Will the West Coast walk away from wokeness?

24 March 2022

1:05 PM

24 March 2022

1:05 PM

California’s June 7 primary election is heating up, fueled by broad voter distress over crime and public safety. Major contests in Los Angeles and San Francisco will be testing the force of progressive and moderate factions inside the Democratic Party.

Los Angeles mayor Gil Garcetti, appointed ambassador to India, is passing the Democratic establishment baton to Representative Karen Bass, a former head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Bass is a serious five-term party regular. But her promises to fix municipal decay — as with other Democratic assurances — ring entirely hollow. Garcetti, a man of ample mind and mixed record, crumbled on vagrancy and crime, and leaves office as a failure.

Real estate developer Rick Joseph Caruso is making a law-and-order run for the job. A former police commission president and civic leader, Caruso is best known for the shopping and entertainment center The Grove, located in the heart of Los Angeles, with more daily visitors than Disneyland.

Both Bass and Caruso nominally oppose the way Los Angeles officials have handled crime and homelessness. The difference is that Caruso is widely known to make things happen. Bass would at best manage the sprawling city’s semi-anarchic status quo and sop its public beneficiaries.

A longtime Republican, then independent, Caruso is running for mayor as a registered Democrat. Caruso has a direct financial stake in public safety. The Grove has faced surging crime, especially at night and on weekends when the big-spending retail and entertainment traffic pours in. Last November, in a spree of large-scale smash-and-grab robberies across California, a mob of thieves broke windows and stole merchandise from its Nordstrom store.

With a net worth of $4 billion, Caruso is not the cold, surly egomaniac that New York City’s Michael Bloomberg was. More so, using vast private money to finance one’s own election is not as startling as it was when Bloomberg first ran for mayor in 2001. Caruso chairs the University of Southern California board of trustees, gave $50 million to Pepperdine Law School and is active at prominent schools Loyola and Brentwood, where he was a parent. It’s hard to square Brentwood — an ultimate in emetic glam and prep-school woke — with Loyola’s Jesuit grounding, but ardent Catholic Caruso tries.

Caruso has had to run fast from several USC scandals, including Operation Varsity Blues, which exposed the hidden world of everything-has-a-price plutocrats. In 2019, YouTube-hot Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, was on Caruso’s 215-foot yacht with his daughter Gianna and several other unchaperoned college friends, enjoying spring break. Their Bahamas idyll was spoiled when at that moment the world learned Olivia’s television-actress mom Lori Loughlin and Target-fashion-designer dad had schemed to buy off a USC school coach to get her admitted. Caruso’s splashy Rosewood Miramar Hotel charges $2,000 and up a night, $275 for a holiday breakfast and has a Goop “sundries” store for guests.

This sybaritic world is not a political asset for Caruso. Any mayoral candidate must court Latino voters, the city’s largest ethnic group at 48 percent. A third mayoral candidate, city council member and former state senator Kevin de Léon, will exploit Latino ethnocentrism and ventilate class friction. The cynical, opportunistic de Leon will do his best to convince voters that Caruso is a rich gringo buying the election, and that la raza comes first. (Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has long traded on his own Mexican heritage, has endorsed Bass, not de Léon.)

San Francisco’s referendum on its radical district attorney is a second contest to watch.

San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, 41, is not a fun, swanky guy living large, nor is he a sleazeball. Ascetic and reserved, loosely Jewish, he pursues his secular project with the intensity of a young Lenin. Fond of attention and having been in the spotlight his whole life, his ambitions know no limit. To avid followers in the US and abroad, waiting for his political elevation and perhaps apotheosis, Boudin is a radical princeling yet to be crowned.

Boudin attended Yale College and Law School, then was a Rhodes Scholar and advisor to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He clerked in federal district and circuit courts before taking a job as a public defender. Policing and sentencing is saturated in racism and police violence, Boudin claims. He is no friend of the commercial republic.

In a 2019 election, financed by woke tech money and Soros-related donors, Boudin won by about 3,000 votes out of 170,000 cast. Northern California’s political establishment, including Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor London Breed, the San Francisco Chronicle and the city police tried their best to defeat him, and failed. There has been no reconciliation, and after three years of disorder, many voters feel Boudin has intentionally compromised public safety.

Boudin joins progressive prosecutors including George Gasćon in Los Angeles, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Kim Foxx in Chicago. “We’re doing things that have never been done before,” he says, “and that does make some people uncomfortable.”

He models such catchphrases — “we are focusing on root causes” is another — as fresh insights, not recognizing or acknowledging that his adversaries’ discomfort might be justified; his palliatives, tried before and failed; or his root causes something that no government can fix.

By all reasonable accounts, property crime, public filth, hard drugs, gun violence and an influx of addicts and troublemakers are destroying the beautiful, once pristine city. Of rampant retail theft, Boudin claims, “people are so desperate they shoplift.” He calls it “a feature of modern American urban life, in large part because of the horrific wealth inequalities, the poverty, the lack of access to housing,” also blaming “the internet marketplaces where people can resell stolen products,” an activity that does not suggest desperation but organized crime.

Stores rely on hired security to hold criminals long enough for the police to arrive. “If it’s too risky, in terms of people getting injured or racial-profiling lawsuits or disturbing other customers, how do they expect me to prosecute?” says Boudin. “Those trends are national and have nothing to do with me or my policies.” In fact, Boudin and his allies are creating the risk for stores, while mounting the racial-profiling lawsuits.

Boudin posits an “insatiable demand for drugs from people who don’t have housing, access to health care, access to employment and access to treatment that can help them reduce their dependence on dangerous drugs,” blind to the realities of meth and fentanyl addiction.

“Republicans, the police union, and the ultra-wealthy are banding together to overturn the results of the free and fair election of Chesa Boudin,” his Stand With Chesa organization declares. “They want to roll back his progress on creating real public safety solutions, reducing incarceration, and holding police accountable.” The tagline is Stop the Republican con!

Republican is a black flag in coastal California, and waving it might scare voters into stasis. Despite GOP hopes, a voting majority in San Francisco might Stand With Chesa in part to dash any right-wing jubilation or electoral momentum on account of his removal from office. Standing with Chesa provides thrills for militant San Franciscans who forever dream of barricades and facing off the racist pigs. (The very pigs that keep home invaders from ransacking their $3 million Russian Hill apartments.)

Will voters in two hard-Democrat towns turn away from urban disorder? Does woke have sufficient blue-state appeal to validate ongoing metro deterioration? As it often does, California is destined to act as a political beacon, serving to answer these questions of national interest.

The post Will the West Coast walk away from wokeness? appeared first on The Spectator World.

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