When it comes to blue, socialist cities in the United States, they don’t come much bluer than Los Angeles. They have proudly touted their status as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. They push “green energy” policies at every opportunity. They originally embraced soft-on-crime District Attorney George Gascon (though he’s now facing a recall) and they voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary by a huge margin. The municipal government was also among the early adopters of “defund the police” policies during the Summer of Love. With all of that in mind, how is it that businessman Rick Caruso is doing so well in the polls as he runs for mayor? One of his key priorities would be to refund the police, not defund them. Something seems to be changing among many Angelinos and the Associated Press is asking if Los Angeles may be about to “make a turn to the right.”
Many voters in heavily Democratic Los Angeles are seething over rising crime and homelessness and that could prompt the city to take a turn to the political right for the first time in decades.
One of the leading candidates for mayor is Rick Caruso, a pro-business billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and is promising to expand spending on police, not defund them.
At another time, the high-end mall and resort developer would seem an unlikely choice to potentially lead the nation’s second-most populous city, where democratic socialist Bernie Sanders was the runaway winner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
As noted above, Caruso was a Republican for most of his life and he still holds a seat on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. He only recently switched his registration to the Democratic Party. He’s paying for a huge television ad campaign with his own money, promising to add 1,500 police officers to the LAPD and move the homeless encampments out of the public square. And people seem to be listening.
If this story is starting to sound familiar, it might be because Caruso is taking several pages out of the playbook of New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Adams was also a Republican for many years before switching parties out of convenience because a Republican still can’t be elected in his city. And he is a retired cop himself. He made the same promises Caruso is making and wound up winning his office rather easily. It would appear that Caruso is trying to capture that same magic formula in his campaign.
And why wouldn’t he? Los Angeles is laboring under the same entwined problems of rising crime rates and mass homelessness that many large cities are. People are increasingly fed up and demanding that somebody do something about it. Los Angeles residents were fine with talking up all of the socialist agenda items they embraced when times were better, or at least more “normal.” But now the chickens created by those policies have come home to roost and the City of Angels isn’t such a fun place to live anymore.
Unfortunately for Caruso, just restoring the LAPD to its former strength isn’t going to fix everything overnight. That’s a lesson that Eric Adams is learning the hard way in New York City right now. Arresting more criminals won’t produce much of an effect if he can’t convince prosecutors like George Gascon to send them up the river. And Caruso still hasn’t offered any details as to what he plans to do with all of those homeless people. Nobody has seemed to be able to formulate a plan to address that issue. Even if he manages to get himself elected, he may find that he’s bitten off more than he can chew.