A crime wave haunts blue-state America, and nowhere more so than in super-blue California. Los Angeles police chief Michel Moore is trying to assure residents and tourists that violent crime is not out of control, which is not at all reassuring. Police departments statewide are stressed, and finding able recruits is a struggle. Faced with surging gun violence and a dwindling number of police officers, Oakland has proposed $50,000 signing bonuses to veteran cops.
Since 2014, California voters have unshackled a fast-expanding criminal class that rolls expertly with the dice. Starting with Proposition 47, the state penal code has reduced many felonies to misdemeanors. Shoplifting and petty theft have been effectively decriminalized. Serious crimes go unprosecuted. Elected officials and residents alike prefer virtue theater to civic management.
One eighth of the nation’s residents live in the economic and cultural colossus of California, so what direction the state takes matters. Why its progressive leaders and their constituencies condone violence against persons and property, car break-ins, prostitution, open-air drug dealing, and aggressive begging remains puzzling.
Many woke California voters believe in unicorns for everyone tomorrow. The predatory, insane and wayward have rights — and inner nobility — that prevail over the interests of taxpayers, retailers, the socially adjusted, and global visitors. The deranged and homeless provide living proof of capitalism’s moral failure. Hollywood’s penchant for redemption, happy endings, and dreamy causes hastens this political voyage to nowhere.
Junkies living in a battered SUV with out-of-state license plates might prowl through your dumpster and trashcans, throwing garbage in all directions. Should you object, a Karen with death-ray eyes will pop up to scream how dare you blame the victim? Karen slips the vagabonds a ten-dollar bill in a Saint Teresa-like state of rapture. Her angelic charity is a beacon and model for the world to see and admire. The police can only shrug.
When Defund the Police was in vogue last year, San Francisco mayor London Breed cut $120 million from police and sheriff’s budgets. Breed reversed herself last week, announcing an emergency request to the city’s Board of Supervisors for a police crackdown on crime, including open-air drug dealing, car break-ins, and retail theft.
This low-wattage chameleon insists she’s fed up with “all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.” Everyone knows these words are a ploy. Once upon a time her barnyard language would have instantly disqualified her for public office. Now, Californians don’t even blink. Anti-white progressives claim theft is restitution and looting is online sellers’ fault. Restorative justice beckons. Karen adjusts her virtual-reality goggles and looks heavenward. The rest of us look down and see turds on the concrete pavement.
Mayor London Breed — along with Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and of course Nancy Pelosi — is crafty but not well-schooled. Grandstanding and power the San Francisco Democrats understand, but public policy details bore or confuse them. History and political philosophy, much less red, white, and blue patriotism, are simply outside their orbit.
District attorneys George Gascón in Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco occupy the crime wave’s red-hot center. Gascón was formerly police chief in San Francisco, appointed city district attorney to replace Harris in 2011. (She had become California’s attorney general.) Property crime rates and vagrancy exploded. Gascón rode to victory last year, exploiting violent anti-police protests in Los Angeles and cities nationwide.
The legate of Sixties political violence and an accomplished lawyer, Chesa Boudin is an avatar of the revolutionary left. His election in 2019 followed upon that of Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner in 2018 and Kim Foxx in Chicago in 2016. The nation’s progressive prosecutors seek to eliminate cash bail, reduce “tough on crime” prosecutions and jail sentences, overturn convictions, hold police accountable for misconduct, and decarcerate.
Tech and finance oligarchs led by speculator George Soros provide essential money and media. Soros is the right’s favorite devil. But in Gascón’s case, the founders of Netflix, Instagram, and Google and their families also have deep pockets. These are not stupid people, and their companies’ success in channeling suggestible minds is remarkable. Woke billionaires want to live in sovereignties responsive to their interests. Their self-conviction as bishops of good is untempered and complete.
Whatever the motivation, Soros’ initiatives to legalize marijuana and elect radical district attorneys have been extremely effective. The communications complex known as Hollywood and Silicon Valley can work the unicorn crowd and it is getting better at it all the time. Why these oligarchs wish to wreck municipal legal systems and societies that have been good to them remains unclear, but it feels like well-orchestrated sedition.
California — long a magnet for eccentrics and marginal people — might be reaching a tipping point. Social services and weather still make for a freeloader’s paradise, but the exodus of taxpayers and human capital speeds up. The Wall Street Journal reports a sudden dramatic drop in people moving to California, especially the Bay Area. The number of new arrivals plummeted 45 percent between March 2020 and September 2021, while exits increased by 21 percent. The Rockies, Florida, Texas, and Maine are among favored destinations.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote twenty-eight years ago, amid a social milieu staid and communal by today’s standards, that the nation was “redefining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.”
As the US normalizes the depraved and criminal, Moynihan suggested, an opportunistic complex of public employee unions, bureaucratic agencies, nonprofit corporations, and service contractors would grow, protecting sinecures and perpetuating pathologies overseen. With federal and state regulations in place, and the caprice of judicial review, can this state of affairs even change? Recalling Gascón and Boudin would be a small start. Boudin will face a municipal referendum next June.
As crime expands, and Donald J. Trump’s ability to induce mass psychosis fades, public anger at anarcho-tyranny intensifies. Democratic officials and their media hope mounting homicides, organized smash-and-grab, and escalating fear do not derail their political monopolies. They can’t like the optics, which reflect badly on storied victims. Crime’s riptides expose wrongheaded social premises and seditious intentions that are nonetheless hard to check. Many voters in California and elsewhere have packs of unicorns galloping in their heads, and they like the noise and magic.