Why everyone should be paying attention to the recall election in California
The wine bill alone apparently came to $12,000. Last November, when California was under a partial lockdown, Gavin Newsom was caught breaking his own rules and celebrating a lobbyist friend’s birthday at the French Laundry, an uber-expensive Michelin-starred restaurant. The Democratic governor’s night at the French Laundry didn’t just stain his reputation, it may have ended his political career. Nobody likes a hypocrite and anger over Newsom’s fancy night out helped fuel Republican-led efforts to oust him. A special gubernatorial recall election is currently under way and there’s a very real chance that, in a couple of weeks, Newsom might lose his job to Larry Elder, a rightwing radio host with some terrifying views and a long history of misogynistic comments.
California is a deeply blue state where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost two to one. How on earth is it possible that Newsom, who is still very popular, might get replaced by a Republican? Because of the weird way that California’s gubernatorial recall elections work, basically. Voters are asked two questions. The first is whether they want to recall Newsom or not. If a majority say yes, then he’s out. The candidate that gets the most votes on the replacement ballot is in. It’s a democratic process with the potential for a very undemocratic result.
Perhaps you don’t live in California or the United States. Perhaps you think none of this really affects you. It does, I’m afraid. It really does. California is the fifth-largest economy in the world: the person running it matters immensely. While a replacement governor would serve for just over a year (Newsom’s term ends in January 2023), that’s still enough time for someone to do a lot of damage.
There’s also a “doomsday scenario” that is weighing at the back of some Democrats’ minds. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats; Kamala Harris gets the tie-breaking vote. One of California’s senators is Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who is 88 years old. (The average life expectancy in the US for women, by the way, is 81 years old.) If she needed to step down for health reasons before the end of her term, the governor of California would appoint her replacement. And if a Republican gets appointed then the Senate would be back under GOP control. That’s not inevitable, by the way. If Newsom loses, Feinstein has the opportunity to step aside before the new governor is sworn in – however she has said she has no intention of doing that. Can’t put the greater good ahead of your career, you know! And while the odds of this doomsday scenario happening are slim, recent years should have taught us that we ought to be prepared for anything.
I’ve got a feeling that, in the end, Newsom will probably cling on to power. But that’s not really something to celebrate either. This recall election is going to end up costing $276m. That may only be five bottles of wine at the French Laundry for the likes of Newsom; but for normal people, it’s a colossal waste of money that is desperately needed for other things. The election is also a depressing reminder that the Republicans are incredibly good at finding sneaky ways to get into power and hold on to it. The power-grab in California is just a small taste of things to come.
A dystopian Texas abortion law takes effect in September
The law bans abortion at six weeks of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest. It also allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a person get an abortion. In theory that means if you drive your friend to an abortion clinic a Conservative Karen could sue you. It’s possible you could even get sued for donating money to Planned Parenthood of Texas. It’s chilling.
No one knows how many Indigenous women are murdered each year
That’s for a number of reasons including the fact that violence against Indigenous women is often underreported and police reports frequently misclassify Native American women as white or Hispanic. The lack of data means the magnitude of the problem hasn’t been fully grasped by policymakers, and the issue hasn’t had the funding and attention it deserves. NBC reports on the Indigenous women who are refusing to let their “people die in silence” and demanding a reshape of the criminal justice system.
The Afghan girls’ robotics team has a white savior problem
An Oklahoma woman called Allyson Reneau has been very loudly and proudly taking credit for evacuating members of the all-girls robotics team out of Afghanistan. However, a lawyer for the team’s parent organisation says Reneau has overstated her role and is putting the girls and their families at risk. A spokesman for the Qatari foreign ministry, which helped evacuate the robotics team members, accused the US media of making Reneau a “white savior”.
Gavin Rossdale, whose ex-wife is the singer Gwen Stefani, has a new girlfriend called Gwen Singer
There are probably only about five people in the world who care about Rossdale’s dating life. However, since I spent my tweens assuming I was going to one day be Mrs Rossdale (I had a shrine to Gavin on my wall), I feel obliged to report this important name news. Clearly I should have changed my name to ArwaGwen to be in with a chance.
Black female chefs are challenging the ‘bro culture’ of cooking shows
Is time up for Time’s Up?
The chief executive of the sexual harassment victims’ advocacy group Time’s Up has resigned after it was revealed that she advised Andrew Cuomo after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Some female hummingbirds avoid sexual harassment by masquerading as men
About 20% of female white-necked jacobins have bright feathers, just like their male counterparts. This stops them from getting socially harassed, a new study has found.
The week in paw-triarchy
I apologize for being a little late to report this monkey business, but it appears that a nine-year-old female called Yakei has become the new leader of a troop of Japanese macaque monkeys at a nature reserve on the island of Kyushu. Her path to power involved beating up her own mother and then having it out with a 31-year-old alpha male called Sanchu. She’s the first female monkey boss in the nature reserve’s 70-year-history. All hail Queen Yakei.
Arwa Mahdawi’s new book, Strong Female Lead, is available for pre-order.