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A Coming Anti-Woke Backlash?

Rick Caruso's outsider campaign for L.A. mayor draws support from liberals red-pilled by crime and social disorder
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Peter Savodnik has a good piece on Common Sense today, about why so many Los Angeles liberals are backing Rick Caruso (pictured above), the rich political newcomer, over the black Congresswoman Karen Bass in the mayor's race there. Why? Because the Woke Left gave Los Angelenos what they wanted -- and it gave it to 'em good and hard. Excerpts:

The reason is simple: Homicides are up. Homeless encampments are metastasizing. Public spaces are overrun with graffiti and needles and human feces. In the first year of the pandemic, an estimated 160,000 people left Los Angeles County.

All of which is why recent polls show that the race is a dead heat.



Two years ago, at the apex of the nation’s “racial reckoning,” Hollywood was all in on Black Lives Matter, defund the police, social justice—marching, preaching, hashtagging. Many A-listers gave to the campaign of George Gascon, who was then running for District Attorney of Los Angeles on a platform that prioritized decarceration and anti-racism. Reed Hastings, the other co-CEO of Netflix, gave more than $1.7 million to Gascon. (Avant noted that her husband, Ted Sarandos, did not, some media reports notwithstanding.) 

When Gascon won, Hollywood celebrated.

“After George Floyd, we all had passion for what we thought were the right things, but then it became impossible to have candid conversations about things like race relations, crime, equality,” the startup founder told me. “It felt like a game of gotcha if you misspoke, even if your intentions were in the right place.”

“Two years ago, I couldn’t have voted for him,” Lysa Heslov told me, referring to Caruso. Heslov was the director of the 2017 documentary “Served Like a Girl,” about female veterans; her husband, Grant Heslov, had produced “Argo” and co-written, with George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” 

But since then, she and others said, there had been a tectonic shift. Everything had gotten worse—the crime, the homelessness, the feeling that the city was spiraling, that the bottom was falling out from under it. 

This reminds me of what compelled me to finally admit that I had become a conservative, though I had started moving rightwards in my final year of college. It's a cliche, but it's true. When I graduated and got a job, and saw how much of my paycheck was going in taxes, I began to sober up. Plus, I lived in a part of the city that -- unlike the safety of campus -- had a crime problem. Eventually I began to ask myself what the world would look like if everything ran according to my liberal ideology, especially my liberal ideas about human nature.

That's all it took.

Sounds a lot like what's happening to these redpilled Los Angeles liberals.


(A similar redpill for me on the Republicans came in the wake of the Iraq War, by the way. I came to recognize that the Right had become slaves to ideological preconceptions, and had led us into a disaster.)

Take a look at Dave Weigel's report from Arizona, and think about how well intersectionality is working out for Democrats there. Democrats were running ahead on abortion -- until the GOP found its Achilles heel. Excerpt:

Republicans also started talking about the least popular positions Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate had taken, unrelated to abortion. In Arizona, that started with “defunding the police.” The national Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed the idea in June 2020, explaining that it meant “investing in community-based solutions, education, and health care,” and teeing up countless GOP attacks anyway.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona went further. In July 2020, its board began requiring any candidate who wanted its endorsement to “return any campaign contributions from police unions and other policing organizations.”

There was a caveat — candidates could accept police-tied donations if they re-gifted them to a PPAA-approved group. But when GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake went after Planned Parenthood in a TV ad, it was over the “defund” statement, accusing Hobbs of being backed “by radical groups that want to defund our police.”

Brittany Fonteno, who became PPAA’s president and CEO a year ago, said in an interview that there’d been “confusion” about the group’s police position. As their campaigners knocked doors across the state to talk about the Republican threat to legal abortion, there’d been a “concerted effort” to paint Democrats and allies as anti-cop. But the position itself wasn’t going to change.

“There is a real intersection between bodily autonomy and police brutality,” Fonteno explained. “With the majority of our patients being people of color from communities that historically and currently face higher rates of police violence, it was a step that the board of directors felt they could take to start to address some of that.”

A real intersection! Golly. This is really stupid politics. Josh Barro says that the Democrats' rhetoric about the urgent need to vote blue to "protect democracy" is belied by their ideological rigidity, e.g., intersectionality:

In countries where there is a real cross-ideological coalition to protect democracy, this is not how it works. In Israel and Hungary, coalitions of ideologically diverse parties have set aside their differences to run on very narrow governing agendas that are essentially about keeping the other side out. This approach has worked in some elections but not in others, but it hasn’t involved the Labor Party in Israel telling various right-wing anti-Netanyahu parties they must sign onto a full spectrum of left-of-center issue positions to share a coalition. This is how such coalitions engage in democratic accountability — if you’re going to tell people they must vote for your side to keep a dangerous authoritarian out, you also do what you can to make them feel ideologically comfortable within the coalition on issues besides elections themselves.

Even if there's a Red Wave on Tuesday, I don't expect the Democratic Party and its satellites to back down on the woke vision. It's a religion to them. All the Republicans (and reform Democrats like Caruso, who is barely a Democrat) have to do is to run things with common sense, and push back hard against wokeness and all its manifestations, as the source of all this disorder and sickness. Even if the Dems lose big, expect our media to come up with an array of explanations for why it's not really about a rejection of "racial justice," and their other sacred cows. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as the Regime is incapable of seeing the source of its weakness, that helps conservatives.

But: if conservatives who come to power just sit on their hands and don't actually do things to improve the lives of people, especially on crime and the economy, they're going to deserve the beating they'll eventually get.

UPDATE: A reader in Los Angeles dumps cold water on me:

I hope that Caruso wins the election,  but I do not see it so much as a revolt against Wokeism.

It is very difficult to extrapolate politics outside of L.A. to what happens in L.A. 

Although the election is non-partisan, Bass stresses that Caruso only recently became a Democrat and did that for expedient reasons, not out of principle, and Bass has been endorsed by every Democrat politician who matters, from Obama and Biden on down.  She also has been endorsed by the L.A. Times.  I don’t know how much weight any endorsement matters in L.A. but the city has voted overwhelmingly liberal for the past couple of decades.

I think Joel Kotkin is  correct in that Caruso’s fortunes will rise or fall on Latinos.  I don’t know what percentage of the likely voters in L.A. are Latino (which in L.A. means primarily citizens of Mexican and Central American descent) but it is less than the 50% of Latinos who make up the general population.  What the leaked audio of the three Latino city council persons saying, shows that even among the  most progressive Latinos, behind closed doors they are not too sympathetic to Blacks.  In my opinion and based on my perception there is plenty of antagonism between Blacks and Latinos.  L.A. has not elected a black mayor since the non threatening Tom Bradley and we did elect and reelect a Latino, Villaraigosa.  The black population of L.A. has dropped to below 10% although as is true in many places black voters probably make up a higher percentage of likely voters and they will turn out for Karen Bass. 

Race relations in L.A. are not good.   There is a great deal of antipathy among Asians, particularly Korean Americans who do have a large presence in the city itself, toward blacks. 

So these factors are not a revolt against Wokeness.   Both candidates have as much money as they need to run saturation campaigns.  Caruso has spent more than 100 million dollars to win the office.

The best argument that Caruso can make is that if you like the status quo and you want more of the same as L.A. had deteriorated until the post James Hahn mayors (coincident with when Bratton departed the police department) Villaraigosa and Garcetti then you should vote for Bass as she is cut from the same cloth as those two.  If you want a change, even if we don’t know how successful he will be, then vote for Caruso.    L.A. has a weak mayor system.  The 15 council members basically run their districts, and most other work is done by the staffs who run the commissions made of mayor appointed commissioners.

I think the mayoral contest will be decided on racial grounds.  Bass gets the blacks, Caruso gets the Asians and the majority of Latinos, the westside Jews will go majority for Bass (although Caruso will get some) and the race will be decided by who gest the remaining whites.