Regardless of what you think of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policies, watching him, as I have for 20 years, shows a political pro at work. He will obviously run for president, possibly in 2024. But he might seek to avoid the potential Democratic wipeouts in 2022 and 2024, waiting until 2028 to run.
The trick for a serious candidate for president in either party is, first, to make the “base” happy, while eventually moving toward the middle to gather in moderates. As President Nixon once put it in his Republican context, “You can’t win without the conservative, but also you can’t win only with them.”
Like everyone, Newsom saw how Democrats lost Virginia last month. Their candidate, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gained the strong backing of the radical teachers unions. But he offended moderates, and even many liberal Democrats, by committing such offenses as saying parents shouldn’t have any say on their kids’ schooling.
Enter Newsom’s statement on abortion and guns. The issue involves a Texas law allowing private parties to sue to stop abortions. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow the law to stand, but will review it again later.
“I am outraged by yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Texas’ ban on most abortion services to remain in place,” Newsom said in a statement. “If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way.”
This brought a rejoinder from constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley in an op-ed on Fox News. “It won’t work,” he said. “Legally, that is. It will be hugely successful politically, but not without costs to the state and potential litigants.”
Turley thinks the Texas abortion law eventually will be declared unconstitutional and makes this comparison to Newsom’s gun proposal.
“Newsom limited the law to gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers, excluding a wider array of purchasers or ‘aiders and abetters.’ The Texas [abortion] law was so menacing because it exposed such a wide array of people to potential lawsuit. It would not be quite as popular to go after gun owners or gun rights groups. Yet, Newsom is targeting businesses that are going to be less intimidated by such litigation costs in a law that would be clearly unconstitutional.”
Actually, I think it would be “quite as unpopular” to go after guns. In the past 30 years, protecting the Second Amendment has been by far the most successful part of the conservative movement. As I have noted in my columns in The Epoch Times, the Supreme Court well could solidify gun rights with two cases this coming year, one involving California’s ban on magazines of more than 10 bullets. The other is a New York law severely limiting concealed carry.
Abortion also is on the court docket twice, first with the Texas law. Second is a Mississippi law banning abortions after the baby is 15 weeks old. Although we can’t know, it’s possible the court could reject the Texas law on the lines Turley suggests, that it’s overly restrictive and complicated, but approve the more straightforward Mississippi ban. As I’ve also pointed out before, this might be part of the court’s federalist tilt of returning more authority to the states.
It also should be kept in mind that any court decision will not affect California’s 2003 abortion law, which effectively affirmed abortion on demand.
Which brings us to guns in California. Newsom’s statement gained him national publicity, bringing the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party to his side. But the proposed law would have to be passed by the legislature. Democrats have supermajorities there, which is the key. They want to keep those supermajorities. If Republicans gain back more than one-third of the seats in either the Assembly or the Senate, or in both, then Democrats lose control over whether or not they can raise taxes. And moderate Democrats also could join with the one-third Republicans to thwart some of the more radical legislation.
Both Newsom and the leading Democrats in the Legislature know gun activists would be energized by such a proposed law, should it pass. So even if it is proposed, it won’t pass. Certainly not in the election year of 2022.
The biggest pro-gun, hunting states in the Union are Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—all swing states Donald Trump won in 2016 and Joe Biden won in 2020. You’ll notice Biden downplayed guns during his 2020 campaign and has pushed no new gun laws in 2021.
Finessing the gun issue in California keeps the road clear for Newsom for President when the time comes for him to go for the ring.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.