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The myth of the ‘moderate,’ ‘pro-business,’ ‘centrist’ Gavin Newsom

Will the real Gavin Newsom please stand up?

A recent Politico article tried painting California’s governor as a “moderate,” with reporter Jeremy White writing that “Newsom, despite the rhetoric, is pro-business and a centrist at heart, according to dozens of interviews with those who have followed his career and a review of his record.”

There’s a lot of revision of history there, but that’s to be expected as Newsom eyes the presidency (which he swears he isn’t).

Further complicating matters, the Dec. 30 article also refers to Newsom as “fiscally conservative,” “progressive,” “liberal” and “pro-business.”

Every actor in Hollywood dreams of that kind of range! Unfortunately, in real life it’s impossible to be all of those things at the same time. So which is it?

Government spending has steadily increased under his watch. The state is saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities.

Despite governing in a drought, he has not increased the state’s water-storage capacity, while squandering resources on a virtually worthless rail line from Merced to Bakersfield.

Newsom is not fiscally conservative.

He is also not a moderate. He doesn’t call himself one, didn’t campaign for governor as one and hasn’t governed as one.

Philosophically, he prefers “big, hairy, audacious goals” to anything moderate ,and ideologically he is not known for reaching across the aisle.

He does not court Republican support, he routinely blames his failures on Republicans, he picks ideological fights with Republican governors throughout the country and he has tried positioning himself as the leading defender of the Democratic Party.

The Politico article relies heavily on Newsom’s opposition to a 2022 ballot measure that would have taxed millionaires to fund environmental policies, writing he aligned himself “with Republicans rather than the California Democratic Party.”

Except Newsom didn’t align himself with Republicans; he aligned himself with the California Teachers Association, one of his biggest supporters, which opposed the measure because it didn’t also include funding for schools.

If the CTA had not opposed this measure, Newsom would have instead been cutting ads about how only this ballot measure could stop the existential crisis of climate change.

One of his allies told Politico that Newsom is “clearly not and never has been” a “tax-and-spend Democrat.”

Let’s see, he’s a Democrat, he’s sought to raise taxes, including supporting the failed split-roll initiative in 2020 that would have raised taxes by up to $11.5 billion per year and he’s proudly increased spending as governor. What do you call that?

Perhaps the strangest claim in the Politico story was that Newsom is pro-business. The article cites as evidence Newsom’s support for the tech industry (which largely supports him) and how he “antagonized organized labor” by temporarily opposing a bill supported by the United Farm Workers union before ultimately signing the bill into law.

Newsom also signed into law Assembly Bill 5, which was not only anti-business but also anti-worker and only served the interests of unions trying to stamp out competition from tech companies like Uber and Lyft.

He is currently trying to regulate the entire oil and gas industry out of business with everything from excessive taxes on profits to unrealistic setbacks, with a reckless disregard for the effect that would have on workers and consumers alike.

He just signed into law a bill that seized for the state the power to determine compensation, working environments and virtually every other aspect of the fast food industry (which is already highly regulated). That bill, Assembly Bill 257, would create a Fast Food Council made up of members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

And let’s not forget that not too long ago he ordered most businesses in California to stay closed for an indeterminate period of time, which ultimately led to the permanent closure of nearly a third of restaurants in the state.

These are immoderate policy positions. I’m not aware of him ever taking a laissez-faire attitude toward the market and seems to only promote business with heavy government intervention.

Sure, he sometimes arrives at the right decision, like vetoing a bill that would have established “safe injection” sites for drug users and supporting extending the operations of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. But as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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So then what is he?

He’s a politician in that he’s driven by lifelong ambitions for higher office and a fealty to his donors.

And he’s a progressive in his belief that he and a bunch of experts can solve society’s problems with more government control.

It’s not really complicated and there is no mystery.

So the smart question isn’t whether Newsom is a moderate, because he obviously is not. Instead we should be wondering why Team Newsom is trying to distance him from the progressive label.

Follow Matt Fleming on Twitter @FlemingWords

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