Juan Williams: Why California's recall election matters

Juan Williams: Why California's recall election matters
© Getty Images /Larry Elder campaign

True story.

I’ve had people come up to me to ask if I’m Larry Elder.

Yes, I have been mistaken for the far-right radio host.

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Well, I guess we are Black men who appear on cable television and talk radio shows.

Now one of us has a chance at becoming the governor of California after next month’s recall election.

It’s not me.

And although he is a Trumpian right-winger, I agree with Elder on some policy. He is right about the need for charter schools as an innovative option to any failing public school.

But his anger at the idea of equal pay for women leaves me cold. Then there is his devil-may-care attitude about climate change even as wildfires burn in the west. And he has no place in his heart for people crossing the border illegally, even those seeking asylum from violence and hunger.

He has become California’s version of Donald Trump.

So, there is no way I would vote for Elder to be governor of California.

And most Californians agree.

Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia to launch program tracking violent deaths in LGBTQ+ community California governor signs legislation targeting Amazon warehouse speed quotas Newsom signs privacy laws for abortion providers and patients MORE, the governor facing a recall vote, has a 57 percent approval rating according to a CBS News-YouGov poll conducted this month. Newsom won election in 2018 with 62 percent of the vote.

Elder’s support is nowhere close to that. Polls show his backing at about 18 percent. But that meager rating is tops among the 40-plus candidates with their names on the ballot to replace Newsom if he is recalled.

If Newsom can’t get more than half of voters to oppose his recall, then someone in a field generally filled with attention-getters who have no political experience will be governor. Currently Elder is leading that rag-tag pack.

Why is Newsom facing a recall effort?

The best evidence cited against Newsom is that he violated his state’s COVID rules by attending a birthday party, indoors with no mask, at a fancy restaurant.

Bad optics, for sure. But there is no evidence of bad governance or corruption.

To the contrary, Newsom’s handling of the Golden State’s response to the COVID pandemic is praised by public health officials. He kept the appropriate balance between keeping citizens safe and keeping the state’s economy roaring.

But that’s not good enough for California’s most partisan, far-right activists. They are angry that Democrats dominate the state.

Democrats hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

The state’s congressional delegation is overwhelmingly Democratic, with Democrats winning 42 of the state’s 53 House seats.

California’s two U.S. senators are Democrats.

President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE crushed former President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE in California by 64 percent to 34 percent.

California Republicans want to blow up state politics because they are losing time and again. Their prime explosive is the recall push against the governor.

They want to render the state government dysfunctional and chaotic to humiliate Democrats.

This is the face of angry, extreme political subversion.

It is the same face we saw in the Jan. 6 insurrection against Congress. In that case, the far right stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent Biden from being certified as the winner.

The same fury on the right has led many Republican governors to allow their states to become breeding grounds for COVID.

Republican governors in Florida, Texas and beyond feel compelled to turn their back on vaccine mandates and masking out of fear of upsetting the right-wing media.

Far-right subversion is similarly at work across the nation in efforts to suppress Democratic voter turnout.

Their effort to undercut democracy can be seen in the work of Republican state legislatures to grab control of vote counting, taking control of election results away from secretaries of state and independent officials.

The California recall effort is born from the same destructive mindset.

If a Republican, such as Elder, replaces the Democratic governor, it has the potential to cripple the national government.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (D-Calif.) is 88. If she decides to leave office, it will be up to the governor to name a replacement.

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One fewer Democrat and one more Republican in the Senate would block Biden’s entire legislative agenda — from infrastructure to voting rights to appointments, including the ability to fill a seat on the Supreme Court.

That is another looming disaster if the recall ends with a Republican replacing Newsom.

Currently, Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerBarrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' Sunday shows - Manchin says he won't vote for .5 trillion bill Breyer says term limits would 'make life easier for me' MORE, 83, is the oldest member of the high court. If he retires, a Republican majority in the Senate could block hearings and a vote on anyone nominated by Biden.

That is what Republicans did to Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHouse passes bill to ensure abortion access in response to Texas law Delta pushes for national 'no fly' list of unruly passengers after banning 1,600 from flights Democrats demand more action from feds on unruly airline passengers MORE when he was nominated by President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE and Republicans held the Senate majority.

Elder is delighted to advertise the danger of increasing the nation’s already violently polarized politics. The talk show host has described his rise as “Mayday for the Democrats,” an international phrase used to signal all-out emergency in the face of life-threatening distress.

Elder knows the power of calling for chaos as a talk show host looking to bolster ratings. That’s why he embraced Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party in 2016.

Sorry, Larry. This is about more than a talk show’s ratings. The stakes are just too high.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.