On the surface, the contrast between the two candidates in the Los Angeles mayor’s race couldn't be starker. Rick Caruso – a white, family-friendly mall impresario with a sparkling tan and pristine suits — against Karen Bass — a black female nurse-turned-community organizer-turned congresswoman.

Yet, when Bass and Caruso were asked at the closing of their initial debate, “What is one word to describe the state of Los Angeles?” they both had the same answer: “Crisis.”

Blanketed by the return of crime and homelessness that the city thought it had left in the rearview in the Nineties,...

On the surface, the contrast between the two candidates in the Los Angeles mayor’s race couldn’t be starker. Rick Caruso – a white, family-friendly mall impresario with a sparkling tan and pristine suits — against Karen Bass — a black female nurse-turned-community organizer-turned congresswoman.

Yet, when Bass and Caruso were asked at the closing of their initial debate, “What is one word to describe the state of Los Angeles?” they both had the same answer: “Crisis.”

Blanketed by the return of crime and homelessness that the city thought it had left in the rearview in the Nineties, and still reeling from some of the harshest Covid measures in the country that — whether or not you think them justified — undeniably sucked some of the city’s mojo, Los Angeles is in trouble. Talk to residents from any part of town — Brentwood to Baldwin Hills, Westwood to Westchester — and nobody feels good about the city these days.

The Bass/Caruso match-up has been a nearly perfect canvas for residents to project their frustrations onto and choose their villain. Think the problem is rich real estate developers who don’t build affordable housing? Karen Bass will not hesitate to remind you that Rick Caruso is one of those. Think the city is crumbling from the collective incompetence of bumbling bureaucrats? Team Caruso is ready to take on the system and give you the change you need.

During the Trump era, the city’s celebrities were in airtight lockstep in their hatred of the “Orange Menace” — the only question was who was going to scream about it loudest.

But curiously a not-insignificant share of Hollywood has come out loudly for Caruso. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty put it: “The news is not that Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Chris Pratt, or Snoop Dogg voted for Caruso. The news is that they felt comfortable sharing that fact on social media.”

I guess that’s a fitting epitaph for the state of the city: “LA: where things got so bad, celebrities were willing to admit they voted for a rich white guy.”

The racial politics at play appear straightforward, but this is LA so that’s never the case, with the LA city council reeling from the release of leaked audio of three Hispanic members mocking certain black members and a white member’s adopted black son, and revealing the city’s power structure and budget to be nothing more than a racial spoils system.

Further complicating matters is that Caruso is doing shockingly well with Hispanic voters, who appear to be rejecting the “criminal justice reform” measures championed by Black Lives Matter and many of Bass’s surrogates.

Needless to say, if you’re looking for storylines, they aren’t hard to find.

So where are we now? In a nation fraught with vote counting issues, Los Angeles still manages to exist in a category of its own. It’s been forty-eight hours since the polls closed and LA has managed to tot up a whopping… 40 percent of the votes?

Caruso hangs onto a slim two-point lead, but in a city where everybody receives a mail-in ballot, including those who no longer live here, that doesn’t mean much. County officials are promising another vote dump on Friday, but have told voters to prepare themselves for a weeks-long crawl towards a final result.

It’s a battle for the soul of the city. And it appears that soul will be languishing in Purgatory until about Thanksgiving.