YORBA LINDA— I’d bought a ticket to the circus.
That was, at least, the idea when I entered the “debate hall” at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, on Wednesday night. Republicans might not think much of Covid-19 constrictions, but one restriction they’ll happily enact is segregating the fourth estate in a separate room with a malfunctioning livestream—like the enemy of the people that we are.
At the Graceland of Nixonianism, the cardboard cutout of Pat and Dick near the entrance sets the tone of the visit. It is a follow-up to snickering police instructions to “park next to the helicopter,” an enormous but idle Marine One that suddenly appears on the horizon, as happily retired as Charles Barkley. The venue selection of the campus dedicated to a near-great but failed president matches the mood of the Republican Party of California, if not these United States, in 2021. Certainly more than a summer sojourn up the coast to that memorial to that other Golden State Republican president would. If the changes in the Republican Party these last several years has taught us anything, it is that we now live in a playground of Shakespeare characters, not happy warriors.
At the outset, the debate party is served a little decaf on account of some no-shows. No sighting of the most famous candidates for governor of America’s top state. It was a pass for the beleaguered governor, Gavin Newsom, a negative RSVP from the Caitlyn Jenner politics-as-therapy show, and a no-thanks from the self-declared “sage from South Central,” Larry Elder.
But by now, all pretty much know the score in a Californian recall. Question one on the September ballot: Should Newsom be spared further trips to Sacremento? And question two: Even if you don’t think so, you’re admonished to pick another governor from this long list, which runs the gambit from porn stars to reality stars.
So the atmosphere was Wild West, all by itself, even if most of the heavies didn’t show. And Republicans here thought they were about to hit pay dirt.
Just after the debate, an astonishing poll—for what those are worth—from Survey USA and the San Diego Union Tribune, saw publication: finding that 51 percent of respondents were in favor of recalling Newsom, while only 40 percent wanted him to remain in the saddle. Previously, this outfit found 36 percent in favor of the recall, while 47 percent opposed to the maneuver.
Background: There is the prospect of fresh Covid veiling across this land, at the behest of the White House, now the nerve center of the Democratic establishment. And, of course, inflation in the authority of public health officials has now spread to the U.S. dollar. Republicans paint a nightmare picture of borders besieged and cities dominated—not so much by a criminal element, as by a whole army of hopped-up hobos. But many Americans agree this portrait reflects reality, and not simply Republicans. For the disillusioned, that this and more is occurring even in California paradise is a nasty rebuke to the progressive (self-declared) project. So the ambition is that Newsom, now viewed in corners even of his own party as handsome but hapless, will go down in September as a the first political drowning victim of 2021, as the Biden wave recesses in autumn.
A boy can California dream.
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