Gavin Newsom wants to be Donald Trump. Eight years ago, Trump took stock of the Republican Party and found it ripe for conquest.
Who could stand against him?
The Bush dynasty elected two presidents, yet both left office with the GOP in retreat. If Jeb Bush seemed the inevitable nominee for a few weeks or months in 2015, that was only a sign of how stagnant the party had become.
The GOP had nominated a series of second choices and losers: In 2000, Republicans rejected John McCain, only to turn to him eight years later; that year the party said no to Mitt Romney, then nominated him in 2012 for lack of a credible alternative.
Newsom is every bit as ambitious as Trump.
And when the California governor sizes up the Democrats, he perceives as much weakness as Trump sensed in yesteryear’s GOP.
Barack Obama won two terms — but left no heir.
His legacy fell instead to Hillary Clinton, the candidate Democrats had rejected in favor of Obama.
Her defeat by Trump in 2016 proved that Democratic voters had been right about her in 2008.
Now Joe Biden is president — but who is his heir?
The obvious candidate would be his vice president, but her fellow Democrats passed a damning judgment on her potential in the 2020 presidential primaries. She wasn’t viable then, in the year of racial reckoning. What would make her better now or in 2024?
Newsom, like Trump, is charismatic and telegenic.
He’s a showman who’s booked a national spotlight for himself on Nov. 30, when he’ll debate the governor who stakes the strongest claim to lead the Republican Party after Trump: Florida’s Ron DeSantis.
This almost-but-not-quite-presidential prize fight will take place on Fox News, enemy territory for Newsom.
Yet he can hardly lose: The debate crowns Newsom as leader of the Democratic Party in the states, the obvious counterpart to DeSantis and his Florida model of GOP power.
Republicans who tune in will naturally root for DeSantis, Democrats for Newsom.
But non-committed voters — as with television debates dating back to the 1960 showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy — may go for whoever is better looking and more personable.
Newsom thinks it will be no contest.
And he knows that no matter how well DeSantis performs on the merits, media other than Fox will favor the Democrat. Even Trump will have every incentive to declare Newsom the winner and his intraparty rival DeSantis the loser.
When Trump cast his eyes on the 2015 Republican Party, he saw not a coherent whole that could resist a hostile takeover but a fragmented coalition that could be picked off piece by piece by a master of transactional politics.
Newsom sees the same in today’s Democratic Party.
His appointment of Laphonza Butler to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Dianne Feinstein’s death shows just how strategically transactional the governor is. Butler is a black lesbian who has been at the forefront of Democrats’ efforts to liberalize abortion policy, through her leadership of Emily’s List, an abortion-rights PAC.
By placing her in the Senate, Newsom strengthens his identity-politics credentials should he, a white man, choose to challenge Kamala Harris, a Black woman, for the Democratic succession.
Newsom is looking ahead to 2028, but he also has his eye on next year, should Biden — who turns 81 next month — die or withdraw from the race. Who knows? With an ally like Butler, Newsom might even be prepared to dethrone Biden while the president yet lives and dreams of reelection.
Dianne Feinstein died at 90 after a prolonged decline, hanging onto office despite an inability to discharge its duties. If Biden is reelected, he will leave office at 86.
Does anyone — Democrat, Republican or otherwise — honestly believe that Biden at that age will be up to the demands of serving as president? With Biden at its helm, the Democratic Party is as moribund as the Republican Party was when Trump took it over.
The Democrats are there to be seized by anyone as cunning and daring as Trump.
Gavin Newsom thinks he’s that man. Unfortunately for him, Biden and Harris are not the only obstacles to his ambition.
A more serious roadblock for Newsom is his own state, whose population has fallen for three years in a row.
The Golden State has turned to lead, as fearsome regulations and stratospheric housing costs have demolished the middle class, while elite cities under Democratic maladministration have descended into criminal anarchy. Los Angeles and San Francisco are making new “Mad Max” movies every day.
Do Americans want the whole country to be like that?
Californians flee to Arizona, Texas and, yes, Florida — but where do Americans go if the nation becomes like Newsom’s failed state?
The Democratic Party needs regime change.
But, alas for Newsom, so does California.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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