California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday used his second inaugural address to escalate a feud with Republican politicians who will seek the national stage in the coming years, tying them to the violent mob inspired by former President Donald Trump to attack the U.S. Capitol two years ago.
Newsom, who was formally sworn into his second term on Monday, participated in a march to the state Capitol in Sacramento, an intentional contrast on the anniversary of the attempted insurrection that took place in Washington.
“There are still forces in America that want to take the nation backward,” Newsom said. “We saw that two years ago, on this day, when the unthinkable happened at a place most Americans assumed was invincible, an insurrectionist mob ransacking a sacred pillar of our democracy, violently clashing with sworn officers upholding the rule of law.”
Newsom said the attack on the Capitol, which the U.S. House committee investigating the insurrection concluded was inspired by Trump’s words in the days leading up to the formal certification of the presidential vote, had not begun with Trump, but was “decades in the making.”
And, he said, that movement still exists, led by “red state politicians and the media empire behind them.”
“They’re promoting grievance and victimhood, in an attempt to erase so much of the progress you and I have witnessed in our lifetimes,” Newsom said. “They make it harder to vote and easier to buy illegal guns. They silence speech, fire teachers, kidnap migrants, subjugate women, attack the Special Olympics, and even demonize Mickey Mouse.”
The allusion could only have been clearer had Newsom singled out one Republican rival — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — by name.
DeSantis, widely seen as preparing a presidential bid in 2024, has embraced culture war issues that have made him a staple on conservative cable networks, and a star among Republican voters — the only one bright enough to challenge Trump himself for supremacy within the GOP.
In his first term, DeSantis championed new voting rules and the creation of a new unit within the Florida Department of Justice to investigate election crimes; signed into law an education measure critics call the “don’t say gay” law, and then attacked Disney for its opposition; recruited migrants in Texas to fly to Martha’s Vineyard; and threatened to fine the Special Olympics for requiring athletes to show proof they had received a coronavirus vaccine to compete in an event in Florida.
In his own inaugural address this week, DeSantis targeted “woke ideology,” and held out his state as “a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for our fellow Americans.”
Though Newsom insists he has no interest in federal office, he has done little to scuttle talk that he is positioning himself to follow in the footsteps of former California governors Hiram Johnson, Earl Warren, Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson or Jerry Brown — should the opportunity arise.
Where DeSantis’s path to the Republican nomination is obstructed, if not blocked, by Trump’s apparent comeback bid, Newsom’s path to a bid is complicated by the incumbent, President Biden, whom Newsom has said he will not challenge.
Still, his inaugural address at times sounded more like a field test of a future presidential platform than a list of goals for a coming term.
“More than any people, in any place, California has bridged the historical expanse between freedom for some and freedom for all,” Newsom said. “We open our arms, not clench our fists. We turn our gaze upward, not inward. Freedom is our essence, our brand name, the abiding idea that right here, anyone from anywhere can accomplish anything.”