In November, California governor Gavin Newsom admitted to a “bad mistake” — attending a birthday dinner at the upscale Napa Valley restaurant the French Laundry with a group of more than three other families. Last year, such an evening at a three-star Michelin establishment might be a normal weekend outing for the Democratic leader, but by the night of the party, it flouted one of the governor’s own pandemic recommendations, which “strongly discouraged” social gatherings and capped them to a total of three separate households.
Though indoor dining was still allowed and there was no limit to the number of separate households gathering in Napa County at the time, the November 6 meal — served in a partially enclosed outdoor facility permanent enough to feature a chandelier — was seized upon by conservative media outlets ready to (rightfully) identify the hypocrisy of a Democratic governor ignoring his own COVID recommendations, in a state where the mandatory guidelines have been some of the strictest in the nation.
Now, California Democrats can expect an early sequel to the calls of hypocrisy and elitism. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco mayor London Breed had dinner with a party of eight at the same restaurant on November 7, the night after Newsom’s visit. While neither politician explicitly violated their own recommendations, Breed’s get-together in honor of socialite Goretti Lo Lui would have broken the dining guidelines she implemented in her city, where restaurants are not supposed to seat tables larger than six unless all the guests live together.
Newsom and Breed aren’t the only state Democrats to make unforced dining errors in November: Last week, Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl was seen eating outdoors at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica hours after she voted to ban outdoor dining in the nation’s most populous county.
As Jason McDaniel, associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University, told the Chronicle, politicians should take such lapses seriously if they wish to enact effective COVID guidelines. “Any increase in cynicism about our political leaders right now can potentially be costly. Our elected leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard.”
Undoubtedly, conservative voices will condemn the California officials, and inevitably, they will make some salient points. On back-to-back nights on the weekend after the election, the governor ate with the CEO of the California Medical Association and a health lobbyist, followed by the San Francisco mayor’s presence at a celebration for a member of the elite class of a city where food banks have record lines and at least 2,000 small businesses have closed.