Does a Trans Bill’s Veto Mean Gavin Newsom Is Prepping for a National Run?

California Governor Gavin Newsom shocked progressives late this week by announcing he’d vetoed a bill that would force California judges to take a parents’ views on trans identity into account during custody battles.

In his statement, Newsom made a fairly reasoned argument for rejecting the bill – which is not something one might expect when it comes to progressives who have so frequently been critical of the judicial branch.

“That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate – in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic – legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply,” he said in his statement. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”

Broken clocks and all, I suppose.

Progressives in the legislature were quick to announce their displeasure. The bill’s author, Lori Wilson, posted a statement on Twitter expressing her disappointment. Scott Wiener, another progressive legislator, added to the commentary.

“Governor Newsom has been such a staunch ally to the LGBTQ community,” Wiener added. “A true champion. Respectfully, however, this veto is a mistake.

“Newsom’s veto may come as a shock to some, but it is a move one would expect if Newsom were attempting to make a play on the national stage, as has been suspected for a while now.

He has ducked questions about limits on abortion, famously backed off on a reparations push, and challenged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to a debate.

Now, Newsom has said he’s not running. He told the White House he was not going to make a run for president so long as Joe Biden had intended to run for re-election. But the Democratic Party is growing increasingly worried about the polling showing two things:

  1. Americans think Joe Biden is too old.
  2. Americans prefer Donald Trump over Joe Biden.

Newsom may not be planning a run in 2024. In fact, as Biden appears too stubborn to bow out gracefully right now, it looks like the Democrats have no way to get rid of him. But even if he did, Newsom would likely have to contend with the fact that Kamala Harris, as Vice President, is the heir apparent to the Biden administration (hilariously, the most bipartisan agreement in American history seems to be how much everyone hates the idea of Kamala Harris becoming President). 

If Newsom were to try to run in 2024 against either Biden or Harris, he would in effect be starting an intersectional civil war within the party. On top of all the other issues they have to deal with in this election cycle, that would kill their chances of maintaining the White House. The Democrats can’t afford division when their policies are currently forcing Americans to live paycheck to paycheck, suffer under a border crisis and a crime wave, and putting us on a path to falling behind China.

But, Newsom is paying attention to one other very important piece of polling: Parents are overwhelmingly rejecting the Democratic Party’s push to overrule them on how to raise their kids. He very clearly wanted to sign Wilson’s bill. His statement subtly admits as much. But it appears he’s trying to find the line of acceptability to parents, and using the courts to interfere with their parenting is obviously a bridge too far.

Newsom’s decision won’t really hurt him in the long run with pro-trans progressives. Both Wilson and Wiener admitted their respect for the governor and his previous stances on LGBT+ issues. They also know what this is about, so they didn’t unload on him. This is all performative, and it sucks, but hey, kudos for making the right call, Governor, even if it’s for political reasons rather than moral reasons.

If I had to guess, Newsom is taking a look at the landscape and making the determination that it will be Biden vs. Trump in 2024. If Biden wins, he’s term-limited and Newsom can run against Harris and other Democrats in an open primary in a better position than he’d be in right now. If Trump wins, Trump is also term-limited, and he could easily consolidate Democrats without having to worry about Biden’s successor.

If the opportunity arose for him to run in 2024, I think Newsom might take it, seeing as he’s certainly ambitious enough and has all but secured his left flank. But the political strategy here looks more like a wait-and-see approach for 2028.

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