Gavin Newsom’s Rebuke of Democrat Antisemitism is All Politics, No Principles
"Newsom knows the pro-Hamas element inside the Democratic Party is a liability ahead of the election. So he’s pretending to denounce them."
December 1, 2023: Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom — who is clearly running for president without technically running— issued a rebuke to the pro-Hamas wing of his own Democratic Party (a surprisingly large cohort, that), declaring in a tweet that Hamas is a terrorist organization and must be called what it is: evil.
The tweet was in response to a video of what happened when the Oakland City Council recently voted on a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. During the debate, a city council member tried to insert language condemning Hamas — and all hell broke loose. Turns out there were a lot of frankly antisemitic terrorist sympathizers in the crowd that day, just as there are a lot of them in the Democratic Party at large, it seems.
These people aren’t afraid to be candid about their repugnant views. At the Oakland City Council meeting, a parade of outraged Hamas apologists came to the mic to insist there were no babies beheaded or women raped by Hamas, and that actually “Israel murdered their own people” on Oct. 7. We also found out from these speakers that condemning Hamas is racist, that Hamas has a right to “resist occupation,” that there was no massacre of Jews on Oct. 7, and that anyone who says otherwise is peddling “atrocity propaganda” and is also a white supremacist.
Since Oct. 7, we have learned that these are what pass for ordinary views among a sizeable cohort of the American left, which seems to have followed its own oppressor/oppressed logic to its demented conclusion. According this twisted view of the world, raping, baby-murdering Hamas terrorists are heroes of the resistance, and innocent Israeli children are “occupiers.” Every major U.S. city over the past six weeks has had massive pro-Palestine rallies (and some riots) at which nakedly antisemitic slogans are chanted, including ones like “from the river to the sea,” a favorite of Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, that explicitly call for ethnic cleansing of Israelis and Jews.
Some Democrats, like Newsom and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who gave a speech condemning antisemitism on the left in the Senate on Wednesday, realize they have a serious problem on their hands. The problem is this: Ordinary people are repulsed by all of this. To the extent Democrats become the party of keffiyeh-wearing Hamas supporters and Jew-haters, a lot of middle-of-the-road voters are going to back away slowly. They might not vote for Trump in 2024, but they’ll do what amounts to the same thing for Democrats and just sit it out.
Remember, Democrats pulled out every dirty trick (and invented some new ones) to rig the 2020 election against Trump and boost voter turnout to levels never before seen in U.S. history, and even then Biden only won the Electoral College by 44,000 votes in three swing states. If just a handful of Democrats and independents are so turned off by the left’s pro-Hamas, pro-genocide wing of the Democrat Party that they opt to stay home on Election Day, they can’t win.
Newsom is smart, and he knows this. That’s why he clapped back at the Hamas supporters in Oakland. He wasn’t just disciplining the left wing of the party publicly, he was also talking to the entire Democrat coalition, and his message was: Cut it out. We have a general election to win. Normal people don’t want to hear insane antisemitic conspiracy theories justifying the slaughter of babies and the raping and mutilating of women and children.
Critics on the right might be tempted to sneer that Newsom is reaping what he and other Democrat leaders have sown. Public backlash is what predictably happens when you encourage and nurture radical elements in your coalition, deploying them as brownshirts to crush your enemies when it’s convenient.
What many such critics don’t seem to get is that leftists like Newsom aren’t worried about consistency or principles. They care about power, and they’ll do anything to seize and wield it — even if it means wielding it against their own people. The radical elements are proving to be an obstacle? Rein them in. Denounce them. Gaslight the public about them. Direct the corporate press to explain how these radicals aren’t true Democrats, don’t represent the values of the left, and so on.
When the radicals become useful at some later point, they will be reinstated. All will be forgiven — not even forgiven, just forgotten. Criticizing them will be forbidden, as we’ve seen with Black Lives Matter and transgender radicals. When this happens, arguing that it’s hypocritical, or pointing out that these radicals made possible the ascension of Newsom, who pandered to and encouraged them, will be a waste of time. Newsom doesn’t care. Like any good leftist, his only consistent principle is a desire for power. Words are weapons to him; they have no fixed meaning. He will deploy them as he must to gain and retain power.
In a contest like this, the perennial lesson for the right is that you can’t argue or reason with the likes of Newsom. As the eccentric and bizarre president-elect of Argentina, Javier Milei, famously said, “You can’t give sh-t leftards an inch.” You have to stop them, or they will destroy your country.
Keep that in mind as we get closer to the 2024 election. We’re going to see Newsom — in his role as the unofficial Democratic president-in-waiting — step on the necks of various groups that helped him get to where he is today. He will seem to moderate on a host of issues, distancing himself from the extremes of the left-wing Democratic base. He’ll be vocal and even arrogant about it, like he was after hastily clearing out a bunch of homeless encampments and scrubbing away graffiti in San Francisco ahead of a recent visit by Chinese strongman Xi Jinping for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit.
“I know folks say, ‘Oh, they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming into town.’ That’s true because it’s true,” Newsom said, adding later that “obviously, any time you put on an event, by definition … you know, you have people over to your house, you’re going to clean up the house.”
That was a shot at his left flank, at the San Francisco liberals who have done more than anyone over the years to turn the city into an international laughingstock. Never mind that as mayor, Newsom was right there with them. But ahead of Xi’s visit, they had to be put in their place.
The important thing to understand for the right is that this is not an indication that anything has fundamentally changed for Newsom. These are tactical adjustments, nothing more. He has no principled objection to pro-Hamas antisemites in his coalition, any more than he has a principled objection to letting insane drug addicts run wild on the streets of San Francisco. But when they get in his way and become a problem, he’ll deal with them harshly — until, that is, he finds a use for them.
Source: The Federalist
John Daniel Davidson is a senior editor at The Federalist. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Claremont Review of Books, The New York Post, and elsewhere. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Pagan America: the Decline of Christianity and the Dark Age to Come, to be published in March 2024. Follow him on Twitter, @johnddavidson.