Gavin Newsom is finally admitting there is a problem
One might expect the Governor of California to praise his state at every opportunity. But here’s what he had to say last week: “What the hell is going on? We look like a third world country.”
It wasn’t a gaffe. His words were spoken directly to camera. Given the backdrop, it was hard to disagree. In recent weeks, the Los Angeles railway system has suffered a looting epidemic. At sites across the network, goods wagons have been broken into and ransacked. Thousands of discarded, empty packages have been left strewn over the tracks, adding to the chaos.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
In the best traditions of the political photo-op, Newsom decided to lead a clean-up operation. Quite how long he was personally picking up the trash I don’t know, but it was long enough to be filmed by the media.
His remarks are worth watching in full (for instance, here starting at the 9:20 mark). That’s because they reveals a political culture that has lost the plot on law-and-order. Newsom begins by acknowledging the systematic nature of the looting: “this is organised theft, these are organised gangs of people…” And then something odd happens: he stops to apologise — not to the victims of the crime wave, but for using the word ‘gangs’.
“Forgive me for saying ‘gangs’”, he says, “that’s not a pejorative.” Reaching for a more acceptable term he settles upon “organised groups of folks”. Later, he uses the forbidden word a second time — and apologises a second time: “again forgive me, that word is loaded”. And so there you have it. Public order may be breaking down in the most advanced economy on the planet, but at least its officials are making strenuous efforts not to offend anyone.
To be fair to Newsom, he was clear that looting trains is “not acceptable” and that “we’re not condoning this behaviour.” However, he was rather less clear as to why it’s happening: “I don’t think anybody particularly cares who’s to blame.”
In fact, a lot of people blame California’s politicians for their ultra-liberal criminal justice policies. In a letter to the authorities, the Union Pacific train company complains that even when perpetrators are arrested, “charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine.”
Newsom didn’t want to get into a policy debate: “we all want the simple reason, but it’s more complex than it appears.” And he’s partly right — crime is a complex phenomenon. However, the essence of maintaining order is not. At an absolute minimum, it requires that the most blatant offenders be caught, arrested and prevented from immediately reoffending. California shows what happens when you allow ‘progressive’ ideology to override this basic standard.
You can always try tolerating petty crime. The trouble, though, is that it doesn’t stay petty.