsom was explaining his opposition to Cal-Exit.]

GN: I remember being very critical, and a lot of these people who are supporting Cal-Exit were also critical, of [Texas Governor] Rick Perry when he was talking about Texas seceding.

SH: Actually, I think their attitude was, “Fine, go. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

GN: Right. It is the irony now, we’re all talking about Federalism and celebrating the Tenth Amendment when it was almost exclusively Republicans. We’re now talking about Progressive Federalism. That’s the new term.

SH: And yet, California does seem to be taking the position—with the super-majorities, and a Democratic governor, and clearly, another Democratic governor next time—

GN: — Yes, most likely.

SH: We’re taking the position, we’re going to be the loyal opposition. This thing with [Eric] Holder is very interesting. [Editor’s note: the California Legislature announced on Jan. 4 it was hiring former U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder, a Democrat, to represent them in any legal fights against the new Republican White House.]

GN: Yeah [but] I think a bit undermining to the current [California] Attorney-General. [Editor’s note: On Dec. 1, California Governor Jerry Brown chose Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra to be Attorney-General, replacing Kamala Harris, who was elected California’s Senator.] I think we have a very competent and good Attorney-General so, I don’t know, it seems a little redundant. I like Holder; I just thought it was curious.

SH: It’s a statement.

GN: Yeah, it was. I just sort of…I don’t want to say it was unnecessary, I mean, it’s nice to have his insight. He’s important.

SH: That was a Legislative move—

GN: Yeah, the Legislature, independent of the Governor and the executive branch, and certainly independent of the Attorney-General.

SH: So you didn’t know anything about it?

GN: No one did. Nor did the incoming Attorney-General, whose entire purpose in the appointment was to promote a similar kind of strategy. Anyway, there’s a back story I’m still—we’re all trying to figure out. This is 36 hours into that announcement. There’s a lot more to that, is my point.

SH: You’re ahead in fund-raising [for the 2018 gubernatorial election]. You’re ahead in the polls for 2018.

GN: Yeah. So was Hillary Clinton.

SH: I was gonna say! That was the point of my question.

GN: So we can’t take anything for granted!

SH: Still, assuming you’ll be sworn in, and Trump is still in office, and this contest is heating up—

GN: It’s interesting. How out-sized will Trump and trumpism be in this gubernatorial election? I don’t know yet. Right now, it seems significantly outsized. But one thing I know we all could agree with Trump is the unpredictability [factor]. I mean, we don’t know. So what seems self-evident today may seem like a distant memory a year or two from now. Who knows? You know, we could find out that Trump did nothing more on immigration than Barack Obama did in his first term, which was tighten the screws and go back to what Obama began with, which was, quote-unquote, “secure communities,” which he inherited from George W. Bush, which then labeled Barack Obama as “the deporter-in-chief.” And Trump just markets and brands himself a little differently to appear more tough than Obama was, when, in fact, Obama was arguably even tougher than Trump may turn out to be. Who knows? I hope that’s the case. He may pull away from going after the Dreamers because of the political toxicity of that. He may find he’s got more in line with rural and agricultural interests, so he won’t touch seasonality. On border issues, he may build 20 miles of new fencing and then say, “See, we did more than any administration in 50 years” and call that a wall. Again, his ability to spin is extraordinary. That’s his skill set. So that may happen. It may not. And I’m fearful it may not. So it may become a dim memory; this domestic Trump may become a foreign policy Trump. But I’m more concerned, in the next three weeks, Jan. 21, by other explosions. Now, all of a sudden, we’re embroiled in the Middle East in a new war [Syria]. That’s what I fear: all of a sudden, the domestic agenda becomes a foreign agenda. Or, God forbid, you’ve got Kim Jong-un in North Korea says something, and triggers a tweet, and the tweet triggers an action, and all of a sudden—

SH: Kim announced [Jan. 2] they’re about to launch an ICBM, but Trump tweeted “It’s not going to happen.”

GN: Yeah. Of course, we all say “It’s not going to happen.” Five administrations have said that’s not going to happen. Yet it’s happening. So I don’t know what he intends to do about it differently.

SH: So will you reassure California voters that, when you take the oath of office, you will—

GN: Build an iron dome so we’re not the target?

SH: No, not that. That you will sign onto the anti-Trump campaign. You will lead the anti-Trump campaign.

GN: Well, one thing I’m not accused of is being timid. My worst critics would acknowledge that timidity is not a strong suit of mine. It’s just in my dna to step out and take—

SH: –say to ICE, “Protect the Dreamers. Keep out of our schools and hospitals.”

GN: I think my record is pretty crystal clear when it comes to those things, and sanctuary [city] policy that I promoted, not just extended, as Mayor. Those are things that I will pursue, absolutely, unquestionably. Lead, not secede.

SH: There are two different attitudes with respect to how Democrats deal with Trump. One is to resist. Hashtag NotMyPresident, so on and so forth. And the other one—

GN: Yeah. I don’t like that.

SH: Why not?

GN: “Not My President.” Because we unanimously criticized the Republican Party for saying Obama was not their President.

SH: They started it!

GN: Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make it right. That sounds like my kids. It’s like, grow up. I just don’t like the petulance. Just because they started it? I mean, act as you expect others to act. Be mature. Be adults. You don’t have to go into the mud.

SH: Are some of us just itching for a fight?

GN: No, some of us are frankly immature. That’s all that is. That’s just immaturity. I would expect more of my kids. And I expect more of adults. And in that context, as an American citizen, I wish Trump success. I certainly do. Absolutely. If he’s successful, and is inclusive, then we’re all better off.

SH: If he’s successful, then we have Republican Presidents for the next 20 years.

GN: Well, look. I am an American first, a partisan second. I want this country to thrive, not survive. I want all of us to do well.

SH: Okay, well, you know, the comparisons with Nazi Germany are being made, and I think appropriately so. Which leads to this question, if this were 1932-1933, would you say to your kids, “You know, the guy [Hitler] got elected legally, so let’s respect that and cooperate with him.” Or do you go underground into a resistance? In which case, History would have rewarded you.


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