2021 California Election positions

Hey, remember in 2020, when I said vote, but not just today? I’m going to keep citing that.

Starting today, California voters are getting mailed ballots for the gubernatorial recall election. As far as I know, this is a uniquely Californian process, where if opponents gather enough signatures, they can initiate an election to end the governor’s term early. This ballot has only two questions, but I still going through the usual exercise of stating my positions.  (The point is not to share heavy amounts of research, which I do not do, it is to normalize the process of just looking things up and voting.)

No on recall

Recalling a governor mid-term is a fairly extreme step, so what did Gavin Newsom do to inspire this? The answer seems to be nothing in particular. It’s just general Republican grievances, like COVID restrictions being too restrictive. The closest thing to an inciting event seems to be that time Newsom had a party at a fancy restaurant, early in the pandemic. Whatever, I don’t care. And keep in mind that Newsom’s opponents favor lowering restrictions, so that more people will hold risky gatherings.

Since I strongly advocate voting on every election, I’m also very aware of the cognitive load of trying to make all these little decisions. Luckily, at least a few decisions are obvious. So when a decision is obvious, I’m in favor of just accepting the good fortune and taking the obvious choice. If you want more, you can read what the LA Times has to say.

Replacement candidate: Kevin Paffrath

In the second question on the ballot, we learn why recalling a governor is such an extreme move. If Gavin Newsom loses the recall, then he will be replaced with whoever wins the most votes in the second question. There are 46 candidates, none of whom are remotely any good. Currently, the polling leader is a conservative radio show host, with around 20%. It is absurd and unjust that Newsom can lose with 49% of the vote, to a candidate who only gets 20% of the vote.

Democrats have endorsed abstaining from the second question. I suppose they have some political calculus about campaign funding, advertising, and messaging, and I’m not sure I really agree with the decision. But even if it’s a good strategy for the Democrats, the same strategic considerations simply do not apply to individual voters. I will not abstain, because if Newsom loses the recall, it would be best to mitigate the damage, rather than just handing that decision to conservatives.

First-past-the-post voting with 46 candidates is an absolutely terrible system, because it demands that we resolve a collective action problem. In order for our “side” to win, as many people as possible need to vote for the same candidate, even if that candidate is far from our personal favorite. So the strategy I advise is to ignore most of the candidates, looking only at the people known to be the top candidates. It is strategically smart and saves yourself that cognitive load.

Among these candidates, there are 5-6 Republicans and one Democrat. And when I put it that way, this seems like another obvious choice. I am committed to voting against Republicans until such a time that they are no longer the party of Trump and fascism and treason. Importantly, if Senator Dianne Feinstein retires soon, whoever wins this recall election will get to select her replacement, which can swing the US Senate. That’s a strong reason for voting blue no matter who.

If you like, you can look into Kevin Paffrath’s individual views, although I think that may only strengthen your resolve to vote NO on the first question.


  1. xohjoh2n says

    If you like, you can look into Kevin Paffrath’s individual views, although I think that may only strengthen your resolve to vote NO on the first question.


  2. says

    If you’re asking me to analyze Paffrath’s positions, pass. I looked at it, didn’t like what I saw, but writing it up would take work I’m not willing to do.

    I’m open to the idea that Newsom didn’t handle the pandemic perfectly, but it’s hard to assess. That Newsom is facing a real and significant challenge from the right suggests that in fact it was necessary for him to make concessions, and that the blame for insufficient restrictions belongs to the voters that he made concessions to. Fortunately my position does not depend on that question.

  3. billseymour says

    Siggy, I take your point; and I promise I didn’t intend to suggest that Newsom is evil like DeSantis.

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