Gavin Newsom, "Lizard" King
Why the right-wing may learn to fear him
The Republican debates, sans Donald Trump, have been a predictable bore. At best, the programming offers a preview of a 2028 primary or a competition for a new nominee if Trump, 77, drops dead. All of it is evidence, at the very minimum, no one in the Republican primary can do television like Trump. If they are bombastic and a tad unhinged, they cannot captivate—they are a smattering of second and third-order talents, and most suffer from overexposure. Just ask Ron DeSantis.
But the governor of Florida has at least promised to do something interesting: participate in Gavin Newsom’s Fox News debate scheme. Newsom, the governor of California, has convinced DeSantis that they should debate, one-on-one, on Nov. 30 with Sean Hannity moderating. Newsom, like DeSantis, wants to be president one day. Neither man will probably get to the White House, but Newsom’s odds, at the moment, look slightly better. If Trump crushes DeSantis in the primary, as polls indicate he will, the Florida governor’s political career is done. Newsom, an enthusiastic Joe Biden surrogate, might be a top tier Democratic candidate in 2028, in a war for donors with Kamala Harris, his fellow Californian.
While some in the pundit class have panned the idea of a Newsom-DeSantis clash, it’s plainly worthwhile as spectacles go. Newsom and DeSantis are in charge of two of the largest and most important states in America. They offer, rhetorically at least, deeply divergent views on social and economic questions. They will get to argue for the future of their very attractive and very flawed states. If anything, our polarized system needs more meetings between the tribes, more opportunities to exchange ideas over an extended period of time, even on Fox. Otherwise, the culture withers.
There’s a less important but intriguing political question that might be asked of the debate: who, of the two, actually benefits? My first instinct was DeSantis, desperate for buzz as his campaign flags. Now, with a few more days to think it over, the answer is much clearer to me.
And it took the editor-in-chief of the Blaze, a right-wing news organization, to clarify the stakes.
“Newsom revealed a bit of what’s coming last night, which the Right is not ready for. He’s comfortable in his own skin like Trump, and doesn’t just want to be there but is comfortable and assured and *loves* being there. Radiating ambitious, gleeful energy while on with Hannity,” Matthew J. Peterson posted on X, former known as Twitter, last last month. “He’s not ideological—pure and distilled lizard aristo-technocratic lizard brain with political people skill in relation to American elites that matter—and if he ran it would be to the right of his party. People are not prepared. Typical Fox News responses will not be enough.”
Typical Fox News responses will not be enough. Indeed. In the old Fox formulation, bullies v. nerds, alphas v. betas, it’s increasingly obvious that Newsom, the oily ex-baseball prospect, is the man best fit for this quasi-demented and deeply influential arena. He’s hungry for it. In some ways, he’s more like Trump than DeSantis will ever be.