Newsom assails right-wing attacks on rights, and on California values

Newsom assails right-wing attacks on rights, and on California values

Gov. Gavin Newsom in San Francisco on Wednesday assailed conservative attacks on voting rights, LGBTQ rights and books, tying the success of California’s businesses to “blue-state” Democratic values.

“I’m watching 50 years, a half century of progress being wiped out,” Newsom said in a talk with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at the software giant’s annual “Dreamforce” conference.

“I’m very worried about what’s going on nationally. Folks want to bring us back to a pre-1960 world. This rights regression needs to be called out.”

Newsom held up the far-right ideology of former President Donald Trump and other leaders espousing hardcore conservative views as barriers to social, environmental and economic progress.

Newsom decried the banning of books, mentioning specifically the blocking of a book by a southern California school board over its mention of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The California governor — who has cultivated a national profile in recent years in part by going after right-wing politicians — criticized his New Hampshire counterpart Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, over moves by that state’s education department to allow course materials from the right-wing group PragerU into public schools.

And Newsom took a swipe at Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis while touting California’s success in technology, venture capital, manufacturing and other arenas. “This is a state that has long prided itself on being on the cutting edge,” Newsom said. “We dominate in every single category. We simply have no peers — eat your heart out, Ron DeSantis.”

California, he said, has become a target for conservative outrage from red states. “For the last few years there’s been this anger machine … just bashing states like California,” he said. “I don’t like what’s happening in those states.”

But the values held by most California voters that keep it a blue state play a key role in the economy, Newsom said. He likened tolerance, empathy, caring and collaboration to a “business-competitive strategy.”

“We’re a talent magnet,” the governor said. “Values do matter. Part of that formula for success is that capacity to get the best and the brightest, because people feel included.”

However, the bottom-line damage that knocked nation-leading beer brand Bud Light out of the top spot in the market because its maker Anheuser-Busch hired a transgender promoter shows the perils of spreading California values across a politically polarized country, Newsom said.

“It’s a very dicey and challenging time for corporate America,” Newsom said.

Although the Dreamforce event showcased nearly infinite applications for artificial intelligence at a variety of colorful booths in the Moscone Center, Newsom admitted he lacks expertise, but claimed humility about it. “I know what I don’t know, certainly in this space, AI,” he said.

If the technology given a massive boost late last year by Bay Area firm OpenAI’s ChatGPT generative AI bot can foster empathy and compassion, Newsom said he would champion it. However, he said, “If AI is just going to lead us to more micro-cults and more personalized realities and division, it ain’t such a bright future.”