When you’re running for governor of a state where a plurality of the population is Latino, I guess you’re required to be a little squishier on immigration than the average Republican is nationally.
Although, in fairness to Jenner, she’s not much more moderate on this issue than the average Republican is. She’s more moderate than the average *MAGA* Republican, but a Morning Consult poll taken in January found 39 percent of GOPers support a path to citizenship for illegals while another 19 percent support legal residency without citizenship. Only 36 percent favor deportation. That’s a solid majority in favor of letting “the undocumented” stay among a party that’s otherwise all but unanimously supportive of border hawk Donald Trump.
And the GOP numbers are even more liberal in California, as you might expect. CNN notes that a state poll taken in March found 68 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Californians overall favor a path to citizenship. If you want to be electorally viable in that state, you need to be pro-amnesty. So Jenner is pro-amnesty.
“I am for legal immigration, okay. What’s been happening on the border was honestly one of the reasons I decided to run for governor,” Jenner said in the interview. “I was watching people dying come across the river, kids in cages — whatever you want to call them.”
“They should have a chance at citizenship?” Bash asked.
“Absolutely, yeah. They should. I mean, there’s a lot of people, but personally I have met some of the most wonderful people who are immigrants, who have come to this country and they are just model citizens. They are just great people and I would fight for them to be US citizens,” Jenner replied…
When asked about deportations, Jenner told Bash that “the bad ones have to leave,” defining that group as those with criminal records or those who are affiliated with the street gang MS-13, adding “the list goes on.”
Jenner presumably calculated that there was nothing to be gained by taking a strong-form “deport ’em all” view. Not only is it unpopular within her own party but the sort of right-winger who might otherwise gravitate towards a candidate who supports mass deportation may resist in Jenner’s case. If you want to Make America Great Again by restoring the culture to what it was before the left become dominant, the country’s most famous transgender celebrity is an unlikely vessel for your grievance.
In fact, Michael Brendan Dougherty wonders what the Jenner campaign might do to social conservatism more broadly if it gains traction in California:
Jenner’s candidacy, if it catches fire in the media, will have two effects. (1) It will blunt conservative objections to gender ideology at a time when “gender clinics” are opening across the country and engaging in a sustained legal and public-relations campaign to establish their place in the borderland between medicine and social activism, the same way Planned Parenthood did before them. (2) The Jenner campaign will effectively pioneer an ersatz “conservative way to be trans.” Jenner’s attitude toward people who object is relaxed or dismissive rather than paranoid and punitive. The campaign will define “conservative trans” as campy and fun, rather than crusading. Jenner’s transgenderism is branded in the same way conservative Evangelicals tried to rebrand: as winsome, and with it, not puritanical, or bent out of shape. Just roll with it.
To the extent Jenner’s candidacy is more than just a publicity stunt aimed at getting her a new TV show or whatever, its prospects for success rest entirely on the value of name recognition and celebrity. There’s no reason on the merits to prefer her to, say, John Cox, who ran against Newsom in 2018, or former Trump official Ric Grenell. But if the key to winning a recall election is to have one party’s voters coalesce behind a single candidate in a gigantic field then the candidate with the most recognizable name is at a significant advantage. It’s how Arnold Schwarzenegger stood out in the 2003 recall. Republicans have no chance at all of stealing Newsom’s seat this fall if GOP voters are split between two, three, or four candidates, creating a low ceiling for each. But if one candidate stands out by dint of celebrity, that person might take, say, 35 percent of the vote. And if the Democrats are split among numerous candidates themselves, suddenly the GOP has a real shot at victory.
Jenner’s trans identity is enough of a liability for her in a socially conservative party that she’s destined to bleed votes to Cox and others on the right. But maybe her celebrity is such that she can offset those losses by pulling some centrists and even moderate Democrats away from the Dem candidates and forge a bipartisan coalition. In a field as big as the recall field, the winner may only need a third or so of the electorate in order to prevail. For what it’s worth, a Survey USA poll released a few days ago found Cox with nine percent of the vote, Jenner with five percent, Grenell with five percent, and right-wing online personality Mike Cernovich with three percent. But since the margin of error was itself five percent, essentially there’s no way to know who’s ahead right now. All we know from the poll is that Jenner hasn’t yet broken out by dint of name recognition. Although she just started campaigning.
Anyway, none of this matters. The next gubernatorial election will happen in November 2022 via regular ballot, meaning that the Republican nominee will surely be decimated, so even a Jenner upset this fall would mean one year in power at most. And it would be an ineffectual year, as California’s Democratic state legislature would have no reason to work with a new GOP governor knowing they’re just 12 months away from unified control of government again. Meanwhile, the state’s amazing progress in reducing COVID cases has strengthened Newsom’s position and primed California for a robust economic recovery this summer. And just to make sure voters know whom to thank, Newsom’s decided to issue a little pre-recall bribe to the electorate using taxpayers’ own money:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a $100 billion economy recovery package, with the centerpiece a proposal to give $11.9 billion of direct cash payments to Californians. https://t.co/kv1fNC325l
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 10, 2021
Anything can happen in six months but it’s very unlikely that he’ll be recalled. Enjoy the Jenner media tour while it lasts.