Last Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had to apologize. When the San Francisco Chronicle broke the news that Newsom, on Nov. 6, had attended a multi-family party for one of his staff in apparent violation of the gathering guidelines promulgated by his own administration, Newsom admitted a mistake.
The governor issued a statement claiming “while our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.” Just days later, he tightened the state’s lockdown, claiming a dangerous spike in cases threatened state health capacity and required Californians to stay home and businesses and churches again to close down.
Newsom’s lavish dinner wasn’t the first instance — nor, likely, will it be the last — of Democratic politicians acting hypocritically since the start of the COVID-19 response. Indeed, countless Democratic politicians have violated coronavirus guidelines they imposed.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser broke quarantine travel rules at a political rally for former Vice President Joe Biden, held the day after Newsom’s dinner. In August, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney dined at an indoor restaurant in Maryland, even as indoor dining remained prohibited in the City of Brotherly Love. Closer to Newsom’s home, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, got her hair cut at a San Francisco salon while such services remained prohibited by the city.
Newsom’s real error lay in where he chose to violate the protocols: At the French Laundry, a restaurant with three Michelin stars in the heart of Napa Valley’s wine country. The fact that Newsom and members of his staff chose to “celebrate” there — in the middle of not just a pandemic, but an economic meltdown in the Golden State — shows the out-of-touch attitude of the governor and his staff.
For those unfamiliar with the French Laundry and its surroundings, the restaurant sits in the small Napa Valley town of Yountville. While the entire Napa Valley features expensive real estate and a high cost-of-living, the area around Yountville has soared in popularity, due in large part to the French Laundry’s worldwide renown. Numerous hotels and spas in the area cater to well-heeled visitors, charging $300 to $500 per night (or more) for accommodations.
The restaurant charges $350 for its tasting menu, which runs to approximately two dozen courses. While I appreciate a good meal and enjoyed the food at the French Laundry during a visit nearly three years ago, I didn’t find the dinner worth the high price tag to contemplate a repeat visit.
With dozens of courses and servers constantly milling about, a meal at the French Laundry seems ostentatious under normal circumstances. A server told the party next to me “Just two more savory courses and then dessert” — turning the experience into something resembling a bad visit to Disney World (“We are NOT going back to the hotel until we’ve ridden ‘It’s a Small World’!”).
But 2020 does not represent normal circumstances, by any stretch. At present, California’s economic environment ranks among the worst, which likely has something to do with the length and breadth of the state’s lockdowns.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California suffered from an 11 percent unemployment rate in September, ranking it third nationally behind tourism-dependent Hawaii (15.1 percent) and Nevada (12.6 percent). It speaks volumes about the effects of lockdowns on the economy that all five states that still have double-digit unemployment rates (Hawaii, Nevada, California, Illinois, and Rhode Island) have Democratic governors and Democratic legislatures.
Amidst double-digit unemployment and suffering within his state, where did Newsom and his staff choose to have a birthday celebration? A place that serves food like this:
I doubt that the nearly 2.1 million unemployed Californians — up roughly 1.3 million from September 2019 — will appreciate their governor dining on dishes like roasted cauliflower velouté and hand-rolled ricotta “agnolotti” with shaved white truffles while they have difficulty figuring out how to pay the rent or fund groceries for the month.
Liberals Don’t Understand Working-Class Americans
If Newsom and his staff had chosen to patronize a local burger stand — yes, such places do exist in Napa Valley — that would have sent a welcome message about how the governor and his staff support area small businesses, including those that don’t have the deep pockets that come with an international brand and reputation. But that kind of gesture would require the governor and his political advisors to care about the interests of common citizens, a trait that leftist politicians consistently appear to lack.
From Pelosi’s freezer piled high with $12-a-pint ice cream, to Barack Obama complaining about in Iowa what Whole Foods charges for arugula, liberal politicians don’t even pretend to inhabit the same world as working-class Americans. If the left wants to find reasons to explain its poorer-than-expected election showing, they would do well to start by examining the kind of elitist arrogance that Newsom and others so regularly display.