Gov. Newsom defends progressive values in State of the State address

ByADAM BEAM AP logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Newsom defends progressive values in State of the State address
Governor Gavin Newsom gave his annual State of the State address on Tuesday.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Gavin Newsom used his State of the State address on Tuesday to boost President Joe Biden ahead of Thursday's pivotal presidential debate, comparing Donald Trump's version of the Republican Party to the rise of fascism prior to World War II and offering Democrats' ideals as "an antidote to the poisonous populism of the right."

Nowhere in Newsom's speech - which was prerecorded and posted online to his social media channels in a departure from decades of tradition - did he mention Trump or Biden by name. But he used some of Trump's most incendiary statements to offer a dark contrast of the choice facing Americans in November, comparing it to the eve of World War II when "fascism spread its hate and destruction throughout Europe."

"When they speak of immigrants poisoning American blood, and of mass deportations and detention camps, this is the language of destruction - of 1939," Newsom said.

Trump made those comments about immigrants "poisoning the blood of our country" during a campaign rally in Iowa last year, later saying he did not know that Adolf Hitler had once said something similar. Still, the comments have become a key talking point for the left as they paint Trump's candidacy as a warning for a dark future.

The political tone of Newsom's speech was not surprising given his role as one of the Biden campaign's top surrogates, which has made him a target of Republicans who have repeatedly held up California as an example of Democrats' mismanagement. They have pointed to the state's $46.8 billion budget deficit, high tax rates, large homeless population and the proliferation of property crimes in its largest cities - acts which have been captured in viral social media clips.

Much of Newsom's speech was devoted to pushing back against that narrative, referring to "delusional California bashers" whose "success depends on our failure." He noted California's violent crime rate is about half of what it was at its peak in 1992. He said property crime in San Francisco has fallen as has the overall crime rate across the bay in Oakland - where Newsom recently deployed 120 California Highway Patrol officers.

"That's because in California, we take public safety seriously - a problem to solve, not just to flog on cable news," he said.

On homelessness, Newsom pointed to the more active role the state has taken under his administration, including spending billions of dollars to create programs that provided 15,300 units of housing and provided shelter for more than 71,000 people. But a state audit released earlier this year chided his administration for not tracking how effective the state's homelessness spending - more than $24 billion over five years - has been.

Newsom defended his decision to sign a law raising the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour, a raise that businesses have blamed for increasing customer costs. And he boasted about California's economy that, were it an independent country, would rank as the fifth largest in the world - saying California has added 63,000 new millionaires since 2019.

"Here is a simple question for Republicans: If California is a failed state, why are four of the seven most valuable companies in the world based here?" he said, referring to Apple, Nvidia, and the parent companies of Google and Facebook.

Newsom chose to deliver a speech for the smartphone era, opting to upload a prerecorded video across his social media channels instead of delivering a formal speech before a packed house of state lawmakers.

The Democratic governor, now in his second term, has never been a big fan of formal speeches, given the difficulty his dyslexia gives him while reading from a teleprompter in live time. Last year, Newsom skipped the speech entirely, instead embarking on a statewide tour to announce a series of major policy proposals in a more informal setting that allowed for questions from reporters.

"While this pre-recorded speech fulfills the governor's legal mandate, it does not in any real way fulfill his responsibility to Californians who deserve a safe, affordable and opportunity-filled future," said California Republican state Sen. Kelly Seyarto. "California remains the country's homeless capital, businesses are closing their doors, and crime continues to rise. The state of this state is simply not good under Newsom's leadership and any claims to the contrary he makes in his speech will be patently false."