Across the country, liberals and moderates are calling time on woke excesses
California may be the incubator of some of the worst political trends of our times — affirmative action, climate hysteria, identity politics — but it is also capable of reversing those trends, and those of the nation as well. Yesterday the Golden State shattered the Left’s urban wall, replacing a far-Left prosecutor, Chesa Boudin, in San Francisco. There is now a growing drive to remove LA’s leftist DA, George Gascon, Boudin’s predecessor, who will face Rick Caurso in a run-off.
LA’s election represents arguably the biggest pushback thus far to progressivism. The city, which has been solidly left-of-centre for a generation, placed Caruso, a former Republican billionaire, in first place for LA’s Mayoralty against longtime progressive political leader, Karen Bass. There’s even growing talk of a similar takedown next winter in Chicago, the home of Barack Obama, where crime problems and economic challenges easily match those of its Californian counterparts.
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Perhaps these developments are best seen as an expression of an incipient urban rebellion — not against liberalism but the most extreme woke policies. Interestingly, it is minority voters — black people in New York, Asians in San Francisco, Hispanics in the Southwest — who are driving this trend.
The election of New York’s Eric Adams was certainly the most celebrated case, but there has been pushback against progressive policies in Austin, Seattle and Buffalo, in which voters defeated a socialist-backed Democrat in favour of a moderate candidate. Even in San Francisco, progressive school board members were overwhelmingly defeated in February 2022, an ominous foreshadowing of Boudin’s ignominious loss.
Voters are responding to obvious decline. The relatively poor economic recovery of the deep blue states is one thing, but the rise in crime, particularly in public spaces like subways and among destitute populations, does not make a persuasive case for cities. Even as he endorsed Karen Bass, former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said:
“I have lived here my entire life. I have never seen this city so dirty, so rudderless. Homeless everywhere, crime going up, and there just seems to a be a lack of urgency, a lack of any kind of all-hands-on-deck approach to these crises.”
It would be a mistake to see the LA and San Francisco pushback as a call to conservatism. No Right-wingers are winning in big cities and those with Republican credentials, like LA Mayoral aspirant Caruso, are having to shift parties and embrace liberal social positions. There is not much room for gun-toting, abortion abolitionists or open MAGA supporters.
The real significance here could be if the urban counter-rebellion stirs debate within the Democratic Party itself. The kind of non-enforcement of crime associated with the Left does not seem to be particularly popular with voters, and the weakness of urban economies — notably New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — suggest that city politicians are going to have to make difficult choices on taxes and other issues.
As the party of urban America, the Democrats need to produce a different set of policies. Under Joe Biden’s feckless leadership, the Democratic Party has embraced positions on crime, immigration and education that are rejected even by many core constituencies. If places like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco can begin to see reason, there’s some hope that the voters can kick some sense into the old donkey’s head.