But it isn’t too late to start.

Governor Gavin Newsom Announces the California Fire X-Prize, for Autonomous Detection and Abatement. Just now at the Near Future Summit. Gavin welcomed Peter Diamandis on stage; the goal is to detect fires early and deploy drones to put them out. May 10, 2019. (photo: Steve Jurvetson)

Come what may on September 14, the 2021 recall of Governor Gavin Newsom has already been one for the record books.

Whether or not California voters retain or replace Newsom, that his Republican challenger Larry Elder has come within even a stone’s throw of the governor’s mansion is historic. And not just because Elder would, if elected, become California’s first African-American Governor.

California is only 24% Republican, which means Democratic and Independent voters in California must be very, very angry with their Governor for the recall to be this close.

How angry?

That might depend on any number of factors, not least of which is how concerned California voters are about COVID-19 proportionate to how much they’ve suffered, financially and otherwise, from COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Newsom is betting on the former- heavily. Thanks to Newsom, and his refusal to allow any other California Democrats to run a backup campaign in case he loses his reelection bid, the California Democratic Party is, too.

Since “Vote for me…or die,” is Newsom’s closing message in the race, he is obviously hoping fear of COVID-19 will motivate voters to keep their current leadership. The devil you know, after all, is said to be better than the devil you don’t.

Newsom, whatever his leadership flaws, is a known quantity.

Unfortunately, what he has become known for is higher taxes, higher crime, appalling public messaging around COVID-19, a worsening homelessness crisis, a mass exodus of businesses from the state, poor forestry management, and an energy crisis growing worse instead of better.

Newsom is presiding over a resource-rich state which is being so poorly managed as to be actually losing people for the first time since California started keeping records.

California is giving up a Congressional seat after the most recent census; and it probably should have given up two.

While mass media outlets in general, and the LA Times in particular, have done all they can to help Gavin Newsom, some of the tactics they have used have helped Newsom’s challenger instead.

Calling Larry Elder the “Black Face of White Supremacy” and the “Black David Duke” seemed to only help him in the polls. It reminded California voters, in case they didn’t know, that Elder happens to be a Black man from South Central Los Angeles who grew up in a working-class family. It also reminded them that Gavin Newsom is none of those things.

This line of attack in the press gave Larry Elder an opportunity to say all this:

“Newsom is a classic example of a guy born on third base who thought he hit a triple. He started his wine business with money from the Getty [oil company]. His father was a tax attorney for the Getty Oil people. I heard he drove a Porsche when he was in college, and this guy’s calling me the Black face of white supremacy? It’s a joke.”

“My father had two full-time jobs cleaning toilets when I was growing up,” Elder told interviewers. “He started a little cafe when I was ten years old. He worked until he was 80 years old and made it to the Middle Class, and I’m the face of white supremacy?”

What is really hurting Newsom in California is how much support he has lost from Latino voters. Which is unfortunate, because that is the voting group least likely to be convinced to vote based on invoking the specter of white supremacy.

Various Democratic Party groups, firms, and elected officials have been researching this very subject and presenting evidence for years now: Highlighting racial grievances does not resonate with a majority of Latino and Hispanic-American voters; highlighting the class struggle does.

“Democrats should call for Americans to unite against the strategic racism of powerful elites who stoke division and then run the country for their own benefit,” wrote Ian Haney López and Tory Gavito for the New York Times last September. “This is not to deny the reality of pervasive societal racism. But it does direct attention away from whites in general and toward the powerful elites who benefit from divide-and-conquer politics.”

“This is the race-class approach that one of us helped pioneer,” they continued. “It fuses issues of racial division and class inequality, and by doing so shifts the basic ‘us versus them’ story — the staple of most political messaging — away from ‘whites versus people of color’ to ‘us all against the powerful elites pushing division.’”

Guess who is highlighting the class struggle in California?

Who is pointing out that California public schools, for all their talk about social justice, have been failing kids- mainly minority kids- badly for decades?

Who is reminding Californians, and the country, that it costs an average of $800,000 to buy a house in California these days?

Larry Elder.

“Don’t paint me as some wild-eyed radical,” the New York Times quoted Mr. Elder as saying during a recent interview. “I’m running because of crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living and the outrageous decisions made during Covid that shut down the state.”

“Eighty percent of the kids getting an education in government schools in California are black and brown,” Elder said in a subsequent interview. “The lion’s share of them are Hispanics, and they are getting a lousy education and they know it. The worst teachers, the worst principles, the worst bureaucrats.”

Elder isn’t afraid to mention the rising rates of crime across California, either, noting that, “rising crime will disproportionately hurt black and brown people, the very people the left claim to care about.”

“The [average] price of a home in California just hit $800,000,” Elder continued. “That is 150% above the national average.”

“For all those reasons, Hispanic voters have had it,” Elder concluded. “The lion’s share of them- I think almost 70%- voted for Gavin Newsom just two years earlier. Now, the majority want him out.”

Is Elder right?

Recent polls have shown Newsom pulling ahead, but polls are barely worth the paper they aren’t printed on these days. The next ten days in California are going to be nail-biters, and anything could happen.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)