For one brief shining moment, the night of November 6, 2018, Gavin Newsom seemed invincible. More than 1,000 supporters had crammed into Exchange L.A., a nightclub located in the former Los Angeles stock-market building downtown, to cheer as he won the California gubernatorial race, a cresting moment in the midterm blue wave that swept scores of Democrats into office across the country. When the then-51-year-old newly elected governor of the largest state in the union took to the stage, the roar could be heard outside on Spring Street. "It's time to roll the credits on the politics of chaos," he told his ecstatic followers. "The sun is rising in the west, and the arc of history is bending in our direction!"
It seemed for sure that the Resistance had found a leader worthy of the cause. Tall, handsome, Kennedy-level charismatic, Newsom was clearly a politician who could stand up to Donald Trump and who might even someday occupy the Oval Office himself. And on that chilly November evening, he had every reason to be confident about the future. Not only had he defeated Republican tax attorney John Cox in an historic rout, he was inheriting a state with a $20 billion budget surplus, a largely friendly (that is, Democratic) state legislature, an unemployment rate of just 4.8 percent, and an agenda that was among the most progressive and ambitious in the country. Climate recovery. Justice reform. Healthcare for all Californians. All seemed not just possible but tantalizingly within reach. What could possibly go wrong?