Doom for the Dems in 2024: Here's the Unseen Data from the California Recall


After months of hype over the recall and roughly $300 million spent, the situation is status quo ante in California: Democrat Gavin Newsom is still the governor, and by a wide margin at that.

According to data from The New York Times, as of Friday morning, the tally stands at 62.6 percent of Californians having voted “no” on recalling Newsom in the Sept. 14 election, with 94 percent reported. The race was called early on election night, however, and a race that once seemed close-ended in a landslide for the long-embattled governor.

So why are Democrat strategists calling it a “canary in the coal mine” — particularly when it comes to national politics?

Sure, whatever Newsom’s final vote tally will be, it’ll look impressive. But that’s just one number. Exit polls in the race confirm a worrying trend for Democrats that’s a carryover from the 2020 election: lower levels of minority support for Democratic candidates.

Lest we forget, former President Donald Trump should have been the canary in the coal mine back in 2020. Despite being painted as an irredeemable racist and xenophobe, Trump gained six points among black men and five points among Hispanic women in exit polling, as the BBC pointed out. In fact, according to the Edison Research/NEP exit poll, Trump gained in every demographic but among white men.

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You could say that these numbers were an aberration or that exit polls don’t tell you the whole story. However, in California, Gavin Newsom’s exit polls showed the same trend. Here’s NBC News’ Steve Kornacki, noting a major difference in the coalition which kept Newsom in office versus the coalition that first elected him in 2018:

Newsom had a higher percentage of white college-educated voters than he did when he beat businessman John Cox in 2018, with a 68 percent to 32 spread this time against a 59-40 spread three years ago. His support among white non-college-educated voters was down by 12 points, however.

Most worryingly for Democrats, his margin among Hispanic voters was down by 6 points and among black voters by 5 points.

At the county level, this trend was thrown into greater relief:

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“Donald Trump got a historic number of Latino votes in 2020, and you can claim it was because of this or because of that, but it’s not like Larry Elder broke through for these folks. There is something else going on,”  said Los Angeles-based Democratic consultant Michael Trujillo, according to NBC News.

“We’re seeing something happen in blue state California, where a certain segment of the Latino population is trending in the wrong direction.”

Some cautioned against reading too much into exit polls, saying they are limited when dealing with racial groups. But there was one way to test whether they were correct or not.

“The exit polls may be bolstered by real vote data from the state’s most Latino county, Imperial, in the southeast corner of the state along the Mexican border, where more than 80 percent of residents are Latino,” NBC News reported.

“The recall actually performed slightly better in the heavily Latino Imperial County than it did statewide, with 38.7 percent of voters in the county voting to remove Newsom from office, compared to 36.1 percent in the entire state, though not all votes have been counted yet.”

Furthermore, while Hillary Clinton won Imperial County by 41 points in the 2016 presidential race, Joe Biden won it by only 25 points in 2020.

“There is a canary in the coal mine and it’s called Imperial County,” Trujillo said. “That canary has a cough, and as a party we need to do more than just give it a throat lozenge or a cough suppressant. We need to cure the cause.”

The problem is, curing the cause would likely upend the Democratic agenda.

One of the reasons why Hispanic voters have started a slow shift toward Republicans is jobs: Trump and Republicans have been good at providing them; lockdowns have been good at killing them. In California, that’s especially true — and that had some Hispanic voters calling for Newsom’s head.

“Get rid of him,” Rosalba Jepson, a Hispanic teacher, told NPR. “We work hard, he gets paid.”

“I had to switch from teaching in class to doing something online I had never, ever done before. You think that wasn’t stressful? Nobody paid me that extra time.”

Will the GOP attract a bigger slice of the minority vote in 2024?

At least she had a job. As NBC News’ piece noted, roughly a quarter of small businesses in California are owned by Latinos, something that has them feeling the pinch.

In California, this is unlikely to matter much. However, on a national level, this is a trend that should have Democrats sitting up and paying attention. For years, they’ve relied on minority communities to deliver the votes in critical swing districts and states. Demographics is destiny, after all — right?

Not so much, if the 2020 election and 2021 California recall were any indication. In 2024, that could spell doom for the Democrats.

For a party that prides itself on its multiculturalism, they’re increasingly becoming the party of white college-educated voters. That’s not a sustainable path to a national coalition. The Republicans may have lost the recall battle, but they’re set up to win the electoral war.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture