What a fascinating glimpse into the newsroom of one of the most influential papers in America.
The L.A. Times is running out of ideas and time is running out.
A deadline is fast approaching, something must be done, and people are counting on the L.A. Times to do its job.
Just what is that job, anyway?
Is it reporting the news? Selling newspapers? Getting Democratic Party politicians elected to public office- and keeping them there?
Because the deadline which is fast approaching is not a press deadline, it is the Gov. Gavin Newsom recall vote. Newsom is in real trouble, by the look of it, and if someone doesn’t do something- sooner rather than later- his political career might not survive.
And the L.A. Times, bless it, in its eagerness to help Newsom, may be doing more harm than good.
The first sign of something amiss was the Times’ initial coverage of the Larry Elder campaign, back when it was still in its fledgling state, still under threat of derailment by Newsom allies via legal challenge. Republican candidate Larry Elder won that challenge.
He also appears to have prevailed in a subsequent challenge after personal allegations were levied against him. After investigating, authorities in California announced Friday they would not pursue charges against Elder based on those allegations- though the L.A. Times was able to paint Larry Elder as a dangerous Black man who once loaded a firearm in the presence of a former girlfriend first.
There is another investigation pending, this one into Elder’s financial disclosures, but it doesn’t appear to amount to anything either.
Casting conservative radio personality Larry Elder, now probably Newsom’s biggest challenger in the race, as the “next Donald Trump” and “more dangerous than Trump,” likely seemed the obvious and safe bet.
When stories like that failed to move the needle in Newsom’s favor, the L.A. Times went further.
Fear might work better than loathing for Donald Trump.
But casting Elder as a once-in-a-lifetime threat to democracy, California, the entire nation, the constitution, the rule of law, the American way of life, abortion access, and the very life of every Californian, and possibly every person on Earth, didn’t really work either.
Democrats, astute observers noted, enjoy a supermajority in the California state government. Having a Republican Governor presiding over the executive branch for a few months would certainly give Democratic lawmakers in California a terrible headache. How much damage such a governor could do before voters had a chance to replace them in November is debatable.
Still, the L.A. Times went further. Since neither earthquakes nor wildfires frighten Californians more than white supremacy, invoking that specter was the next obvious choice.
That is, it would be for Democratic Party strategists who have been beta testing, testing, retesting, focus grouping, and polling what drives Democratic voters berserk enough to drive them to the polls en masse.
Which, of course, is exactly what needs to happen for Newsom.
California is only about 24% Republican. That Gavin Newsom should be in such danger of defeat should have given party strategists a pause to ask why.
But it didn’t.
“Larry Elder is the Black Face of White Supremacy,” opined the L.A. Times next; “You’ve been warned.”
Except a funny thing happened on the way to saving Gavin Newsom’s bacon. That article, perhaps even more than the previous one calling Larry Elder “the Black David Duke,” did nothing to help Gavin Newsom and everything to help…Larry Elder.
Thanks to that headline Larry Elder got a chance to call Gavin Newsom, “a guy born on third base who thought he hit a triple.”
“His father was a tax attorney for the Getty Oil people,” Elder reminded Californians. “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.”
In addition to reminding Californians that Larry Elder happens to be an African-American man from South Central L.A.- Compton, to be exact- who’s father cleaned toilets for a living before opening a small cafe, the L.A. Times inadvertently reminded voters that Gavin Newsom is not.
Since the tack of painting California’s first Black Governor, if elected, as a white supremacist failed so dismally, the L.A. Times seems at last to be out of ideas.
They have resorted to empathizing with voters’ frustration with Newsom.
They have also taken to interviewing- and actually asking- a lifelong Democrat and prominent party leader, former State Senator Gloria Romero, why she is not only supporting Elder, but cutting campaign commercials to encourage other Democrats to do the same.
She isn’t just any Democrat breaking rank in California, either. She has broken rank with party leadership before.
She was one of the very first Democrats in California to organize in support of Barack Obama pre-2008. Back then, Obama was just a wrench in the Clinton Machine and a thorn in the side of its Heir Apparent. To support Obama over Hillary Clinton in those days carried enormous political risk.
Romero’s priorities remain unchanged; probably because she is an outspoken advocate for school choice and the shameful outcomes for minority students in the California public school system have not changed, either.
But even in interviewing Romero, the L.A. Times revealed an inexplicable unwillingness to allow Democratic politicians like Gavin Newsom to be held to account for failures in office.
Romero, a lifelong Democrat and truth to power speaker, did not want to back Elder, a Republican. She admitted in the interview that she had really wanted another Democrat, someone who would do a better job managing California than Gavin Newsom.
Only she didn’t get it.
“I don’t understand why a viable Democratic candidate was not put forward for the recall ballot’s Question 2, which asks voters to pick a successor should Newsom lose,” mused the L.A. Times in the article.
Doesn’t the L.A. Times have journalists? Or researchers? Or google?
Anyone with five minutes to spare can find out easily why no other prominent Democrats are appearing on Ballot Question Two; “Who do you want to replace Gavin Newsom?”
The answer is quite simple: Newsom wouldn’t allow it. He thought another Democrat running a backup campaign wouldn’t improve his likelihood of retaining office. He was right, but this strategy isn’t likely to endear Newsom to voters. Which might be why the L.A. Times left it out.
Newsom should have put Californians first; and so should the L.A. Times.
The L.A. Times, its editors, writers and owners, obviously think electing Democrats in California is the best thing for the paper, the state and all Californians concerned. That’s fine; perhaps they are right.
Thinking so is a fine quality, and laudable. Perhaps L.A. Times writers and editors would be better suited for other work, however. They should at last embrace the truth, and proudly market themselves as the Democratic Party strategists they have always known themselves to be.
Because in trying to do both- report the news and help elect Democrats- the L.A. Times doesn't seem to be doing well at either.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)