The reality of California.
by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review
Coastal elites set rules for others, exempt themselves, and tolerate rampant lawlessness from illegal aliens.
One reason for the emergence of outsider Donald Trump is the old outrage that elites seldom experience the consequences of their own ideologically driven agendas.
Hypocrisy, when coupled with sanctimoniousness, grates people like few other human transgressions: Barack Obama opposing charter schools for the inner city as he puts his own children in Washington’s toniest prep schools, or Bay Area greens suing to stop contracted irrigation water from Sierra reservoirs, even as they count on the Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy project to deliver crystal-clear mountain water to their San Francisco taps.
The American progressive elite relies on its influence, education, money, and cultural privilege to exempt itself from the bad schools, unassimilated immigrant communities, dangerous neighborhoods, crime waves, and general impoverishment that are so often the logical consequences of its own policies — consequences for others, that is. Abstract idealism on behalf of the distant is a powerful psychological narcotic that allows caring progressives to dull the guilt they feel about their own privilege and riches.
Nowhere is this paradox truer than in California, a dysfunctional natural paradise in which a group of coastal and governing magnificoes virtue-signal from the world’s most exclusive and beautiful enclaves. The state is currently experiencing another perfect storm of increased crime, decreased incarceration, still ongoing illegal immigration, and record poverty. All that is energized by a strapped middle class that is still fleeing the overregulated and overtaxed state, while the arriving poor take their places in hopes of generous entitlements, jobs servicing the elite, and government employment.
Pebble Beach or La Jolla is as far from Madera or Mendota as Mars is from Earth. The elite coastal strip appreciates California’s bifurcated two-class reality, at least in the way that the lords of the Middle Ages treasured their era’s fossilized divisions. Manoralism ensured that peasants remained obedient, dependent, and useful serfs; meanwhile, the masters praised their supposedly enlightened feudal system even as they sought exemptions for their sins from the medieval Church. And without a middle class, the masters had no fear that uncouth others would want their own scaled-down versions of castles and moats.
Go to a U-Haul trailer franchise in the state. The rental-trailer-return rates of going into California are a fraction of those going out. Surely never in civilization’s history have so many been so willing to leave a natural paradise.
Yet collate that fact with the skyrocketing cost of high-demand housing along a 400-mile coastal corridor. The apparent paradox is no paradox: Frustrated Californians of the interior of the state without money and who cannot afford to move to the coastal communities of Santa Monica or Santa Barbara (the entire middle class of the non-coast) are leaving for low-tax refuges out of state — in “if I cannot afford the coast, then on to Idaho” fashion. The state’s economy and housing are moribund in places like Stockton and Tulare, the stagnation being the logical result of the policies of the governing class that would never live there. Meanwhile, the coastal creed is that Facebook, Apple, Hollywood, and Stanford will virtually feed us, 3-D print our gas, or discover apps to provide wood and stone for our homes.
Crime rates are going up again in California, sometimes dramatically so. In Los Angeles, various sorts of robberies, assaults, and homicide rose between 5 and 10 percent over 2015; since 2014, violent crime has skyrocketed by 38 percent. This May, California’s association of police chiefs complained that since the passage of Proposition 47 — which reclassified supposedly “nonserious” crimes as misdemeanors and kept hundreds of thousands of convicted criminals out of jail — crime rates in population centers of more than 100,000 have increased more than 15 percent. California governor Jerry Brown has let out more parolees — including over 2,000 serving life sentences — than any recent governor.
How does that translate to the streets far distant from Brentwood or Atherton?
Let me narrate a recent two-week period in navigating the outlands of Fresno County. A few days ago my neighbor down the road asked whether I had put any outgoing mail in our town’s drive-by blue federal mailbox, adjacent to the downtown Post Office. I had. And he had, too—to have it delivered a few hours later to his home in scraps, with the checks missing, by a good Samaritan. She had collected the torn envelopes with his return address scattered along the street. I’m still waiting to see whether my own bills got collected before the thieves struck the box.
Most of us in rural California go into town to mail our letters, because our rural boxes have been vandalized by gangs so frequently that it is suicidal to mail anything from home. (Many of us now have armored, bullet-proof locked boxes for incoming mail).
On the same day last week, when I was driving outside our farm, I saw a commercial van stopped on the side of the road on the family property, with the logo of a furniture- and carpet-cleaner company emblazoned on the side. The driver was methodically pumping out the day’s effluvia into the orchard. When I approached him, he assured me in broken English that there was “no problem — all organic.” When I insisted he stop the pumping, given that the waste water smelled of solvents, he politely replied, “Okay, already, I’m almost done.” When it looked as if things might further deteriorate, the nice-enough polluter agreed to stop.
In the interior of green California, it is considered rude or worse to ask otherwise pleasant people not to pump out their solvent water on the side of the road. Down the road, I saw the morning’s new trash littered on the roadway — open bags of diapers and junk mail. Apparently California’s new postmodern law barring incorrect plastic grocery bags (and indeed barring free paper grocery bags) has not yet cleaned up our premodern roadsides. Remember: California knows it dare not enforce laws against trash-throwing in rural California; that’s too politically incorrect and would be impossible to enforce anyway. Instead, it charges shoppers for their bags. In California, the neglect of the felony requires the rigid prosecution of the misdemeanor.
I was in my truck — and suddenly I felt blessed that I was lucky enough to have it. Last summer it was stolen from a restaurant parking lot in Fresno when my son borrowed it to go to dinner. The truck was found four days later, still operable but with the ignition console torn apart and the interior ruined, amid the stench of trash, marijuana butts, beer bottles, waste, and paper plates still full of stale rice.
During this same recent 14-day period, my wife stopped at her office condo in Fresno to print out a document. She left the garage door open to the driveway for ten minutes. Ten minutes is a lifetime in the calculus of California thievery. Her relatively new hybrid bicycle was immediately stolen by a fleet-footed thief. I noted to her that recent parolees often walk around the streets until they can afford to buy or manage to steal a car — and therefore for a time like bikes like hers. That same week, her bank notified her that her credit card was canceled — after numerous charges at fast-food franchises showed up in Texas. Cardinal rule in California: Be careful in paying for anything with a credit card, because the number is often stolen and sold off.
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