Written by Ainsley Jackman
It doesn’t take much looking to realize that when it comes to a COVID-19 response, California’s has been both ineffective and inconsistent. And it doesn’t take much more to find the man to blame: Gov.Gavin Newsom.
Over the course of the pandemic, Newsom has repeatedly ignored the State Constitution and used his position to usurp the power of both local governments and the State Legislature. This hardly comes as a surprise, considering State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s list of 400 laws that Newsom has changed by executive fiat over the course of his time in office, but the pandemic has certainly worsened the situation with the 46 pandemic-related executive orders since the declaration of the State of Emergency.
The process of passing these executive orders has been undemocratic and unconstitutional in a number of different situations. In a reply brief, he claimed that an executive order was not unilateral because he had the support of two members of the Legislature, despite the fact that no actual voting had happened. His legal defense to a complaint was that his executive order would “become moot” when or if the Legislature passes a bill relating to the same topic, implying that he could pass any order he wanted as long as the Legislature could hypothetically pass legislation on the same issue. The list of excuses for his unconstitutional use of executive orders goes on.
He justifies these and other authoritarian actions with California’s condition of being in a State of Emergency, claiming that he is not required to provide any evidence that his actions are constitutional due to the threat of the pandemic. Of course, he is only using the pandemic as an excuse to put democracy on hold. This couldn’t be more apparent than when he claimed that his order transforming an election six months away was to protect Californians from COVID-19, despite the fact that the two are in no way related.
Gov. Newsom has disregarded the law, the California Constitution, and basic democracy with his actions during the pandemic, and has silenced those who attempt to call him out. It has become clear that he sees the pandemic as an opportunity for political gain and a way to advance his own agenda. In fact, he’s admitted this himself: “We see this [the COVID-19 pandemic and health crisis] as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern. There is opportunity for reimagining a progressive era as it pertains to capitalism.”
Newsom has made it clear through his actions that his first priority is political gain, and that he is willing to completely disregard the democratic process in order to get it.