We often say about Democrats, “All they had to do was not be crazy.” Even though the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom has gained traction over the last month, organizers are still lacking about 500,000 signatures before a mid-March deadline, and Newsom still (publicly) enjoys decent job approval ratings. Why would California Democratic Party officials suddenly call a press conference labeled “Defend Against the California Coup,” complete with its own hashtag?
Veteran Politico California writer Jeremy White says it best:
This press conference does not happen unless @GavinNewsom is seriously worried about the recall effort
— Jeremy B. White (@JeremyBWhite) January 12, 2021
And it happened, all right.
Kicked off by Communications Director Shery Yang (she/her/hers), the shameful messaging ploy was introduced right away:
“We have multiple Democratic leaders who are here to discuss the attack that took place last week in our US Capitol and how some of these very same people who incited this violence on our democracy are also leading a California coup disguised as a recall effort.”
Chair Rusty Hicks continued that theme, slamming Donald Trump and making their strategy – which was likely sketched out on cocktail napkins the night before – very clear. “Hey guys, let’s say Donald Trump, insurrection, riot, coup, Proud Boys, Republicans, and they all want to recall Gavin Newsom! That’ll do it!” Hicks said:
“I’m here today as the Chair of the California Democratic Party to condemn Donald Trump and California Republicans who encouraged the attacks on our US Constitution in the very seat of our democracy….
“Some of the same individuals and groups who were encouraged by California Republican leaders and attacked the People’s House are also engaged in the recall effort against Governor Gavin Newsom right here in California.
“This recall effort, which really ought to be called the California Coup, is being led by right wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, anti-vaxxers, and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions.”
Ahh, California Coup. It’s disgusting and cheap to liken a legitimate recall effort which follows all of the prescribed laws, with violence within our nation’s Capitol and is insulting to the families of those who lost their lives.
It’s a false equivalence that trivializes what happened at the Capitol. I absolutely believe the recall is being misused here but to call a political process a coup after the violence of last week just does not sit well with me.
— Tracy (@tailtrekker) January 12, 2021
Hicks then called upon Californians to “denounce the efforts of the state and national Republican party, recall supporters, and their allies, Proud Boys and other extremist groups, and their financial backers.”
First, where is the evidence that the Proud Boys and “other extremist groups” are recall supporters? Where is the specific listing of organizations and links to how they are connected? It’s probably news to this Californian:
I am not a conservative, and I *proudly* signed the petition to #RecallGavinNewsom in a grocery store parking lot. @GavinNewsom‘s recall is a lawful process. Shame on you, @CA_Dem, for conflating lawful democracy with violence. https://t.co/9CS4l2vPbD
— Max Harris (@maxharris9) January 12, 2021
As a Democrat, this is embarrassing. How can you compare a terrorist attack on the US with a totally legal procedure to remove @GavinNewsom? California survived the Gray Davis recall. No one died. If Trump had been impeached, we wouldn’t have had the insurrection. Laws matter.
— Stephen Randall (@MrMisocainea) January 12, 2021
Second, is this a blatant call for cancel culture? Like, “Hello, financial institutions, can you close the accounts of these people?”
Hicks said that voters are entitled to know who’s behind the effort and what their true intentions are. Well, if this press conference was to link recall organizers to what happened on January 6th, doesn’t the California Democratic Party already know that? If they have that information, they should spill it.
Newly-elected San Diego Mayor (and former Assemblyman) Todd Gloria then said he was on the call to “stand up against fear, hate, racism, and the last four years of chaos…” and that he was there to “draw a straight line” between the chaos at the Capitol “to the current events here in California.”
But Mayor Gloria never drew that straight line. He also harped on the talking point that the constitutionally-permitted recall was really an attempt to overturn an election. California voters have done a lot of stupid things – a lot – but they all know that recalls are legal and allowable. Good luck selling that, Todd.
Assemblyman David Chiu and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia got in on the action, also characterizing the people behind the recall as racist, insurrectionist Donald Trump supporters.
Then former Republican Assemblyman, now Democrat San Diego County Commissioner Nathan Fletcher took over:
“It really is unfortunate that we have to come together to denounce acts of terrorism against our own country…Trump and Trumpism pose an existential threat to our peaceful democracy, and so I’m joining fellow Democrats today as we take a stand against right-wing militia groups, against the Proud Boys, white nationalists, and everyone who is encouraging violence on our democracy.
“But these same extremists, these same Trump-inspired conspiracy theorists, are now seeking to undermine our democracy in California. They’re involved in recall elections against our governor, Gavin Newsom. The recall efforts led by pro-Trump extremists seek to undermine the democratic process across our state.
“There is substantial evidence that those who are leading this recall effort are linked and associated with neo-Nazi, with white supremacists, with right-wing militia groups, and we cannot stand for this here either.
When asked to provide such evidence, Fletcher and Hicks hemmed and hawed.
Fletcher then aimed his fire against a long-time political foe, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who seeks to replace Newsom in a potential recall. First, though, Fletcher really brown-nosed Newsom – who is reportedly considering appointing Fletcher’s wife (Asm. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher) as the state’s next Attorney General, to replace Xavier Becerra.
“If you contrast that with Kevin Faulconer, who half-assed his way through his term in office, setting low expectations, cutting them in half, and then delaying it for his successor, you have a clear contrast in leadership.”
One wonders how Fletcher would contrast the leadership of former Mayor Bob Filner, heartily supported by Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher and her allies at the San Diego Labor Council, who became San Diego’s first Democrat mayor in 2012 but whose term was cut short when he was forced to resign amid multiple sexual harassment calls and eventually pled guilty to false imprisonment, with that of Faulconer?
It’s worth noting that both Fletchers habitually label anyone who opposes their policies (such as AB-5, the anti-contracting law) as anti-vaxxers, racists, or white nationalists. In addition, over the last two years they took Todd Gloria – a star participant in the press conference – under their wing as he was preparing to leave the California Assembly and run for Mayor of San Diego. Asm. Chiu has co-authored numerous pieces of legislation with Gonzalez-Fletcher and is a key ally. Fletcher’s current campaign manager/political director, Heidi Martinez, is currently Rusty Hicks’ campaign manager in his bid to be re-elected California Democratic Party chair.
Are we sensing all of the connections? Were the Fletchers really behind this call?
Whether they were or not, it’s clear that Newsom’s people went along with it. Jason Elliott bills himself as a Senior Counselor to Gavin Newsom.
The red MAGA hat must now be placed next to the disgraced iconography of other failed, hateful ideologies.
The Confederate Flag
The Nazi Swastika
The ISIS Black Flag
And now, the red MAGA cap
They all stand for bigotry and violence. They cannot be normalized.
— Jason Elliott (@Jason_Elliott) January 12, 2021
California’s political reporters pushed back and were essentially unanimous in pointing out that unlike an actual coup or an attempt to overturn a free and fair election, a recall is specifically provided for in California’s constitution, and that California Democratic Party officials were making strong allegations of recall supporters/organizers of instigating an insurrection with no proof.
“A coup is usually defined as a violent effort to overthrow a legitimately-elected and legitimately-installed government.” https://t.co/OVxAi97tSS
— Chris Nichols (@ChrisTheJourno) January 13, 2021
.@EmilyValdezKNX: How do you know the Proud Boys are behind the recall effort?@rustyhicks: “We can certainly follow up with you and try to provide you with some specifics…It is very clear that the actions that they have taken in California is in furtherance of this effort.”
— Ben Christopher (@FromBenC) January 12, 2021
Needless to say, pretty intense allegations. The type of allegations for which my editor would want strong evidence before publishing
— Jeremy B. White (@JeremyBWhite) January 13, 2021
As Flash Report’s Jon Fleischman tweeted, this tactic from California Democrats is telling.
It’s extremely telling that @GavinNewsom wants this recall to be about who is trying to recall him, rather than simply defending his own record. Wonder what his private polling shows, that would cause him to want to deflect from his record, rather than run on it? 🤔
— Jon Fleischman (@FlashReport) January 12, 2021
And, it didn’t work. By the evening, it was being reported that no evidence of a “coup” had been presented post-call by organizers.
I think it’s safe to say this strategy backfired? So far we’ve been given no evidence to back up the claim that the @GavinNewsom recall efforts are part of “a coup” (as state Dems so blatantly said today)https://t.co/Sm36eLQXXd
— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) January 13, 2021
It was so terrible that independent journalist Yashar Ali, who was Newsom’s deputy Chief of Staff when Newsom was San Francisco Mayor, opened his Twitter DM’s in an attempt to find out who came up with the talking point – even tagging Rusty Hicks in his tweet.
It’s absolutely insane to frame a recall where the voters go to the polls a coup.
That implies that the California elections don’t have integrity.
If you know who came up with this talking point, my DMs are open and you’re anonymity will be protected.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) January 12, 2021
A Democratic campaign operative told Politico that:
[T]he press conference “was most likely deeply damaging” both to Newsom and Democratic party efforts to stall the recall, which has gained traction, national attention and major donors in recent weeks.
In making their claims, Democratic Party officials strayed from the original game plan to tie the recall to the rioters, undercut its appeal and “scare white glove money off from funding it,” the veteran Democrat said. “They did the absolute opposite… they put it out there with no proof.”
Amazingly, this complete self-own is available for free on the internets.
— California Democratic Party (@CA_Dem) January 12, 2021