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Dear GOP: Don’t underestimate the American version of Canada’s Trudeau

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks before signing legislation
Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group via AP
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) speaks before signing legislation establishing the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2022.

Several times over the past couple of months, I have heard people compare California Gov. Gavin Newsom to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Since both are liberals, the comparison was uttered as a dismissive pejorative meant to convey that each is a self-absorbed, political version of the Ken doll. Those who make such remarks are free to do so, of course, though it sounds an awful lot like “whistling past the graveyard” to me. That’s because, the last time I checked, both Newsom and Trudeau have continued to win elections.

Do these two men look like politicians who are right out of Central Casting in Hollywood?  The answer to that lies in the eye of the beholder. Both men are around age 50 age (Newsom is 54 and Trudeau, 50); both are tall (Newsom, 6’3” and Trudeau, 6’2”); both reportedly like to exercise; and, most importantly, both see eye-to-eye on most liberal, big-government, woke policies in place from Sacramento to Ottawa.  

As the lyrics from the theme song from the old “Patty Duke Show” remind us: “They laugh alike, they walk alike; at times they even talk alike. … You can lose your mind, when cousins are two of a kind.”

More than losing their minds, millions of their constituents believe they are losing their freedom — along with their personal security, buying power, privacy, energy grids, and ability to choose what is best for themselves and their children under the dominion of “cousins” Newsom and Trudeau. And yet, these two politicians keep winning.

Last month, Newsom was successful in shepherding a new law banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars in California by 2035. Trudeau also embraces the trend toward “green” electric vehicles.

Embarrassingly — and quite worrying for those who believe electric vehicles will be a massive drain on weak U.S. power grids and provide an unsolvable disposal problem for their batteries — soon after the law passed, Newsom was forced to ask Californians to not charge their electric vehicles (EVs) between 4 and 9 p.m. because they were putting too much stress on the Golden State’s deteriorating power grid.

Now, for those not paying attention, for the most part, government-subsidized EVs are almost exclusively the toys of the wealthy. Not many working-class Californians or Americans are driving around in Teslas, which cost between $48,000 and $130,000, depending on the model, even before customization.  

Moving on from that green energy hiccup, California — also under Newsom’s guidance — has become the first state to ban natural gas heaters and furnaces. Contrary to popular opinion, it can get quite cold in parts of California, well below freezing at times. Working-class Californians who might live in those cold areas don’t have the luxury, as their Tesla-owning counterparts might, to simply fly to a warmer part of the state or the country when it gets cold. They need those gas heaters and furnaces to stay warm (and potentially, alive). Again, it’s a trend that Trudeau apparently supports, even in Canada where the weather is much more frigid.

And yet, both men are proven election winners. Newsom is all but assured of rolling back into the Governor’s Office in November with a predicted victory over his Republican opponent. 

This, in spite of the fact that crime is surging across California, along with an exploding homeless population, water shortages, power outages, and skyrocketing cost-of-living increases.  As this is happening, what is a counterintuitively still popular governor — who, by all normal measurements, seems to be failing in his job — to do? How about leaving the state to start a rhetorical attack on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican nominee for the White House in 2024.  

Now, that might seem like a head-scratcher to some, but it makes sense politically if Newsom is thinking of running for president in 2024 himself and wants to start raising his profile and approval rating with the Democratic base.

DeSantis can rightfully claim that Florida is in much better shape than California, in quality-of-life issues that voters care most about, and that Newsom’s in-laws reportedly fled California for Florida and gave money to the “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” a SuperPAC dedicated to re-electing the governor. These are entertaining talking points, but still may not matter in the greater scheme of winning a national presidential election.

Our country is deeply, even angrily, divided. It may not take much to eke out a national win. But it will take a “winner.” 

Millions of voters in California can’t stand Newsom, just as millions of voters in Canada can’t stand Trudeau. And yet, both men continue to win and have proven they possess that important “It” factor of appealing to a large segment of the voting population. 

Republicans can whine about “great hair” and “image over substance” all they want, in comparisons between politicians. Those who get the political victory still have the last laugh — and lasting power. So, if I were advising the GOP, I would strongly warn them not to underestimate the American version of Justin Trudeau.  

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.  

Tags Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom green energy Justin Trudeau Justin Trudeau liberals progressives Ron DeSantis
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