The revelation that California governor Gavin Newsom attended a crowded dinner party at an expensive restaurant in his state just as its coronavirus cases started to surge and he began to lock down its economy more aggressively is one of the most egregious examples of late of the kind of cynicism-inducing behavior that undermines trust in our leaders and institutions.
It’s also a perfect example of how Newsom personifies a kind of aristocratic liberalism that distinguishes itself from other varieties by seeming to cater to the tastes, preferences, and interests of the new upper class. National Review contributor Joel Kotkin explains why in City Journal:
Conservatives like to ascribe the label “leftist” to politicians such as Newsom. In reality, California’s governor is no Marxist firebrand but rather a favored candidate of what the Los Angeles Times described as “a coterie of San Francisco’s wealthiest families,” including the Fishers (who founded the Gap clothing chain), the Pritzkers (whose family includes the current Illinois governor), and especially the Getty family, which essentially adopted Newsom, financed his business ventures, and allegedly paid for his first lavish wedding while helping launch his political career. These families overall have prospered in California’s highly bifurcated economy, among the least egalitarian in the nation. Its prime beneficiaries cluster along the state’s postindustrial, temperate zones.
Newsom rose, as former assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown suggests, as the favored spokesman for San Francisco’s local well-to-do. “He came from their world, and that’s why they embraced him without hesitancy and over and above everybody else,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times. “They didn’t need to interview him. They knew what he stood for.”
Newsom postures as a social-justice advocate and believer in austere green virtues, but the corporate aristocracy has helped him live in luxury, first in his native Marin, and now in Sacramento. Newsom’s passion for the good life caused him some embarrassment recently when he was caught violating his own pandemic orders at the ultra-expensive, ultra-chic French Laundry in Napa. This episode exemplifies America’s elite nomenklatura—demanding sacrifices of the masses, whether in the form of lockdowns or housing, but less often from themselves.
The whole thing is worth reading. Kotkin suggests that Newsom’s record is starting to catch up with him, as his inability to work for anything like a common good that benefits all Californians is becoming increasingly evident. Let’s hope so. Otherwise, a man Kotkin identifies as looking like a president out of central casting might try to foist his uniquely defective brand of aristocratic liberalism on America as a whole.