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Democracy is at Stake

Why I’m Voting “No” on the California Recall

This past week has been a real whirlwind in my household — besides feeling excitement and pride as my teenage daughter FINALLY returns to in-person learning after a year at home, I must admit I also feel a sense of tremendous anxiety. You see, next week, September 14, is California’s Gubernatorial recall election and although recent polls show current Governor Gavin Newsom with a substantial lead — history is a cruel reminder of how quickly the tides can change.

I am against the recall not solely because I believe in Governor Newsom’s agenda, but because I believe there is so much more at stake. These past two years have revealed some of the ugliest parts of our country’s history on a national level. The Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 while the previous administration was in control and now the very same voters who were targeted bear the burden of proving they have been wronged. Seeing this trend play out across the nation is dispiriting — it’s the same story we’ve seen over and over since the founding of this country. Individual states are changing the rules against historically excluded communities to try and make sure that nobody can ever mount a serious challenge to the status quo. From Georgia to North Carolina and now Texas…the latest state to impose restrictive voting laws targeting minority voters and a woman’s right to choose. This unequal representation keeps control of government by conservatives even as they make up a smaller and smaller percent of the population, but as I said before, now is not the time to give up hope.

I am a child of the Bay Area who grew up in Oakland during the civil rights era. This has had a profound impact on who I am and what I believe in. Oakland was once referred to by the New York Times as the “last refuge of radical America”. It is a place where protests of racial injustice, economic inequalities and police brutality have become second nature over the years-from civil rights at the Oakland Tribune in the 1960s, the killing of Oscar Grant in 2009, Occupy Oakland in 2011 and most recently the killing of George Floyd. I believe in standing up and fighting wrongs-and I strongly believe where we are going politically in terms of voters rights and the upcoming recall election-is wrong.

Just last year, the House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would preempt state voter restrictions and restore the Voting Rights Act to its former glory. The Biden administration, helmed by the President and Vice President Harris, the first Black woman to hold the office and the highest-ranking woman in American history, has a rare opportunity of unified control to change things from top to bottom. The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration, where it will likely face a filibuster from the very politicians who stand to benefit from perpetual unequal representation. For decades, the filibuster protected segregation and held back racial equality, and now it’s the main obstacle to restoring a representative democracy.

As Californians, we are not exempt from this crisis. The same wave of anti-democratic furor that is assaulting free and fair elections across the country has made its way to our state. If Governor Newsom is recalled and replaced with a Republican, so many of the advancements that make California a national and global leader could disappear overnight. One of the most important actions for the Governor of California is the possibility of them having the power to appoint a US Senator. If Governor Newsom is recalled and replaced with a Republican like Larry Elder, he will potentially have the opportunity to appoint a U.S. Senator, and any hope for protecting democracy in the United States would be lost.

That’s why I’ve been involved with Women Against the Recall (WAR), a grassroots movement of California women fighting against the Retrumplican recall attempt. Working together, we crafted a letter of support for Governor Newsom that was signed by thousands of California women including civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Amiee Allison founder of She the People, and Congressmembers Karen Bass and Barbara Lee. We also performed voter outreach including a virtual event headlined by the governor, which was covered by the media.

It’s not easy to take a stand in the middle of so much divisiveness and misinformation — it comes with challenges and uncertainties, moments where the future looks bleak. But just like those who’ve stood up before us, you have to look to a future that is inclusive and represents us all. The work we do now will serve to allow the next generation — my daughter’s generation — an opportunity to carry the torch forward to a more just and equitable society. Please exercise your right to vote — I have already cast my vote, which was a resounding NO to this Gubernatorial recall.