When Sanders’ delegates began their organizing effort, the Governor of California was widely seen as the heir to the chair. “Everyone I spoke to had the assumption that Gavin Newsom would be the president of the delegation,” Norman Solomon, Sanders’ delegate and national director of the RootsAction.org, told me. “It was seen as a done deal.” But as the effort continued, the numbers began to change, largely driven — Solomon explained — by younger delegates. “This was a kind of classic activism versus power brokers. That’s really what it was. It was the grassroots activists who knew we had the underground wind on our shores,” he continued.
“Certainly, if Gavin had put this fight out the window,” Bernal added, noting the California governor’s “graciousness” in walking away.
Shortly after the cochair decision was announced over the weekend, Newsom praised the choice on Twitter. “It’s never been a more urgent election — and CA Democrats have never been so energized, united, and ready to elect our next president,” he said. Wrote. “At this point in history, I am proud that our Delegation will be chaired by those who reflect the diversity and dynamism of our great escap.” A source familiar with the dynamic said Newsom angled it behind the scenes to hold the position. But a spokesman for Newsom dismissed the notion that there was a power struggle at all; the position wasn’t even on his radar.
” [Governor] Newsom is busy leading us through the pandemic and related massive economic challenges, as well as reckoning about structural racism,” said Dan Newman, Newsom’s political spokesman. “Your hands are beyond full of government.” Newman noted that the governor’s office also “proactively suggested that Barbara Lee be added to a unit that represents and reflects the most diverse state in the country.” In a statement, Congresswoman Lee said she was contacted by Newsom’s team last week about the position. “He recognizes this historic moment we’re in and wanted to secure a slate that reflects california’s diversity,” Lee said of the governor. “I am honored to serve with two extraordinary cochairs and look forward to representing the most progressive, diverse and enlightened state of the union. We all know what’s at stake in this election, and the Democrats are united in this fight.”
Within the Democratic Party, Newsom is hardly seen as a moderate. But just as Nancy Pelosi, a self-described progressive from San Francisco, is now seen as out of step with her party’s left flank, activists in California are frustrated that the key planks of the progressive platform like “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal are not yet a reality in the deep blue state. During the presidential primaries, Newsom Approved California Senator Kamala Harris, and since then threw his weight behind Biden.
However, notably for Newsom, RoseAnn DeMoro, the former head of the nurses’ union Said The Atlantic earlier this year saw the young governor of California as “Sanders’ apparent heir.” She added to the outlet: “They won’t be able to portray Gavin as a stranger in the way they try to make other progressives.”
But of course the terrain is changing under the Democratic Party. “The future story within the Democratic Party and in the country will be made under the conventional political radar and below the routine ability of the media to see it coming,” Solomon said. “It is this tipping point that I believe we may be approaching. And if California is a bellwether, then we’re a potential tipping point where there’s a kind of delayed effect. I would say that people in elective office in general are often literally the last to know that social movements will shake the ground they are on.”