Recall election results are not surprising

The fear of complacency might have impacted pessimistic output by commentators.


Dante Harrold, Staff Writer

After much hype about the possibility of a close election Sept. 14 to decide whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, the democratic governor easily won by a margin that, at this point in time, looks better than his 2018 victory. The way many democratic political figures and liberal media outlets — including myself — have expressed opinions and reported on the election may have been overly apocalyptic. That can invoke a needlessly demotivating pessimism about the state of politics from those with more socially liberal and left-leaning views.

California is a state in which Democrats hold a majority of the voters — nearly half, with the remaining registered voters split between Republicans and independents. And in contrast to his recall-predecessor Gray Davis, who had an approval rating in the mid-twenties, Newsom was fairly popular with an approval rating in the fifties.

In the weeks before the election, most of the polls showed Newsom winning by double digits. The average polling score on RealClearPolitics for Newsom beating the recall was 14.5, the average score on FiveThirtyEight was 15.8. Some may point to the polling a month before the election that showed a tighter race as the reason why the level of concern was necessary.

But as Gov. Newsom’s lead expanded into the double digits, the panic — to which I’ll admit to having contributed to — did not dissipate. Even pollsters with a more conservative bias showed Newsom winning by nearly double digits.

Yet many liberals doubled down on their fear. Vice President Kamala Harris came to the state to campaign on behalf of Newsom, Former President Barack Obama still appeared in commercials with the goal of keeping Newsom in office.

In part, I believe this was done out of a better safe than sorry mentality.

A healthy dose of humility should always be present for a political figure or group seeking to get elected. I have no regrets about urging people to vote. But I do think that I — and many liberals — should have been more realistic in terms of the probabilities of the recall succeeding as Election Day approached instead of treating the worst possible outcomes as being the most likely. Of course, there was a chance Newsom wouldn’t beat the recall — and last month the polls showed a fairly good one. But you wouldn’t know it by how many liberals, democrats and media outlets talked about the event.

For example, one article by Edward Ting on SFgate carried the headline, “Should we trust the Gavin Newsom recall polls showing an easy win?” There’s an insinuation of the answer being no.

Ting focuses on two pollsters. “The first, from Survey USA and the San Diego Union-Tribune, shows 51% of respondents voting “no” on the recall ballot’s first question (Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled?), with 43% responding “yes” and 6% undecided. A separate poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) showed Newsom leading question one by an even wider 58% to 39% margin — a 19 percentage-point lead that appears seemingly insurmountable,” Ting wrote.

He did not address other pollsters who had a high rating from FiveThirtyEight predictions for the election. He didn’t give an acknowledgment on how scant polling on ballot measures is in comparison to highly-anticipated political races like the recall was.

I am not faulting the man for this since I too failed to make such an acknowledgment because I feared doing so would entice complacency from liberals. To be clear, polling upsets can happen, and no government office should always be taken for a given. Political office is a privilege and not a divine right for anyone. But we should have done our due diligence in informing readers about the likelihood of the recall’s success.

There’s also the problem of many media outlets hyping this race just so there was something to talk about, to read about, or to watch on their platform. Controversy sells.

 A lot of the attention and money geared toward the recall could have been used toward winning other political offices in truly competitive places that are vitally important — such as election commissions which are being infested by many fascistic elements in society.

To be clear, I am glad to see Newsom defeat the recall. But there must be an acknowledgment that it wasn’t surprising.