Will Swaim writes for National Review Online about the spectacle surrounding California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent inauguration.

From march to oath of office and inaugural address, the event was painstakingly choreographed to distinguish this great Democratic idealist from Republican governors, or, as Newsom called them, “small men in big offices.” To better control that message, Newsom’s team handpicked the marchers and barred reporters, under the threat, according to one, “that our press passes could be revoked for future events if we disobeyed.”

But — and here’s your metaphor — several blocks short of the marchers’ destination, Newsom clambered into the backseat of an up-armored SUV, which conveyed him the rest of the way to Capitol Park. There, he was ushered onto a beflagged stage from which to celebrate the arrival of the parade he created for himself. When the crowd settled, he took his oath of office and delivered what he likely meant to be a soaring second inaugural. …

… Myth and magic are about all the state has left. Following decades of progressive mismanagement, people and companies are leaving the state in epic numbers. Just weeks before Newsom’s inauguration, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the state had lost population for the third year in a row. The once-unfathomable exodus has cost the Golden State a congressional seat.

In his speech, Newsom declared that “what makes California special” — what makes it unlike red states — is that “we’re a state of dreamers and doers bound by our live-and-let-live embrace of personal freedom.” …

… But “freedom” sounds strange coming from the lips of a governor who still rules under a Covid-era emergency authorization that he promises he’ll surrender before March 1. He used that authority to shut down churches, close beaches, and let local teachers’ unions keep schools locked down longer than anywhere else in America.

As he embarks on his second term, he has unleashed a pack of new laws that expand government power and limit freedom.