In 2017 I directed a documentary called Kill All Normies, which was based on Angela Nagle’s book of the same name. Like the book, the film dealt with the online origins of the modern telethon. Ultimately, Nagle says, “Maybe it’s time for something new—something other than the endless culture wars and identity politics. It’s time to stop chasing the counterculture, and instead, look at the norms.”
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In last week’s midterm election, American voters followed her advice.
The expected Big Red Wave never materialized. That’s because, as it turned out, voters’ distrust of the woke left, which was supposed to fuel massive Republican gains, was matched by disdain for the MAGA right. Central Democrats like Abigail Spanberger and Elissa Slotkin kept their seats. Trump Republicans such as Mehmet Oz and Tudor Dixon lost. Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida whom Trump had been undermining for months, won by a landslide.
Trump’s political downfall is getting most of the media attention, but that’s only part of the story. A more complete picture emerges when you also look at what happened in deep blue cities like Portland, Oakland, and San Francisco, where the activist who left was also drowned. The results of the election in these best blue places are in line with the mood of the electorate in general: nationally and locally, the election rejected ideological zealots, whether they reject the Trump MAGA elections or the radical abolition of the leftist police. Tired of extremism and chaos, Americans are voting for normal people who think normality is a good thing.
A few weeks ago, I was in Portland reporting on the governor’s race for Common Sense. I interviewed residents of a “floating house” community on the Columbia River who lived across the street from a nature preserve that had taken over the largest of Portland’s 700 homeless camps. Neighbors told me there were meth labs at the site, an industrial-scale body shop with over 150 stolen cars, and dead bodies buried in the camp’s marshes. The cars of the houseboat residents were being broken into and stolen on a regular basis. Residents of the camp had kidnapped a neighbor’s dogs and held them for ransom. One resident of a floating home came home to find a homeless person in his shower.
Stories like this abound in Portland, especially downtown, where sidewalks are covered in tents and open drug use is ubiquitous. Even lifelong progressive Democrats I spoke to complained about the city’s relentless lawlessness and the police’s inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.
During the long, hot summer of Black Lives Matter, downtown Portland underwent a full year of riots, in which activists broke windows, threw garbage cans at passing cars, and tried to set the federal courthouse on fire. Some local politicians applauded the protesters. City Commissioner Jo Anne Hardesty accused the police of “starting the fires themselves.” The current governor-elect, then Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, fired police for using tear gas against protesters who were throwing frozen water bottles and rocks at them. Later, its legislative director was arrested for taking part in the riots.
The riots are over, but the political crime against the police in Portland continues. A cafe owner I spoke to recently had her business windows smashed and the inside of her shop spray painted in the middle of the night a few weeks ago by anti-police activists because she announced that she was hosting a “Cafee with a Cop” event at her neighbors could talk to Portland police.
Hardesty, who in addition to leading the charge to defund the Portland police also opposed the mayor’s public ban on camping, became a political symbol of the chaos that had taken over the city. As famous as Portland is for its far-left politics, residents have long been fed up with the disorder that has developed in their city. In a survey last year, three-quarters of Portlanders said they opposed defunding the police. In a poll last month, 82 percent of Portlanders expressed support for increasing the police force. Hardesty was challenged this year by a police union-endorsed candidate running on a law-and-order platform. He won by almost ten points.
Similar election results were seen in other West Coast cities. In Oakland, where I live, Loren Taylor, a member of the City Council, is likely to be the next Mayor. Taylor’s main opponent in the race was Councilor Sheng Thao. After the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Thao helped lead the effort to cut Mayor Libby Schaaf’s current police budget by $18 million. Taylor, who represents some of the city’s most high-crime areas, was the only council member to vote against the cut, and the council member who represents the most troubled area in terms of crime east of it.
“The restitution movement, those who want it, are rarely those from my area—Deep East Oakland—which has the highest gun violence, the highest crimes, the highest number of 911 calls,” Taylor told me in an interview last year. He was too polite to say it, but what he meant was that these demands were coming from activist children who lived in the safer parts of town.
A few days after the vote, on Independence Day, Oakland experienced what Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong described as “12 hours of non-stop chaos.” In a stretch of about 3½ miles of the city there were seven separate shootings, two of them fatal.
Amid this surge in murders, police defunding began to lose its political appeal in Oakland. The following April, the council returned $10 million to the police department.
During the mayoral campaign this year, Thao, on Taylor’s trail, was singing a very different tune, presenting herself as the candidate who “improved officer recruitment” and disparaging Taylor as “ineffective and indecisive on public safety”. It was a radical reversal from politics two years ago after the murder of George Floyd. But that can have the effect of raising crime rates.
Across the Bay, in San Francisco, a similar political sea change was taking place. Last June, Chesa Boudin, the notoriously ruthless former District Attorney, was ousted in a recall election just a year and a half into his tenure. On his watch, public camping, open drug use and property crime had become so endemic that merchants in the Castro District, which suffered $135,000 in broken windows even as they struggled with reduced income due to COVID, threatened on a tax strike. The Tenderloin neighborhood in downtown San Francisco has long been an open-air drug market, but with the emptying of the city’s streets due to the pandemic, drug dealers and users have poured across Market Street, deep into SoMa. The sidewalks were crowded with addicts who disappeared from being sprawled out on the concrete, next to shift-eyed dealers hawking methamphetamines and fentanyl outdoors, in broad daylight. SoMa residents were organizing themselves into committees for self-defense. Residents of one apartment building organized a Slack channel to warn each other when the drug dealers outside were carrying machetes or shooting at each other.
In last week’s election, every candidate in a viable race who opposed Boudin’s recall lost or is on track to lose.
That included Gordon Mar, a Chinese supervisor in a heavily Chinese area, who was defeated by a white candidate who campaigned on a platform of public safety and made Mar’s support for Boudin a central campaign issue. It included Honey Mahogany, who challenged Matt Dorsey, the appointed supervisor of the district that includes SoMa. During the summer of BLM, Mahogany expressed support for “defunding the police, even abolishing the police,” although, after public opinion, she made news from her anti-police politics during the campaign. Dorsey, on the other hand, is a former director of communications for the San Francisco Police Department, and ran on arresting drug dealers and pushing addicts into treatment. He won by 15 points.
More importantly, Brooke Jenkins, a former Assistant District Attorney under Boudin who resigned and was one of the public faces of the recall, won by 14 points over her nearest rival. In September, Jenkins pledged her support for charging fentanyl dealers whose sales may be linked to fatal overdoses to murder. The Public Defender and her allies attacked her for that statement, but 69 percent of San Francisco’s prominent liberal voters agree with her.
There are admittedly some notable exceptions to this strain of wakefulness left in West Coast cities. As of this writing, Pamela Price, a Chesa Boudin-style progressive candidate running for Alameda County District Attorney in the East Bay, is slightly ahead of her opponent in the vote count, although the election is still too close to profession. . And in Los Angeles, a self-styled “revolutionary” who supports paying off the LAPD is the city’s new Controller, and a police abolitionist has just won a City Council seat, joining another abolitionist who won a primary election more earlier this year. LA appears to be moving left as other cities are moving toward the center, in part due to the organizing prowess of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
This year’s election results in Oakland, San Francisco and Portland, and last year in Seattle, where a law-and-order Republican became City Attorney, were years in the making. They were the long-awaited corrections to the hysterical excesses of the summer of 2020. If voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire checked MAGA’s election-denying right trash, voters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Portland ended the regime short. of the nihilistic left.
And the election before the election, the Democrats would love to say that democracy was on the ballot. But what was really on the ballot was sanity. For several years, left and right, politics has been hijacked by the activist base of each party. In Nagle’s words, the Government was defined by “endless culture wars and identity politics”. It has resulted in school closures and prolonged lockdowns, spiraling inflation, violence and unrest in our cities, cosplaying “insurrectionists” and election conspiracy theories. Biden promised normalcy but never delivered. So the voters took it upon themselves. We hope they can keep it.
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