When Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the New College of Florida — a progressive institution where the battle over Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion positions on higher education campuses has reached a fever pitch — no one expected him to come off looking too progressive.
And yet, Gavin Newsom is gonna Gavin Newsom.
In a short video clip making the rounds on social media, the California governor — who’s running a not-so-secret shadow campaign to be the backup presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2024 should Joe Biden get too far gone — can be seen looking lost and clapping his hands like a child to a singalong of the classic Christian tune “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
Newsom’s visit was a sign of support for the small public liberal arts school because of what The New York Times describes as a “plan by Gov. Ron DeSantis to transform New College, which is known as progressive and describes itself as ‘a community of free thinkers,’ into a beacon of conservatism … Mr. DeSantis’s education commissioner has expressed a desire to remake the school in the image of Hillsdale College, a small Christian school in Michigan that has been active in conservative politics.”
As Gannett reporter Zac Anderson noted in an April 5 tweet that began gaining momentum, Newsom visited the Sarasota college for a meeting with students and faculty since the institution “has become the epicenter of the culture wars after FL Gov Ron DeSantis initiated a conservative transformation.”
Newsom spoke of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott and also, according to Anderson, ridiculed the “focus on DEI bureaucracy at New College, saying it must be really big to attract so much attention. When somebody says it was 4 people before being dismantled, Newsom chuckles ‘I don’t mean to laugh but geez.'”
— Zac Anderson (@zacjanderson) April 5, 2023
Newsom mocks focus on DEI bureaucracy at New College, saying it must be really big to attract so much attention. When somebody says it was 4 people before being dismantled, Newsom chuckles “I don’t mean to laugh but geez”
— Zac Anderson (@zacjanderson) April 5, 2023
However, it wasn’t until later that the video of him clapping along, looking lost, during “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” that the whole thing began souring for Newsom.
“Gavin Newsom booked a room at a public library near New College of Florida, told the audience he was ‘crawling out of my skin for you guys,’ and clapped along to the music like a kindergartner at storytime,” tweeted City Journal writer and conservative activist Christopher Rufo.
“Serious Patric Bateman vibes,” he added.
Gavin Newsom booked a room at a public library near New College of Florida, told the audience he was “crawling out of my skin for you guys,” and clapped along to the music like a kindergartner at storytime.
Serious Patrick Bateman vibes.pic.twitter.com/N79D8cFdBZ
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) April 5, 2023
(For the uninitiated, Patrick Bateman is the yuppie/serial killer protagonist in Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel “American Psycho.” Newsom’s appearance — as well as his lifestyle — bear more than a passing resemblance to Christian Bale’s portrayal of the character in the 2000 film adaptation of the novel, and the comparison isn’t an uncommon one.)
“That’s his only vibe,” academic and conservative activist James Lindsay responded.
That’s his only vibe.
— James Lindsay, worthless shitlib (@ConceptualJames) April 5, 2023
Tom Elliott, founder of conservative media aggregator Grabien, said the governor came across “[l]ike a comic book villain only creepier.”
Like a comic book villain only creepier
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 5, 2023
And, as one user put it: “First time he’s heard that song.”
First time he’s heard that song.
— BruceWayne (@Otterbruce) April 6, 2023
For the uninitiated, the “He” in “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is God; according to the Library of Congress’ website, it’s unclear when the black spiritual first originated, but the first written reference to it was in “Spirituals Triumphant Old and New,” published in 1927.
However, despite the relative ubiquity of the song throughout Western English-speaking Christianity — I remember singing it at Catholic Bible camp as a kid, so it had even crossed over to the “Ave Maria” crowd by the late 1980s — Newsom seemed wholly unfamiliar with it.
It’s so awkward that it’s almost like you want to tell him to pull an opposite Jeb Bush: Please don’t clap. You clearly don’t know a song every kid learns in Sunday school.
But therein lies the problem with Newsom as a presidential backstop. It’s a lot easier to picture the California governor taking Patrick Bateman’s place in the infamous “You like Huey Lewis and the News?” scene from “American Psycho” than it is to picture him in a church pew.
Forget winning over independent Christians and the other faithful in the general election; given that black churches provide much of the political backbone of the Democratic Party machine and are key to succeeding in the primaries, looking like he’s landed among Martians during Sunday service could be an insuperable handicap.
He’s every bit the modern Californian: God is something for the Southerners and weirdos, maybe campaign at a large, liberal congregation or two and call it a day. Clap awkwardly through the songs. Shake a few hands. Get some votes.
Now, granted, he may have a while to hone his act. The Hill, noting after his visit to Florida that “experts believe that it’s not a question of if he will run for president, but when,” still had experts saying the window for him is more likely 2028 than 2024.
“My sense is that the governor is trying to leave his options open,” said Eric Schickler, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “I don’t think there’s any expectation at all he would challenge Joe Biden for re-election.”
“Building a national profile now, the most likely scenario where that really comes to fruition is for 2028.”
However, the professor noted that if Biden is unable to run in 2024 for some reason — like, say, voters begin noticing how seriously he’s mentally declined and how that decline has only accelerated — that would put Newsom in the mix.
“In that case, it’d be a very wide open, Democratic field, and I think that Governor Newsom would be one of the people who would nationally be talked about as a serious contender,” Schickler said.
In that case, he’d better learn how to plausibly look like he’s vaguely interested in those who still have religious faith — and fast. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a whole crop of clips like this.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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