Politicians thrive on power. Psychological studies often find they seek office and once there, try to stick around to preserve their power more than to get rich.
So it’s ironic that criminals, a group despised by this state’s political class, should now be in position to set much of California’s political agenda for 2022. In this state of almost 40 million persons, as few as 200 to 300 individuals took group actions in November that might reverse years of liberal lawmaking and leftist defiance of the voters’ will on things like cash bail.
There was nothing constructive in what they did. The agenda has already been shifted somewhat by a group of supposed gang members via their series of “smash-and-grab” burglaries in November and early December, almost exclusively targeting high-end stores like Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Lululemon.
Riding four to a car, these organized and prepared bandits appeared suddenly in dark evening hours, sledge-hammered their way through thick plate glass windows and made off with goods worth as much as $5 million.
In some cases they failed, as police arrived before some stores in Palo Alto and Los Angeles could be looted. Some stolen goods were later recovered from storage lockers, where they were stashed to await eBay appearances and flea market sales.
With the aid of security cameras and tips from persons who recorded license numbers from among the fleets of getaway cars, police caught some of those alleged to have conducted the raids.
They were a mix of men and women of several ethnicities, and because of the left-leaning politics that have governed California for the last few decades, most of those captured did not spend much time in jail.
In Los Angeles, where District Attorney George Gascon imposes an almost absolute no-cash-bail policy on the nation’s largest local court system, all 14 bandits arrested locally were quickly released to await court appearances. That spurred fears the same suspects would soon commit other crimes. In LA County, which voted 55-45 percent on a 2020 state ballot referendum to keep cash bail in effect, it was no coincidence when Gascon was served with fresh recall notices within days.
In San Francisco, where ultra-leftist DA Chesa Boudin already faces a recall vote, a few suspected group burglars who operated in posh Union Square were held in custody on judges’ orders, but others were released.
Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom looked nervous and uncertain as he proclaimed that the flash mob attacks must halt. And Attorney General Rob Bonta, who voted while a state legislator to end cash bail, staged a San Mateo County appearance to announce a six year sentence for the final and primary defendant in a years-ago scheme to heist drugs from stores there and sell them overseas.
No one could remember the last time Bonta joined local authorities in celebrating a tough sentence.
Bonta has been joined by other Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom in revising prior soft-on-crime rhetoric.
It’s uncertain how much all this action will change the state’s 2022 political scene, already sure to feature issues like housing and water, not to mention a host of hot congressional and legislative races in newly revised districts.
But fear has always been a huge factor in voting, and it’s been at least a decade since Californians felt a strong fear of crime just before casting their ballots. Exactly such fear motivated the 1986 campaign ginned up by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, who succeeded in ousting three liberal justices of the state Supreme Court opposed to the death penalty.
With an almost entirely different electorate today, the potential effects of fear and crime on the year’s politics are less predictable.
But the reactions of Newsom, Bonta and others to the rash of smash-and-grab robberies was probably instructive. The California banditry drew more publicity than similar crimes in other places as varied as Chicago and New Orleans.
Top Democrats displayed far more anxiety over the mass burglaries than over any other issue they’ll face this year. They obviously realize fear of crime could hurt them badly. Which puts an awful lot of power in the hands of the criminals who organized the raids here and could orchestrate more.
Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net