Though it was a foregone conclusion that he would keep his seat in office, the recent gubernatorial recall election of Gov. Gavin Newson was pointless for multiple reasons. The state wasted taxpayer dollars on an attempted power grab, but unlike the last recall election in 2003, which successfully ousted incumbent Gov. Gray Davis, Republicans were unable to turn California red. Additionally, the recall election encapsulated the current state of American politics as our penchant for culture wars allowed political figures like Larry Elder to step onto the scene and sow Trump-like seeds of political discontent.
While he no longer holds office, the ways in which Donald Trump overhauled the Republican party are still being felt in state politics. Since Trump lost his presidency, the GOP has played into the idea of rigged elections, a sentiment that undermines the democratic process which is supposed to set this country apart from every other nation in the world. In other words, elections only count when the GOP gets its way. Even before the 2020 presidential election votes were certified, Trump planted mistrust among his supporters by spewing unfounded claims of a rigged election. Candidates such as Republican frontrunner Elder tried emulating these tactics. Long before the recall, Elder came prepared with a team of lawyers and a voter fraud website that would supposedly prove that Democrats were continuing to steal elections. Regardless of their political affiliation, party members cannot cry foul when their candidate does not win.
The recall election takes on another level of absurdity when accounting for the approximate $300 million California spent on the recall election, an amount reported by the Los Angeles Times. This money could have been distributed back to communities that suffer from lack of housing, little access to healthcare, and jobs that do not pay enough, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues ravaging the lower class.
Some Californians tried to justify recalling Newsom by pointing to his own inactions toward the pandemic — he had been reckless in his personal decision of evading his own state public orders and spent a lavish night with wealthy donors as opposed to implementing real action that would exacerbate the spread of the virus in California. However, Republicans cannot claim that our current leader is not doing anything to contain the virus when their platform routinely downplays the effects of the pandemic.
To make sure an election like this never happens again, Californians have to show up for themselves and, more importantly, for each other. The thought of California turning red seems far-fetched, but the state was not always a democratic safe haven. To keep California blue, we must vote with the urgency that all of this could be taken away at any moment. It is not enough to count on others to do work for us, especially when they often come from already disenfranchised communities.
Secondly, the state itself needs to examine its political practices. While California was one of the earliest states to modernize government by establishing the recall election, we now see it is far too easy to go through the process and instigate a recall. 19 states allow recall elections and specific grounds for recall are required in eight of these states. California needs to adopt a more concrete plan for what is grounds for recall as failure to do so will lead to an abuse of the system. This is why California voters must not become complacent but stay in tune with the ways in which they can change or sustain the systems that govern us.