Despite likely seeing California Sen. Kamala Harris inaugurated as vice president alongside a Democratic president for whom an overwhelming majority of Californians voted so dutifully, California is looking to be the biggest loser of the 2020 contest. Our state’s most pressing problems, which were unaddressed in the run-up to the election, are getting worse. If California-style government continues to creep across America, as it will if Harris and running mate Joe Biden win, we can expect similar problems to creep nationwide.
COVID sucked the air out of the room in the presidential debates, and in the media in general. However, my home state was never debilitated by the Wuhan virus, which likely hit the West Coast in the early months of this year before spreading through the rest of the country, and never overwhelmed our hospitals.
Our Real Epidemic Is Drug Addiction
The real epidemic we are witnessing on our streets daily and with which so many of us have firsthand experience is the drug epidemic. Corona victims are not falling down dead on our streets, like they did in videos from China; opiate addicts are.
During our never-ending lockdown, drug overdoses in San Francisco reached two a day. For comparison, San Francisco has seen a total of 149 COVID deaths. While nearly all coronavirus patients eventually recover, few druggies do, so they stay on our streets until death, blocking off entire sections of the city and taking over public transportation.
This is by no means a new problem. West Cost cities have been plagued by homeless “encampments,” along with garbage, human waste, and undisposed syringes, for nearly a decade. Over this year, as residents have been ordered indoors, it only intensified. Clueless local officials used the federally sponsored Project RoomKey to house homeless addicts in empty luxury hotels and supply them drugs and booze, but sidewalk shantytowns continued sprawling.
Addicts and Lax Enforcement Fuel Crime
The twin problem of drug addiction is rampant criminality. Drug addiction causes criminality as junkies are looking to feed their habits. Both are traceable to Proposition 47, passed by voters in 2014. The law steeply reduced penalties for law breaking, including drug offenses, most of which are now misdemeanors, punishable by tickets addicts ignore.
Since theft worth less than $900 has also been reclassified as misdemeanor, in the post-47 environment criminals walk into stores and nonchalantly sweep merchandise into large garbage bags. Unable to cover the losses, retailers close, turning formerly lively urban enclaves into blight.
Car break-ins are commonplace, and so are home intrusions. Prosecutors generally don’t take on cases when offenses don’t carry serious penalties, and cops don’t bother arresting criminals they know will walk. Because of the media and political environment, California’s soft on crime policies have not been seriously examined by voters nationwide.
The new generation of George Soros-supported district attorneys (San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin is the poster child here) simply refuse to prosecute crime, including violent offenses like kidnapping and rape of a minor. Crime reporting is down, which is then paraded by supporters of the criminal justice reform as proof that their soft on crime approach is working. Yet anyone who has visited California in recent years knows it to be a lie.
This drug- and lax enforcement-fueled crime wave was unaddressed by this year’s presidential campaigns as Democrats were bowing down to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Donald Trump pushed his own criminal justice reform. While it’s a fair policy to, for instance, release teens arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana, this particular situation is not applicable to California, where the substance was decriminalized in 1975.
Excessive incarceration is not our problem either. A fair number of prisoners were released under Prop 47. More were freed a few years later under Proposition 57, which was sold to voters as a law that would allow for parole of “non-violent offenders,” only the offenses in question included categories like rape by intoxication, weapons charges, and so on. Only 23 specific charges made it to the list of violent offenses.
California is moving convicts out of San Quentin, the maximum-security prison that houses death row inmates, and was once home to Charles Manson. A judge required emptying San Quentin of its largely violent criminals due to a COVID outbreak, during which many of its residents died. The prison’s population is older and sicker, so a higher toll should be expected. Yet the state used this instance to empty out numerous prisons and jails, releasing criminals back into the streets even though most of the imprisoned population is young and healthy, and likelier to survive potential infection.
The Drug Epidemic Brought By Border Weakness
Trump’s 2016 signature rallying cry was “Build the wall.” Unfortunately, illegal immigration somehow dropped off the radar in 2020, yet nobody needed to revisit it more than California. We are a sanctuary state for international drug cartels, which are inflicting much of the devastation on our state.
For instance, the drug dealers who brazenly sell fentanyl in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood live in nearby Oakland. They are known to the authorities. Not only there is no effort to deport them, Boudin is refusing to do so on the grounds that they have been trafficked into the country.
Yet nothing is being proposed to stop human trafficking into California, and with Biden’s presumed inauguration we should be asking if these known fentanyl dealers, many of them without an official criminal history because demoralized police officers see no rationale in arresting them, will be allowed to become U.S. citizens through an amnesty.
California Could Learn a Lot from Trump
Because Trump’s economic policies were his strongest appeal during the election, partisan media was not interested in discussing them on the public square. That’s another big loss for my state, because we have much to learn from the Donald.
Although he is no doubt a big spender, the president successfully deregulated economic activity and lowered the tax burden, creating one of the biggest economic booms in history, from which low-income Americans benefited greatly. In the meantime, California’s economy is suffocating under overregulation and high taxes, with the middle class fleeing the state.
In a rare display of defiance, Californians voted for Proposition 22 this fall, which rolled back some of the crippling regulations the legislature imposed on freelancers last year. Assembly Bill 5 destroyed careers and livelihoods, and served as an immediate reminder of the intrusion of the state on agreements between employers and employees.
The effects of AB5 were felt personally and abruptly in a way that, for instance, the overregulation of schools or public utilities is not. Because voters don’t understand how these affect them, most of bureaucracies weighing on the Golden State remain intact.
Ordinary people have no language to talk about their problems. For instance, the “homelessness crisis” is really a drug and mental health crisis, but we continue to discuss it as if it’s an economic one. Similarly, illegal immigrants and criminals are assumed to be victims of white supremacy in a way that, for instance, Americans dying on the streets are not. Unable to speak about our problems, we double down on past failures.
For instance, last week Los Angeles elected the Soros-sponsored and BLM-endorsed District Attorney George Gascon. Gascon, who wrote Propositions 47 and 57, promised to go after cops and to dismantle the gang unit. His election is likely to cause a chain reaction of early retirements and resignations among experienced law enforcement professionals in Los Angeles County — a loss that is unlikely to be easily made up if the voters switch to a serious district attorney in the near future.
Virtue Signaling Will Not Solve These Problems
While Kamala may direct federal money to our near-bankrupt state that took months of lockdown pain to keep economic activity down to ensure a mail-in election, a federal rescue package is unlikely to affect our quality of life: it won’t put the junkies into rehab or punish criminals. Nor will it stop the forest fires, for that matter, or create economic opportunities in an overregulated environment.
It will function as a kind of needle exchange, like the “harm reduction” policy popular with local politicians, except not for the strung-out addicts but for the terminally dysfunctional technocratic machine. Bailouts may keep the state alive in the immediate future, hoping against hope that deep structural problems will magically resolve themselves, but in effect prolonging suffering for everyone.
A one-party state, California is taken for granted by politicians. Californians do not expect special attention from politicians either. I live a stone’s throw away from Harris’s birth town of Berkeley. I didn’t sense any excitement about her around here.
During the primaries I spotted many more Mayor Pete bumper stickers than Kamala gear. And, of course, she dropped out of the race when she polled in low single digits in California. I seriously doubt a single person in the Bay Area outside of the political machine can personally vouch for her, or say that she changed his life in a positive way. That’s considered normal.
Like Kamala, we approach the powers that be on our backs. Californians don’t expect much in return for faithfully voting for their party but the affirmation of leftist ideologies. If we want to improve our material and social well-being, if we want to leave free of fear, if we want our kids to be able to play in a sandbox at a nearby park without being poked by a hypodermic needle, we need to start thinking beyond “Everyone Believes” yard signs, and demand accountability from our politicians.
If Californians can’t master the will to protest-vote for a Republican, they should vote write-in, third party, or boycott elections. We must make our state competitive to force our politicians to abandon their left-wing rhetorical flourishes, and come up with common sense solutions for the problems that make our state unlivable. And the rest of the nation should heed our story.
Katya Sedgwick is a writer in the San Francisco Bay area. She has published here, in Spectator USA, with the Russell Kirk Center, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @KatyaSedgwick.
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