Living in an alternative reality can be fun, but only until the delusion collides with the real world. West Coast Republicans should have learned that lesson from the failed attempt to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom but, chances are, they have not.
All across the country, the Republican Party has hitched its once-bright star to the crackpot conspiracy crowd. In fact in most states – perhaps less so in Washington, we hope – devotees of paranoid right-wing fantasies hold sway in party organizations and, increasingly, fill the ranks of candidates for office. In their version of reality, Hillary Clinton is part of an international child sex ring, Barack Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya and Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election.
Politically, the biggest myth that Republicans cling to is the notion that a majority of Americans want to enlist in their culture war against vaccines, abortion, gun control, voting rights, immigrants and all the rest. In some places, like the vast, sparsely populated regions of America, they are often right – places like the far northern counties of California and the Central Valley. But, in California and elsewhere, that is not where a majority of people live.
Conservative activists who have spent years locked in the bubble of talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart and the darker regions of the internet became convinced that a majority of Californians wanted to kick Newsom out of office. The weird two-step structure of the state’s recall system offered them a tempting opportunity since, at some point during a term of office, almost any politician’s popularity dips below 50%. Newsom had found ways to upset plenty of people, but Democrats were smart enough to keep any serious representative of their party off the second half of the ballot where voters would pick Newsom’s replacement. They focused their energy on making the most prominent GOP candidate, Donald Trump acolyte Larry Elder, the focus of the campaign.
Whatever gripes Californians may have had about Newsom, they were certainly not ready to put an acolyte of Trump in the governor’s chair, and so reality kicked in. By a margin of 64%, they voted against the recall; a landslide that has strengthened Newsom and humiliated his opponents.
The same civic math works in our state and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Oregon. Unless Republicans wake up and learn that moderation is a virtue, they will continue to be locked out of power on the West Coast.
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