Gavin Newsom drew attention Wednesday to what he sees as serious moment in U.S. politics in which some right-leaning politicians are “on the spectrum of authoritarianism.”
“It is about liberalism versus illiberalism. It’s not just about right and left,” the California governor said at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Los Angeles. “These guys are out there on the spectrum of authoritarianism,” he said, noting that he sees the statement as a “mild” not hyperbolic statement.
The California governor, who has been outspoken in his ongoing feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also positioned his state in direct opposition to conservatism. “Conservatism can’t succeed unless California fails,” he said.
While Code Conference host Kara Swisher began Michelle Obama’s iconic line, “When they go low, we go high,” Newsom disagreed, noting that there is a “ruthlessness” to the right that must be fought. Newsom instead said that politicians can adopt that belief in “the world we want to live [and] in a world we should aspire to, but we gotta be hard headed pragmatist in the world we’re actually in in the moment.”
“It’s a whole different thing that we’re experiencing, a completely different thing,” he said in reference to the current political moment, “and it’s something I’ve never experienced in my lifetime, now.”
Instead, when they go low, “we do what we need to do to protect people,” the governor said. “I don’t like bullies, not only people talking down other people, people talking for other people,” he said, before calling out a Republican bill that enables schools to check a students’ genitalia to ensure they are the appropriate sex before beginning a high school sports team, a bill Newsom says “demonizes the LGBTQ community.”
During this tense political time, Newsom urged companies in California to stand up for their values and if they can’t express their values appropriately, don’t share them at all.
“If you really believe that these are values you hold dear, and you’re not pushing it, don’t express them because you’re expressing the papacy,” he said. “But just don’t be a hypocrite. Just be honest.”
Despite the governor’s fight against conservatives, he explains that “we prove them wrong over and over and over again,” noting California’s success both in the economy and in minimizing deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that outperformed Florida.
“It’s an interesting fact — look this up — not only did our economy outperform Florida last year, we contracted [COVID] at a more modest rate in 2020 than Florida and 52% lower per capita deaths,” he said, “I used to remember when that mattered, life mattered.”
The politician also denied that he would run for president in 2024, or at any other point in the future, saying “Oh, Governor in California is the greatest job in the world,” pointing to how the state’s capacity to tackle major issues as the fifth largest economy in the world.
When Swisher teased that his tone sounded presidential, Newsom shut down the possibility, saying “I’m passionate about this state.”