Throughout United States History, only two governors have ever been successfully recalled during their tenures. In 1921, Governor Lynn J. Frazier (R) was recalled in North Dakota. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis (D) was successfully recalled in California. While few know of the 1921 recall, many across the nation are familiar with the history surrounding Governor Gray Davis. Not only because of its recency, but Davis’ recall was replaced by the celebrity Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year, a century after the first gubernatorial recall in US history, amid a crippling pandemic, economic hardship, high unemployment, rising crime, a homelessness epidemic, an unemployment department wrought with fraud and some extremely embarrassing scandals that personify hypocrisy, Gov. Gavin Newsom is now facing recall in what can only being described as a populist comeuppance.
This year’s recall is joined by two prominent celebrity Republicans.
Transgender Republican and former Olympic Decathlon winner Caitlyn Jenner entered the recall race in April of 2021 with perhaps the best campaign commercial in recent history. In this video, Caitlyn’s campaign did a phenomenal job of highlighting the problems plaguing California residents and boldly captured the sentiment behind why Gavin finds himself in the hot seat, framing herself as a “Compassionate Disruptor.”
Within days, Fox News host Sean Hannity sat down with Caitlyn for an exclusive interview in a townhall style conversation. “I love this state… I’ve watched it crumble before my eyes,” Jenner said. “You’ve got to stand up… California is worth fighting for and that’s what I’m doing.” While Caitlyn’s initial rise to stardom was done as Bruce before the transition, the celebrity stardom was propelled to new heights by the rise of Kris Jenner and Keeping Up with the Kardashians as well as Caitlyn’s transition in her show “I am Cait.” Caitlyn’s speech at the 2015 ESPY awards, in which she was presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, is the iconic moment of her life post-Bruce.
However, Jenner’s campaign has been losing steam as more traditional conservative voices have risen to oppose the notion of having a transgender candidate with a libertine spirit running as a Republican. While commentators like Glenn Beck have been relatively warm on the idea of Governor Jenner, The Daily Wire is almost universally against the idea with commentator Michael Knowles being the most outspoken opponent. Jenner’s departure from the United States to Australia to film Celebrity Big Brother is also not sitting well with voters. A recent poll has her receiving 4% of the vote.
There is another celebrity making waves in the recall race – Conservative radio host, historian and columnist Larry Elder. Taking a different approach, Larry more or less dropped the news, went on the media and podcast tour and gained support seemingly overnight. While Democrat opposition attempted to foil his plan before it took off, trying to get Larry’s name removed from the ballot citing incomplete paperwork, Larry sued and won, embarrassing the opposition and making him an even bigger target which has only enhanced his popularity. Larry will be on the official ballot come September 14th.
In the same poll referenced above, Elder blew the competition out of the water, receiving 16% of the straw poll, beating out every rival by double digits. This should come to no surprise to anyone paying attention to California politics over the past thirty years. Elder is known by most as “The Sage of South Central.” He knows his history, can carpet bomb any debate with facts and has a stage presence the other candidates (except Caitlyn Jenner) seem to lack.
More than a sage, Elder is an icon for conservatives and disaffected Democrats. This man has red-pilled more on-the-fence progressives than anyone currently within the upper echelon of conservative polity. Through his nationally syndicated radio shows, stemming from 1993-2008 and again in 2010-2014, his regular column, as well as his constant appearances on Fox and other conservative outlets, Larry has made quite the name for himself. His highly informative and humorous Instagram videos donning his plush white robe as he smiles wide into the camera have also been seen by millions.
One of the most profound moments was Elder’s “red-pilling” of former Young Turk, Dave Rubin. At the time, Rubin took the typical Democrat approach and commented that the country was systemically racist. Elder, without skipping a beat, corrected Rubin’s misinformed history, embarrassing the YouTuber and set Dave on a different path of political understanding. Rubin, the author of Don’t Burn this Book – Thinking for Yourself in the Age of Unreason speaks to this moment as one the main catalysts that made him leave the political Left. Rubin interviewed Larry again on July 21 about the recall race. While the full interview is only available on Rubin’s exclusive website locals.com, the video speaks to Larry’s immediate agenda if he were to win.
Larry has predictably been labeled by Democrats and others on the left with the racial slur “Uncle Tom.”. Even CNN’s Don Lemon used this term for Elder. Quite brilliantly, “Uncle Tom” is the title of one the films Elder stars in, a documentary that focuses on black conservatives throughout American history and the often-ignored racist history of the Democratic party, with its connection to slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, the permanent welfare state, and more.
The recall of 2021 is similar to that of 2003 in the sense that voters are upset about the way in which a Democrat is leading his state. It’s also similar in the sense that the official recall ballots each have celebrity star power vying for the opportunity to lead the nation’s largest state and one of the world’s largest economies. However, this time round the sentiment is far more bitter from the recall front and the stakes quite a bit larger. Governor Newsom’s approval has slipped below 50% for the first time since February, according to the new Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll. The rhetoric from both sides will surely turn malevolent as the Sept. 14 vote nears.
In the most expensive state in the nation, with the largest homeless population and a devastating wildfire problem that is becoming the norm rather than the exception, conservatives hope to take back a blue stronghold and change the direction of California politics. Candidates John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley, Doug Ose and Larry Elder (but not Caitlyn Jenner) will debate on stage on Aug. 4 at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. As this was the setting where Schwarzenegger leaped into the lead back in 2003, it appears that this recall effort will follow suit and the field may narrow following the event. If Gavin Newsom is recalled and Larry Elder wins, it will be the third time that a celebrity will win as a Republican in the Golden State (Ronald Reagan being the first). And it will etch this particular brand of Republicanism further into California’s gubernatorial history.