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Gov. Gavin Newsom calls on Democrats to go on offense

By Maeve Reston, CNN

California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned members of his party Saturday that the GOP is “winning right now” as that party controls the national conversation — arguing that Democrats’ failure to offer a “compelling alternative narrative” has put the “entire rights agenda” of the last half-century at risk.

Criticizing the GOP push for restrictive abortion laws, the assault on protections for the LGBTQ community, the attempts to ban certain books from schools and the busing of migrants to liberal cities and enclaves, Newsom charged that rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are attempting to wipe out “the rights revolution of the last century” with their “zest for demonization (and) humiliating people every single day.”

“These guys are ruthless on the other side,” Newsom said, decrying the “propaganda machines” of Fox News’ primetime lineup, Newsmax and the “anger industry” that he said surrounds them. “They dominate the most important thing in American politics today and that’s the narrative — facts become secondary to narrative. They dominate with illusion. And we are getting crushed. We are on the defense over and over again.”

The offices of DeSantis and Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newsom, a Democrat, once again denied that he is considering a run for the White House in 2024 or 2028 at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday. But he defended the attention-grabbing moves that he has made this year — including erecting billboards in seven red states that have limited or banned abortion encouraging out-of-state women to come to California for their reproductive care — by stating that the policies of GOP governors like DeSantis and Abbott must be more forcefully challenged by Democratic leaders like himself.

He said he was not directing his critique at President Joe Biden — arguing that the President has been “busy” offering a “masterclass” on “substance and policy” in his first two years in the White House. But he said Democrats are failing from the standpoint of “organizing from the bottom up”: “Where are we — going on the offense every single day? They’re winning right now.”

The California governor argued that more than electoral success is on the line for his party as he called attention to the rollback of abortion rights state-by-state including in Arizona, where a Pima County Superior Court judge on Friday reinstated a 1901 near-total ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother.

He directed particular ire at DeSantis, his preferred sparring partner, for backing a law (that is being challenged in court) prohibiting abortions in Florida after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.

“Ron DeSantis sits there claiming this freedom gospel — and you can be an 11-year-old girl raped by your father, be forced to bear your own brother or sister, and he claims freedom in that state? What the hell is going on?” Newsom said. “I’m not going to allow them to have that mantle of freedom.”

Newsom noted that former first lady Michelle Obama famously offered the mantra “when they go low, we go high,” but said Democrats don’t have that option right now. Abortion rights, voting rights, civil rights and same-sex marriage are all on “the chopping block,” he argued.

“They want to bring us back to the pre-1960s,” Newsom said. “We have to wake up to it…. We have to meet this moment head on, and damn it, the Democratic Party has to assert itself much more aggressively than we have.”

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