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California Recall: Democrats won by invoking Trump

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He was not present in the vote, but ex-President Donald Trump lost the Republicans’ hopes of recalling California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom.

The result signals bad luck for the GOP in the state elections coming this year in Virginia and New Jersey. It may also indicate how the Democrats can still survive the 2022 center, which even the most optimistic party loyalists expect will be very difficult. A toxic Trump could give Democrats an unlikely CPR lesson. And perhaps the outcome may warn ambitious Republicans that perhaps only Trump himself can rock the MAGA hat with any confidence in success.

A small but very vocal group of Republicans in California had hoped to start Newsom out of power before his current term ends in early 2023. Newsom’s leadership through COVID-19 led to his vulnerability, and Republicans had hoped to make the country’s most populous state. an early referendum on Democrats’ aggressive policies to mask, vaccinate and regulate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Newsom own fluffs – especially ignores his own mask mandate at the elegant restaurant Napa, the French laundry – did not help much in what should have been an easy recovery of the GOP ambition. Like New York Times’ LA-based restaurant critics put it, there is a meal “Like macaroni and cheese served in a giant golden egg.”

In the end, however, the Democrats in the deep blue state delivered a dodge for Newsom. During the 2020 presidential campaign, only The districts of Columbia, Massachusetts and Vermont may require stronger democratic support than California, a state that sends 42 Democrats and 11 Republicans to the House of Representatives. The initial fears of complacency among Democrats eventually subsided. And pure math made it impossible for Republicans to win in a state that has not elected one Republican to the state office since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Poizner in 2006.

That is not to say that Newsom ran a fantastic campaign. Here in DC, it was early on that Newsom did not take the recall seriously. Even his defenders were quick to remind him that the then government. Gray Davis similarly assumed in 2003 that the state’s liberal tone was strong enough to reject a recall, resulting in Schwarzenegger becoming the state’s 38th governor. Newsom’s allies spent at least $ 36 million to help him survive – money that no donor had expected to need when the year began and is now unavailable for attempts to hold the governorship of Pennsylvania and Kansas – or to compete in Arizona, New Hampshire, Florida or Wisconsin. After all, donors are not renewable resources.

The Democrats eventually won in California by acknowledging a truth that many activists in the old Republican Party have spent years denying: Trump and the GOP are the same brand nowadays. The man who identifies himself as “the 45th President of the United States ”- and never former or ex-Commander-in-Chief – has an iron grip on the Republican Party at the moment. He’s done the GOP in his picture – so much so that the CNN poll released This week, 59% of Republicans show that supporting the completely wrong idea that Trump is the rightful president is central to what it means to be a Republican. In other words, like CNN’s Chris Cillizza observes, which supports The Big Lie, is central to the GOP’s political identity.

And there were already signs that Republicans were also prepared to replicate Trump’s fragile losing mentality. Larry Elder, a talk radio host and the leading candidate in the recall, even started blame election fraud before the first votes were presented on Tuesday night. It seemed that Trump refused to accept the results of the 2020 campaign that made him a one-term. The Big Lie sparked a failed uprising at the US Capitol on January 6, and that belief will bring protesters back to Washington this weekend for its potential. continuation. There is no telling what the results will be in Sacramento, where Newsom and a Democratic lawmaker will continue their work even after Elders concession.

While Democrats are grinding their teeth at the Republicans’ continued efforts to undermine faith in legitimate elections, they can find some consolation in this fact: Trump continues to be a disqualifying figure in the election. In California, Democrats branded elders as Trump’s heirs, and elders took on the luster of extremism. Democrats are doing the same in other states right now and laying the groundwork to deploy the strategy toward more Republicans next year. Trumpist candidates may have Trump’s imprimatur – he certainly supports many of them – but no one is as talented as the carnival basement itself. It’s one thing to wear the red MAGA hat, but it’s another to know how it was made. In California, elders knew how to order it, but he did not know how to wear it. If the Democrats run this game book again, there will be a lot of Republican candidates on the ballots next year wearing MAGA hats without fully understanding the stench it brings.

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com.

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