Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Aug 27, 2021

Californians love long-shot bets. Actors trying to make it big in LA, tech founders chasing unicorns in San Francisco, cult leaders trying to found religions in Pasadena. In Silicon Valley, VCs turn the long-shot bet into an art: if some new startup has a 5% chance of making a billion, that's $50 million in expectation. Just a whole state full of people looking for weird opportunities.

...which makes it extra funny that the biggest opportunity of all came by a few months ago, and they all missed it.

My claim is that basically anyone with the slightest amount of fame or money - any B-list actor, any second-tier tech CEO, any successful blogger or influencer, maybe me, maybe even you - could have maneuvered themselves into a position where they had a 5-10% chance of becoming Governor of California.

Let's start at the beginning.

Governor Gavin Newsom had a bad year. First he pissed off Republicans with his strong response to COVID. Then he pissed off the people who wanted strong responses to COVID by attending an unvaccinated unmasked dinner. Also, taxes are still high, homelessness is still high, rents are still (too damn) high, and parts of the state are literally on fire. Gavin Newsom didn't cause most of this, but he also hasn't announced any particularly inspired plans to fight it. Just a really, really bad year.

(also, his ex-wife is dating Donald Trump Jr, which has to hurt)

California has a long tradition of direct democracy. Citizens can circulate petitions, and if they get enough signatures, everyone has to vote on them. After several tries, Republicans finally got enough signatures on a “recall Newsom” petition to trigger an election. The way the election works is: there are two questions on the ballot. First, should Newsom be removed as governor? Second, if he is removed, who replaces him? Everyone gets to vote on both questions, so even if you want to keep Newsom you can still vote on who replaces him if he loses.