July 1, 2022 - 8:00am

Southern California has always had a casual relationship with reality, but West Hollywood’s decision to stop funding the LA Sheriff amidst a mounting crime tsunami takes the fantasy to a new — and dangerous — level. As usual this policy was concocted by woke politicians and not approved by the voters, who might be less than enthusiastic about the notion of replacing police officers with 30 unarmed “security ambassadors”.

We will see if this action gets pushback, particularly in a heavily gay city that has long embraced progressive politics. Yet there are signs that a struggle is emerging even within the Left-of-centre space, as people begin to weigh their ideological fixations against their personal safety.

Right now, remarkably, the defund movement is far from dead. Los Angeles, which has its own crime surge, just elected or placed first several new members who favour the so-called “people’s budget”, which seeks to take funds from cops to give to “community” groups. In Los Angeles, these Left-of-centre candidates have had strong support in media and gained much of their backing from the far-Left Democratic Socialists, in one case displacing a liberal labour-oriented Latino LA councilperson with an ally of Black Lives Matter.

It would be one thing if this insanity was restricted to LA-LA land. Despite the election of pro-police Mayor Eric Adams the New York City council has become, if anything, more amenable to defunding policies. Much of this could be ascribed to low turnouts, the media’s race obsessions, or the continued contraction of middle-class households in big cities across the nation.

Yet this leaves the Democrats with a dilemma that they cannot solve by castigating the Supreme Court or evoking the crude evil epitomised by Donald Trump. Defunding can still find supporters in woke big cities (although San Francisco just recalled its ultra-Left District Attorney), but it’s unlikely this will play in suburbs and exurbs, where the vast majority of the metropolitan population resides.

As they recognise that crime is not all that popular with voters, some Democrats, including weathervane Governor Gavin Newsom, refuse to back defunding. There’s even a growing concern in the progressive mouthpieces like the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Vox that the embrace of defunding will erode the Democratic vote, particularly outside the core cities. Added to inflation, supply chain issues, the lack of baby formula, crime is an issue which many fear will bury the party outside of its most dogmatic strongholds.

The fact that it has resurfaced as an issue suggests yet another parallel to events a half century. It was fear of crime that catapulted Nixon and Reagan into power, and helped the Republicans win control of Congress for the first time in decades. Perhaps the abortion ruling, and the continuing humiliation of Donald Trump, can weaken the blow, but if the Democrats don’t change their tune, they could suffer national humiliation this November.

Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)