Gavin Newsom’s About-Face on Reparations Could Cost Him the Presidency
Gavin Newsom’s great leap onto the national stage has turned into a massive slip-and-slide. Just in recent days the telegenic governor of California put out a statement conspicuously disavowing reparation payments recommended by a task force he personally convened in 2020. It recommended reparations that would bankrupt the fiscally challenged Golden State and that risked making 94 percent of its residents furious.
Having enthusiastically lofted the reparations trial balloon, Mr. Newsom had no good choices. Endorsing the controversial payouts would have been political suicide for someone who is on every pundit’s shortlist to run for president in 2028 or even in 2024 just in case (wink, wink) President Biden fails to make it across the finish line.
Most Americans do not approve of payments to descendants of slaves to compensate them for historical wrongs. But, as Democrat Newsom contemplates a run for national office, this about-face will hurt him with Black voters and could deny him the nomination.
Mr. Newsom needs, like all Democrats hoping to survive a primary battle, to score well with African-Americans. During the 2020 primaries, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, was a front-runner, winning the Iowa caucuses, but crashed in South Carolina, despite spending more days and more money in that state than nearly anyone else. He failed to win over Black voters, and he was done.
African-Americans constitute but 13 percent of U.S. eligible voters, but their overwhelming support for Democrats gives them outsized influence. Some 92 percent of Blacks voted for Mr. Biden, helping to put him in the Oval Office; he has spent the past two years making sure they’ll do so again. Mr. Newsom jumped aboard the reparations train in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots and shortly after President Trump debated Mr. Biden in September 2020. The coast governor was outraged, he said, by Mr. Trump’s refusal in that forum to denounce white supremacist groups.
He also wanted to raise his national profile. To that end, he signed what his office called the “first-in-the-nation law to study and make recommendations on reparations for slavery to the Black community…” At that fraught moment of racial reckoning, support for reparations had moved higher, though it remained unpopular. In late 2020, a Washington Post survey found 31 percent of Americans backing the idea, including 18 percent of whites. That was markedly higher than in 1997 when a Post poll found only 19 percent of the country approved the concept.
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Published in The New York Sun