Wastelands of Wokery


It was the American Dream to go West and make one’s fortune. In the early Nineties, it was still the Dream to go West, this time to the furthest West where the cities of the Pacific coast offered the brightest economic futures.

As the great cities of the Midwest and the East Coast were suffering decline, the economies of the West Coast thrived. Yet now cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are in recession. They are not the only US cities in trouble, but they are by far the worst affected. The tragedy is that arguably the most important cause is politicians who run these cities according to progressive dogma. These are the cities where the police have been defunded whilst criminals are indulged as victims of intersectional oppression. As the economically idle criminal class has burgeoned, so the taxation burden has fallen ever more upon a smaller proportion of the population – who if they have the resources, migrate to better cities. The greatest victims are the poorest, who cannot afford to move and escape the madness.

Take San Francisco, for instance. Tolerance of drug taking has led to a situation where there are more addicts than students in high school. What a tragic waste of young lives. It is an economic tragedy for the city too, since with so many people unfit for work, a recent WalletHub survey ranked San Francisco as the least efficient city in the US; a fact that deters business investment.

Then there is Los Angeles. Once it was a leader in entertainment, aerospace and fashion, with an effective infrastructure. Now unemployment is rife as LA’s largest companies, such as Hilton Hotels, have evacuated the city. The main cause is the serious levels of crime encouraged by LA’s progressive politicians, who have cancelled bail requirements for people arrested for low level felonies.

Further up the coast, Seattle and Portland appeared to be bucking the trend. Yet, once prosperous Seattle has now become a centre of lawlessness. During the riots over George Floyd’s murder, the city’s downtown became self-governing under the control of radicals who were soft on the rioters and other criminals. Thousands are leaving Seattle for smaller, local towns such as Spokane. Now sleeplessness in Seattle is not so much due to romantic woes, but the terror of burglars.

Portland was once branded as a place where people could safely retire. Not now. As a consequence of its defund the police policy, Portland is depopulating at an alarming rate. Since the pandemic lockdown, 2,600 business have relocated out of the city due to rocketing crime rates. Shootings have tripled and homicides have climbed from 36 in 2019 to 97 in 2023. 11,000 vehicles were stolen in 2022 alone. Like San Francisco, Portland is in the grip of widespread fentanyl addiction.

There has been some pushback against progressivism’s lunacy. San Francisco’s ultra-lenient District Attorney was recently removed, and Asian and Hispanic American voters are voting more often for the right. However, there needs to be a far greater political turn to unseat the radicals who, news channel MSNBC claims, have almost taken over the West Coast’s great cities. So confident are these politicians that Kshama Sawant, a Seattle Council member, has declared that she and her allies will dismantle America’s capitalist system and replace it with a socialist world.

The UK, which has a near equal GDP to California, has not quite gone down this road of insanity. Most people are content to pay the community charge which funds the police, and happily live alongside people of different ethnic heritages. Yet there is a warning in all of this for us British. We too have our race-baiters who wish to perpetuate racial grievances ad nauseam. We have witnessed national events such as Charles III’s coronation besmirched by the likes of Adjoa Andoh, for whom the royal family is ‘terribly white’. We too have our liberal leftists who empathise more with criminals than with victims, and who lobby for the decriminalisation of so-called soft drugs. The official dogma of multiculturalism where diversity is celebrated is a dangerous experiment, for it fails to create an overarching shared culture to hold communities together.

Perhaps we believe that we are more sensible than our American cousins, and therefore will never go down the crooked road of wacky wokery. But who would have imagined that cities in the arsenal of democracy, the leader of the free world and the epitome of capitalism would have been captured by this latest manifestation of Marxism? So, we ought not to be too confident ourselves. The culture war is real whether we like it or not.

Peter Harris is the author of two books, The Rage Against the Light: Why Christopher Hitchens Was Wrong (2019) and Do You Believe It? A Guide to a Reasonable Christian Faith (2020). Republished by kind permission of The New Conservative.