The L.A. Mayoral election has been misunderstood and misrepresented by the national media, which rarely understands the consequences of events taking place in California, a state that functions more like a separate nation. The media portrayed former California Assembly speaker and L.A. city councilman Antonio Villaraigosa’s landslide victory in May as a national example for other politicians as well as a reflection of growing Latino power.
Newsweek, for example, reported in a May 30 cover story that, “Faced with such GOP incursions, Democrats will be studying Villaraigosa’s formula for victory, hoping to replicate it in other races nationwide—where the terrain may be more challenging than two Democrats squaring off in a Left Coast city.”
Well, the latter part of the sentence is certainly true, but I would love to know what Democrats will learn in a city so devoid of a Republican presence that the GOP did not even field a candidate, although one independent and unknown primary candidate was, technically, a Republican.
Here is one potential lesson: Continue to embrace open borders and the simultaneous expansion of the welfare state, and your city (or county or state) will become increasingly Latino, and, eventually, Latinos will win high office. Consider that almost 50 percent of Los Angeles residents are Latino, even though, as Newsweek notes, only about one quarter of the electorate is Latino.
Is it that big of a surprise that Villaraigosa could somehow piece together a victory, especially since the other constituencies (blacks in South L.A., Jewish voters in the San Fernando Valley, and white liberals in West L.A.) he had to piece together share a similar political ideology?
To his credit, Villaraigosa did not play the ethnicity card—although he really did not need to, as city residents have long accepted the massive demographic shifts. Recent controversy ensued over a billboard erected by a Spanish-language television station that crossed out the word California and replaced it with Mexico—to boast of its coverage of Los Angeles, Mexico.
The understandable anger at the billboard came mostly from those living outside the city of Los Angeles—and the county. With its more than nine million residents, L.A. County has undergone similar demographic shifts, which explains why inland areas are becoming increasingly conservative as the middle class heads to the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside. Those within the city probably shrugged at the billboard, just as they shrug at the boasts by some Latino activists that Los Angeles is, for all intents and purposes, a Mexican city.
So, the victory of the former speaker of the California Assembly does not say much in the short term about Latino politics, and it does not offer any real lessons for Republicans or Democrats other than that massive demographic shifts will result in massive political change.
The real story of the election is far simpler. James Hahn has been an incompetent, bumbling mayor. He reeled from charges of corruption within his administration, and he alienated his prime constituency when he fired a popular African-American police chief. Hahn has followed in the footsteps of recalled Gov. Gray Davis, another white liberal technocrat who won election as a moderate (by L.A. standards) but then spent his time placating the increasingly surly and demanding public-sector unions.
Crime is down in Los Angeles, but the economy is stagnant as stifling regulations practically invite businesses to move out of the city. Given the number of independent cities surrounding Los Angeles, many businesses have located just outside the border. L.A. independent journalist Jill Stewart had it right when she told a local talk-show host that the most important fact about the election is that not a single elected L.A. official has much interest in or sympathy toward business.
They are all lefties. None is able to deal with the massive problems of a bloated educational system that functions more like a vast complex of prisons; the closure of one emergency room after another, largely because of illegal immigration; high taxes; burdensome regulations; traffic congestion; and more.
Hahn has only made things worse. As Stewart mentioned, during Hahn’s term, 75 percent of all the city’s new revenues went to increased pay and pensions for its existing workforce, rather than for new services. Who can blame voters for wanting a change, even if that change is unlikely to result in better policies?
Given the choice between a left-wing white guy with a bad track record and no personality and a left-wing Latino guy with a bad track record and a charming personality, they chose the latter. While that does not offer any broad political lessons, perhaps, it is closer to the truth than the preconceived conclusions drawn by the national media.