by Joel Kotkin
Friday, 1
July 2022
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08:00

The ‘Defund the Police’ fantasy lives on in LA

West Hollywood voted to cut financial support for the sheriff's department
by Joel Kotkin
Credit: Getty

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.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago

I no longer have a sense of how the US midterms will play out. A couple of months ago I’d have said the Dems will have their collective head handed to them. But now the Dobbs decision might sway moderate voters, and Trump continues to take a beating in the media and on Capitol Hill for January 6 although, to me, those hearings still have the feel of contrived theater.
Maybe the Dems will hold on to their narrow majorities in Congress. But then I see the defund and BLM nonsense still going strong, and inflation surging, and I think the Dems can’t hide the truth about their core policies and will pay a price.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I don’t have any sense of it either, but if I had to bet, I would bet on “it’s the economy, stupid”.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 month ago

Yes, I agree: that’s typically a safe bet to cover. Nobody takes it well to be hit in the wallet after all. The only surprise is that the political class is surprised by this. Could they somehow be divorced from the reality of those they pretend to represent? Surely not.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A lot of emotions are high right now regarding the Dobbs decision. If the election were held tomorrow, then the Democrats might be able to make a decent showing. The problem is many of those emotions will fade and things like inflation, shortages, crime, fuel prices, creepy woke fads, and uncertainty about the direction of the country will start to move to the forefront of voter’s minds again.
I’m not even sure the abortion issue is massive as it used to be anymore. If this had happened ten years ago, the reaction across the country would be explosive. There would have been massive protests and voter drives. Now it seems to be “oh yeah, this ruling is terrible so I am going to growl about it a bit and move on with my life.” Most of the people causing trouble about it are the usual troublemakers. Additionally, many Democrats are furious at their party’s refusal to codify Roe into law on any of number of the many occasions they had the chance. All the party can offer them right now is vote for us and maybe we just might do what we said we would do the last few times. I am honestly shocked at the level of pessimism I am seeing from Democrat voters towards their party and a party civil war looks like it might break out between the progressive and corporate factions of the party.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt Hindman
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago

I sometimes wonder if the Democrat Party isn’t actually a form of controlled opposition – one that is cynically using minorities (both racial and sexual) as a scapegoat for all that is wrong in US society. I think Lenin did this with his ‘useful idiots’ during the Russian Revolution: used the misguided elements of his society to turn against the people and then conveniently employed them as a human shield when the people began looking for an enemy. The BLM and Stonewall movements have become insufferable to a large majority of the population.

Last edited 1 month ago by Julian Farrows
KJ Strand
KJ Strand
1 month ago

Always voted Democrat. Not this election or future. I’ve left the party and am looking at third parties or who to write in. I know others like me. Economic issues followed by this kind of nonsense is why. Abortion is an important issue to many Dems, but not at the top of the list when they have to choose between food and housing or food and medications.
Not all Dems are in the elite group though elites seem to have taken over the leadership and don’t bother to hide their unconcern. The Women’s March(es) after Trumps’ election were captured by various factions and elitists. There’s really no women’s movement any more and some women wonder if the more moderate Republicans don’t represent them better. And not just white suburban women, either. Certainly safe streets are a women’s issue.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 month ago

Some years ago I met a mother and daughter from LA on a holiday tour event. At lunchtime they turned the conversation at the table to the terrible crimewave in LA, as they told it. What fascinated me about this was that their explanation for it was that the evil Republicans had been under-funding the jails. I really could not understand this at all. Are there even any Republicans in LA? No mention was made of progressive DAs or their policies of releasing criminals / refusing to prosecute them. I didn’t press the point because I didn’t really want to argue with strangers on holiday, so just politely nodded along. But it felt pretty clear that the reason these policies are still kicking around is that too many people living there reflexively blame conservatives for anything bad that happens to them, without appearing able to link their own decisions and views with outcomes. Most strange.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

The Democrats’ problem is that they are basically two parties, a progressive wing and an establishment wing. The never Trumpers who switched sides over the past half decade and the Clintonian centrists are pulling one way while the Sanders wing is pulling the other, and neither group is as large or enthusiastic as the Republicans.