The graduating computer science students at UC Berkeley had just finished chuckling at a joke about fleets of "Google buses, Facebook shuttles and Uber-copters" lining up to whisk them them to elite jobs in Silicon Valley. The commencement ceremony for a cohort of students who, one professor confided, were worth around $25bn, was a feel-good affair. Until, that is, Gavin Newsom took to the lectern and burst the bubble. The smooth-talking Democrat, and frontrunner to win California's gubernatorial race next year, warned the students that the "plumbing of the world is radically changing". The tech industry that would make them rich, Newsom declared, was also rendering millions of other people's jobs obsolete and fueling enormous disparities in wealth.
The first time Gavin Newsom ran for governor, he dropped out of the race in deference to a seemingly unbeatable fellow Democrat, Jerry Brown. "He was the right person at the right time, and I'm really glad I stepped aside," Newsom said on a recent visit to Los Angeles. "We needed the old sage." Newsom, who once mocked Brown's comeback as a "stroll down memory lane," settled for the almost powerless job of lieutenant governor, easily winning two terms. Now, with Brown, 79, nearing retirement, he is gunning for the governor's job again.
The fundraising dinner for Gavin Newsom in Salinas was in most ways a typical night for a political candidate. Local business leaders paid up to $5,000 for a chance to talk with the man aiming to be California's next governor over cauliflower bisque, strip steak and Meyer lemon pudding cake. The hosts that March evening were in the agriculture business, in a region known for its lettuce, grapes and strawberries. But they left their signature dish off the menu: candy infused with marijuana. California will soon have open sales of recreational marijuana, and it needs to decide how to regulate its newest cash crop.
This month, newly minted Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom told the nation that California will "write America's future." In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that America is now confronting "a great social depression" that requires action. Despite a recent Gallup survey that showed Americans think government is the biggest problem facing the country, both men made it clear they believe more government is the answer. Are California and New York capable of demonstrating a viable American brand of socialism? Newsom and Cuomo seem to think so.