“Abracadabra!” “Alakazam!” These common refrains are employed by magicians to signal the climax of their seemingly supernatural trick. As a child, I was fascinated by masters of deception. Among other magician’s tricks, the “sleight of hand” was my obsession. Equally stunning and perplexing, I was left puzzled time and again by the clever illusion. Try as I might, I could not manage to figure it out.
With study, I discovered the mastery behind the “sleight of hand” ploy: deception. The phrase refers to a clever act designed for two purposes — entertainment and manipulation of the onlooker. Drawing the spectator in by an intimate and captivating movement of the hands, the spectator never captures the moment they are duped into thinking they were not tricked. If you do not closely observe the magician’s hands, you will be fooled into looking in the wrong direction. Ultimately, you will believe what the magician wants you to think — that magic made the trick happen.
Today, I am often reminded of the ‘sleight of hand’ when I feel drawn into false narratives perpetuated by our state and nation’s elected officials. Among our nation’s leaders, Gov. Gavin Newsom has claimed center stage in attempting to deceive California residents that the Sept. 14 gubernatorial recall election is nothing more than a “Republican” brainchild.
You will note that every ballot mailed to California voters is accompanied by a voter’s guide that describes the recall as the result of machinations at the national level by the Republican Party and supporters of former President Donald Trump. More precisely, the guide includes a statement from Gov. Newsom asserting that this election is happening because the Republican National Committee is determined to seize power in California. This kind of talk is nothing new. Back in March, Newsom was quoted as saying the push for the vote was a “Republican recall backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic.”
Newsom has consistently described the upcoming election in speeches, public statements and social media posts as a “Republican-led recall.” He’s also made regular digs at the national Republican Party, linking his own political fortunes to developments in other parts of the country. On Aug. 16, for example, he wrote in a Twitter post: “Republicans want to drive CA off the same cliff as FL and TX.”
Under these circumstances, it’s no wonder that Orrin Heatlie and Mike Netter, the leading proponents of the recall campaign, took to the courts recently.
In early August, Heatlie and Netter sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber over the language of the voter’s guide. They argued in their initial petition that Newsom ought to be ordered to revise the text of his statement in the guide to remove claims that the recall election was being spearheaded on a national level by the Republican Party and by Trump supporters. They called those claims “at best misleading, at worst flat-out false, and in all events a hyperbolic outrage,” and they requested that the court instruct the governor to remove text that accuses Republicans of abusing California’s recall laws in a bid to grasp power in the state.
Instead of holding Newsom’s false narratives accountable, Presiding Judge Laurie Earl issued a tentative ruling approving of Newsom’s false propaganda. As a result of Judge Earl’s ruling, households across California are receiving false and deceptive information about the movement behind the recall election. What those households will not read about is the fact that many of the 46 candidates named as possible alternatives to Newsom in the second section of the recall ballot are not Republicans.
They will not read about the small business owners who resent Newsom’s embrace of restrictive public health measures that leave them struggling to keep their doors open and keep their employees on the roster.
They will not read about the many individual voters — Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and others — who have been willing to go on record urging that Newsom be recalled. That’s a shame. The governor should not downplay the numerous and imminent reasons California voters of all stripes have found to vote him out of office.
The governor should not deceptively control narratives behind elections and ignore the obvious plight of so many in the Golden State. With an unprecedented homelessness crisis, rising unemployment and a broken education system, Newsom is in no position to suggest that a recall election was conceived only by members of the Republican Party.
The bottom line is that, like the “sleight of hand” trick, Gov. Newsom wants you to blindly buy into his “Republican power grab” recall narrative while distracting you from the truth many of us already know: Californians across the political spectrum are collectively calling for a change in leadership.
A native of Pacifica, Jonathan Madison worked as professional policy staff for the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Financial Services. Jonathan works as the lead attorney at The Madison Firm and can be reached via email at email@example.com.