Newton Weighs In on Efforts to Recall Newsom

Lecturer Jim Newton spoke to the Washington Post about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic. After winning the 2018 election with 62% of the vote, Newsom is now facing a recall effort caused by frustrations about his approach to the pandemic. In March 2020, Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order, which would be followed by a year of closing and reopening. “As it wore on, he seemed more vacillating, that there seemed to be a sort of uncertainty about how quickly to move to reopen,” Newton said. “It felt like the voices pressing for opening were starting to get to him.” However, Newton acknowledged that the circumstances were unprecedented. “I don’t know that he could have done it perfectly and I don’t know that there was a perfect way to do it,” he said. “He’s managed to be a little bit between the extremes and a little bit disappointing to people in both camps.”

Newton on San Diego’s Unexpected Shift to Blue

Lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Voice of San Diego about the city’s shift in support of the Democratic Party. After years of being a Republican stronghold, San Diego County has voted blue in the last four presidential elections. When asked in 1989 if deeply conservative Orange County would ever turn blue, Newton imagined it might happen sometime in his grandchildren’s lifetime. However, Barack Obama won San Diego County in the 2008 presidential election, and Orange County joined the movement in 2016 and 2020 by voting for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Newton pointed to the rise of the environmental movement and the increase in Latino voters for the shift. He explained that since the GOP drifted toward big business, “it’s hard to take the environment seriously and associate with the Republican Party.” He also noted that the GOP has become associated with deportation and intolerance in California. “It may take time, but political worlds shift,” he said.

Yaroslavsky and Newton Weigh In on Garcetti’s Record

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and lecturer Jim Newton were featured in a Forward article highlighting the successes and shortcomings of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is reportedly being considered for a Cabinet appointment in the Joe Biden administration. Garcetti established his reputation as a mayor who could get things done after he signed a $15 minimum wage into law in 2015 and with the 2016 passage of Measure M, which expanded public transit and bike networks. “Today, no county in America has so much local money invested in building transportation infrastructure as L.A. County has,” Yaroslavsky said. “He has a considerable record under his belt in that regard.” However, critics point out Garcetti’s failures to address homelessness and traffic congestion. “I’m one of the people who wanted to see him be more ambitious and swing higher,” Newton said. “I don’t think homelessness is his fault, … but I also don’t believe he can point to much evidence that he’s succeeded.”

Newton Speculates on Candidates to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat

Lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Courthouse News about the array of candidates Gov. Gavin Newsom will consider before selecting Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ successor in the U.S. Senate. Newsom will be the first California governor with the opportunity to appoint a senator in nearly 30 years. Newton explained that the governor will have to decide whether he wants a placeholder to fill out the last two years of Harris’ term or someone better suited to defend the seat going forward. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is a front-runner, Newton said, noting, “It’s a big, coveted, popular job. I think it would be attractive for him to put a Latino in that seat.” Possibilities from the Los Angeles area include Mayor Eric Garcetti and Congressman Adam Schiff, he said. Newton added that former Gov. Jerry Brown would be a good choice if Newsom desires experience and prefers someone who probably would not seek re-election in 2022.

Newton on What Harris Brings to the Democratic Ticket

Jim Newton, lecturer and editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine,  spoke with Nine News Australia about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as a running mate. Biden and Harris “come from different backgrounds and different parts of the country,” Newton said. “I think her presence on the ticket makes the ticket feel much bigger and much more appealing to a bigger section of the country.” Newton, who has tracked Harris’ career for two decades and interviewed her for the first edition of Blueprint in 2015, called her a tough political figure who has sparred with critics from both the left and right. He added that the selection of the first Black woman on the presidential ticket of a major party shows that Biden is open to “a new idea of America, rather than this country fighting to retain a white-majority establishment political culture.” 


Newton on Spirituality and Intellect of Jerry Brown

Jim Newton, lecturer and editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about the life of former Gov. Jerry Brown, which he chronicled in his book, “Man of Tomorrow.” Brown led California at two very different stages of his life — from 1975 until 1983, on the heels of the Vietnam War and Watergate, and again from 2011 until 2019. “He left California in far better shape than he found it,” with a rainy day fund of about $20 billion that steeled the state as it took on the COVID-19 pandemic, Newton said. “I have never met a person who thinks more deeply or attempts to draw bigger lessons out of spirituality and intellect and infuse them into politics than Jerry Brown,” he said. “He’s not always done that in ways that people would agree were successful, but I don’t know anyone who aspires to higher things.”

Newton on Police Misconduct and Cultural Racism

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton authored opinion articles in the Los Angeles Times and Politico dissecting the current debate on police brutality and misconduct. Newton recalled the L.A. riots in 1992, where “more than a dozen officers watched as other officers beat [Rodney] King into submission — a brutal attack that was overseen and directed by a police sergeant.” Newton argued that King was “the victim of police misconduct, yes, but also of a debased and racist police culture.” Similarly, he wrote that “when a Minneapolis police officer jams his knee into the neck of a Black man suspected of passing a phony $20 bill, that suggests misconduct; when three of his fellow officers stand by for more than eight minutes while the suspect pleads for help, that points to a cultural problem.” While some acts of police misconduct may be the work of a stray, misguided officer, Newton concluded that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.”

Newton on Garcetti’s Steady Response to Crisis

Jim Newton, lecturer of public policy, spoke to the Washington Post about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s approach to managing the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Garcetti has made it a priority to be well-versed in all the numbers, he said. “I think the book on Garcetti, correctly, has been that he is smart, articulate, principled, kind of an incrementalist and cautious,” Newton said. “And so what I think all of that has added up to — up to this point, anyway — is a kind of steady but unspectacular time as mayor.” As pressure has increased to reopen the economy, Garcetti’s decision-making process has been driven by cautious reason. Newton explained that the coronavirus pandemic is “the sort of crisis well-suited to [Garcetti’s] strengths: He is smart, good with data, comfortable with science. There’s no blaming. There’s no ridiculousness. It’s very steady and even and straightforward.”

Newton on Capturing the Life of Jerry Brown

Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine and a lecturer at the Luskin School, appeared on several media outlets to discuss “Man of Tomorrow,” his new biography of former Gov. Jerry Brown. In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Newton explained the title of the book. Brown, he said, is “a person who lives in the future and thinks about the future and sometimes has actually suffered from that, in the sense that he’s sort of been ahead of his electorate on some things.” He said the former governor exhibits “a combination of warning and concern and skepticism but also clear-sightedness and foresight and optimism” that keeps him relevant in the public arena. Newton appeared with Brown at a session of the UCLA Luskin Summit, as well as a webinar hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. A Los Angeles Times review of his book called it a “formidable contribution to the history of both the state and the country.”


Jerry Brown Speaks Out on Curbing Coronavirus and Building a Strong Future Former governor's conversation with biographer Jim Newton draws virtual audience of more than 1,300

By Mary Braswell

Former Gov. Jerry Brown shared his views on stepping up the fight against COVID-19 and repairing the rifts that divide Americans during an expansive conversation with Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine and author of a new book on the California statesman’s life.

More than 1,300 viewers tuned in to the May 12 webinar to hear insights from Brown, who built a reputation as both pragmatist and visionary in his half-century of public service, including four terms at the state’s helm.

The virtual audience had the opportunity to pose questions during the hour-long session, organized by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall and the nonprofit Writers Bloc, in partnership with the 2020 UCLA Luskin Summit.

The webinar took place amid a nationwide debate about how best to contain the novel coronavirus. Newton, author of the new biography “Man of Tomorrow: The Relentless Life of Jerry Brown,” asked the former governor how he would balance the dueling imperatives of protecting the nation’s health and reviving its economy.

Singling out Taiwan as a nation that acted swiftly and effectively to curb the virus’ spread, Brown urged that anyone infected be quarantined away from their families. The urgency of widespread coronavirus testing cannot be underestimated, he said, faulting the federal government for failing to mobilize the nation’s resources to fight the virus.

“This is a great manufacturing powerhouse, we’re a great biotech innovative powerhouse as well,” he said. “So the fact that we don’t have the tests we need, not by the hundreds of thousands but by the tens of millions every day, is leading to the problem we’re now at.

“The longer you wait, the harder it is, the more people get sick, suffer and die,” Brown said.

To rebuild the economy, the former governor invoked the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who called for “bold, persistent experimentation” in his New Deal package of relief and reforms following the Great Depression.

“We need that. Not partisan rancor, not petty politics, not halfway measures. To get this economy going with so many people sequestered at home requires massive federal spending and investment,” Brown said.

He called for the immediate launch of ambitious infrastructure projects to reopen hospitals, bring internet access to rural areas, and build roads, highways and high-speed rail. The projects, he said, would be staffed through a jobs program that would provide a livelihood for millions of Americans now facing prolonged unemployment.

“I would call this really a Rooseveltian moment. And it ought to take into account all the problems that we have. Whether it’s the maldistribution of income and opportunity, whether it’s the pending challenge of climate disruption, all these things are on the table,” he said. “Unfortunately, if we can’t do them right in calmer days, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Known for sprinkling his comments with historical references, Brown cited Roosevelt numerous times and also namechecked economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August Hayek, inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller, and Supreme Court Justice Edward Douglass White, who served in the early 20th Century.

But the names most cited were Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, the president and Senate majority leader whom Brown held accountable for both an inadequate COVID-19 response and a fractured populace.

“If the choice is Trump for another four years … all these problems, from my vantage point, are going to get much, much worse, dangerously so,” Brown said, looking ahead to the November election.

“We have a lot of challenges and probably the biggest is building trust in our leadership, which is now being done better by our governors than by those occupying a power pole position in Washington,” he said.

Brown, a longtime Democrat whose own presidential aspirations fell short, predicted that an era of greater national unity lies ahead — but it requires abandoning far-reaching proposals from both the political left and right.

“I think we do need a unifier. I know we need polarization to activate the electorate, but in governing we need someone who reaches beyond the particular issues that are currently the stuff of campaigning,” Brown said.

“And that’s why politics is not all that satisfying and why politicians are not enduringly popular.”

Fielding audience questions, Brown weighed in on a range of topics.

On the future of financing higher education in California, he said, “We need to change the university from being an arms race of amenities to one that will be more limited but also fully creative. … The current course is not sustainable without a rising burden put on students, and I think that would be very wrong.”

On his signature issue, combating climate change, he called for an era of “planetary realism” and noted that the coronavirus emergency offers a sober lesson: “If you delay, if you don’t seize the moment when you can, you pay a much bigger price.”

And on maintaining hope amid an array of global threats, Brown took a poetic turn:

“I look out the window here and the wind is blowing on the walnut tree in front of me, the oak trees, the leaves, they’re flourishing” even amid drought, he said. “The rabbits are running around, the dogs are chasing the squirrels, the coyotes are howling at night. …

“Life — just to be here and be part of it — is quite a lot. So to worry, to think about down the road how it’s going to turn out? That’s fortune telling. That’s ouija board stuff.

“Do what you can do in the moment that you have. And God will take care of the rest.”