Gavin Newsom had a chance to score some cheap political points that might help if, as widely expected, he someday seeks the White House.
To his credit, Newsom passed.
Chalk it up to good sense and, if the holiday spirit moves you, the governor’s integrity as well.
There’s a movement across the land to strike Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot as punishment — or justice, if you prefer — for summoning and unleashing the deadly mob that overran the Capitol and desecrated our democracy on Jan. 6, 2021.
The effort was moldering in the hearts of Trump antagonists until last week when the Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, disqualified the former president from the state’s primary ballot on the grounds of insurrection.
The ruling, which was based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, is on hold, as Trump promises an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the move by Colorado’s justices invigorated the dump-Trump movement and catalyzed opportunists like California’s lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis.
A day after the ruling, the Democrat wrote Secretary of State Shirley Weber, California’s top elections official, urging her to follow Colorado’s lead and “explore every legal option” to keep Trump off California’s March 5 ballot.
“This decision is about honoring the rule of law in our country and protecting the fundamental pillars of democracy,” said Kounalakis who, not incidentally, is running in the crowded 2026 governor’s race to replace Newsom.
It’s obvious why Kounalakis weighed in. Her political ascent so far has rested solely on her extravagant financial means and willingness to spend grandly on winning public office. Urging Trump’s exile is the sort of facile, performative gesture she can call “leadership” in campaign ads and use to ingratiate herself with her party’s left-wing base.
Newsom, whose responsibilities go beyond that of lieutenant governor — which are, essentially, fogging a mirror and sitting on various boards and commissions — took a more reasoned and responsible approach.
“There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a threat to our liberties and even to our democracy,” Newsom said in a statement issued last week. “But in California, we defeat candidates at the polls. Everything else is a political distraction.”
The governor was correct on both counts.
Trump, who channels Mussolini when he isn’t plagiarizing Hitler, is, in fact, a pestilence preying on America and its freedoms. He must never, ever get remotely close to holding public office again.
But a court ruling or some administrative sleight-of-hand is not the way to beat him.
Banishing Trump from the ballot would only turn him into a martyr and, as his repeated criminal indictments have shown, Trump is a virtuoso at victimhood. He and the MAGA movement need to be defeated — soundly and unequivocally — at the ballot box.
Some argue that allowing Trump to run in 2024 is too risky because, well, he might win. But that’s how our political system works, like it or not. Voters decide.
The time to punish Trump for Jan. 6 and politically neuter him came in February 2021 when 43 Republican senators voted to acquit the scheming ex-president after his impeachment in the House.
Several of those senators, including Texas’ Ted Cruz and Florida’s Rick Scott, are up for reelection next year. Voters in their states can hold them to account, if they choose.
Ending Trump’s candidacy via decree would also worsen the lack of faith in our shaky elections process, convincing a not-insignificant portion of the voting population that the system is rigged against Trump, just as he falsely and incessantly claims.
But what if Trump wins the GOP nomination and then loses the White House, again? Some fear Trump will refuse to acknowledge his defeat, a stance that seems about as certain as New Year’s Day arriving on Jan. 1.
So what? Let Trump spew his gaseous claims — which have proven their own renewable energy source — and he can continue to lead his party to defeat at the polls, as he did in three straight elections from 2018 to 2022.
As long as Republicans remain in Trump’s dangerous thrall, they deserve to lose.
If Newsom has designs on the White House, the easy and obvious move would have been seconding Kounalakis and others calling for removal of the insurrectionist ex-president from the 2024 ballot.
It may be years off, but you can easily see the primary competition among Democrats in 2028, with hopefuls vying to show who’s the most virulently anti-Trump.
But doing the easy thing doesn’t take much spine.
Democrats will have to scrap to win the White House in 2024. They shouldn’t count on elections overseers or judicial rulings to do the work for them.
And Newsom was right to say as much.