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Our Take on the California Recall

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California results should give Democrats even more reason to push for and deliver on immigration reform in reconciliation


The landslide rejection of the California ballot initiative to recall Governor Gavin Newsom is a testament to the strength of immigrant, ethnic and progressive voters in the Golden State, and a clear sign that, once again, a multiracial majority of voters has defeated xenophobic populism. 

The results are due to the hard work of many people and organizations, but one of our favorites is the fearless journalist Jean Guerrero. She used her platform to define the election. She was the first to highlight the nativist ties of Larry Elder, uncovering writing from Elder to Stephen Miller that said, “I hope to live to see the day when you become president.” She also discovered that Miller called Elder, “the one true guide I’ve always had.”

Another of our favorites is CHIRLA Action Fund, affiliated with CHIRLA the statewide immigrants rights coalition, that mounted a huge voter contact program. Of course, many progressive and labor groups threw down and deserve credit, but we are most familiar with CHIRLA’s terrific work informing and mobilizing new and infrequent voters to use their voice and vote to influence election and policy outcomes. 

The California recall effort and Elder’s campaign provide more worrisome signs about the direction of the Republican Party and the conservative movement – and about the limited electoral appeal of such policies in non-red states and districts. From the preemptive lies about voter fraud to the ugly xenophobia, Elder’s campaign was a reminder that the ugliest strains of the GOP and conservative movement are emboldened instead of chastened after Trump’s defeat and the January 6 insurrection. 

Hostility to newcomers was a core piece of both Elder’s campaign and the national GOP. AP’s Jill Colvin captures this in a piece focused on renewed efforts to stoke racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia as a base mobilization political strategy. Led by Stephen Miller, a group of Republicans are tapping into anti-Muslim sentiments that run deep among the hardcore nativist base in order to turn the party against Afghans being resettled in America. Colvin writes:

The strategy relies on tactics that were commonplace during Trump’s tenure and that turned off many voters, including racist tropes, fear-mongering and false allegations.

As in the California recall election, this ugly strategy may mobilize White Power voters, but it also mobilizes a multiracial, multiethnic and multigenerational majority in opposition to the demonization of “the other.”

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Thank you, California voters.

Larry Elder is a longtime mouthpiece for the anti-immigrant movement. He wants Stephen Miller to be president. In the end, multiracial democracy won and Stephen Miller lost. 

Xenophobia may mobilize White identity voters, but it mobilizes the multiracial majority even more. In an increasing number of diverse states and districts across America, xenophobia turns out some voters and turns off most voters. 

For Democrats in Congress, the message from California voters is loud and clear: go big, change lives, stand up for all of us. As Congressional Democrats move to enact a major human infrastructure package that includes citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, they should proceed with confidence. The majority of Americans have their back. The polls underscore the fact that a strong bipartisan majority of voters want Congress to formally recognize undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are. And the majority of Americans believe in democracy, equality and freedom.

Please use every ounce of your power to defend and extend those fundamental aspirations.