Nicholas Kristof: Democrats Have Too Much Power on the West Coast

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Last Saturday I wrote about Nicholas Kristof's column for the NY Times arguing that President Biden was right to try to do more to control the border. What I found interesting about it was that a relatively progressive writer was suddenly opening his eyes to a host of problems that come with unregulated (or poorly regulated) immigration. He was essentially saying that Republicans have a point.


Today, Kristof is back with another surprising column arguing that Republicans have a point about the West Coast. Kristof takes pains to argue that the problem isn't Democrats per se. There are states on the East Coast, he argues, where Democratic leadership produces some good results. But things are different on the West Coast and the question is why?

“The inability of progressives, particularly in the Portland metro area, to deal with the nitty-gritty of governing and to get something done is just staggering,” Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who has been representing and championing Portland for more than half a century, told me. “People are much more interested in ideology than in actual results.”

Kristof offers a couple of specific examples of how this focus on ideology is harmful. One example is this story I wrote about last August. It's the story of a violent man named Mohamed Osman Adan who was dating a woman named Rachael Abraham. She split from him because of his violence and he threatened to murder her. Even after they split up, he would break into her house and beat her while her kids were in the house. Eventually, after an incident where he choked her and gave her a black eye, Adan was arrested and charged with five felonies. That's when a group of progressive criminal justice reformers called the Portland Freedom Fund entered the picture.

Portland Freedom Fund had looked into Adan and seen things differently. Or maybe it hadn’t bothered to look. Maybe it considered strangling a woman and holding a gun to her head subjacent to its work as “a volunteer-run abolitionist organization currently dedicated to reducing harms perpetuated against our Black, Brown and Indigenous neighbors by the criminal justice system through posting bail so they may navigate their case from a position of freedom,” as its website stated…

If anyone had walked the walk Portlanders pledged to walk since the killing of George Floyd, and even before, it had been Amanda Trujillo. When Mohamed Adan was up for release on Aug. 20, who’d been there to make bail? Trujillo had been, paying the $2,000 for the charges stemming from June and August and, while she was at it, $3,000 for a suspended license misdemeanor in nearby Clackamas County. The release papers she signed included charges of “contempt violation” and “strangulation,” but who knew if these were accurate? Bail had been set at $20,000, with only 10% security required. Maybe whatever Adan had done wasn’t that bad.


Thanks to the Portland Freedom Fund and to the absurdly low bail set for him by judges looking at his case, Adan got out. One week later he cut off his ankle monitor, went back to Rachael Abraham's house and murdered her. None of this should have happened, but in Portland there is no check on progressive ideology. If some people have to die to fight "mass incarceration" so be it.

Kristof offers another example involving homelessness, which is rampant in West Coast cities.

The basic reason for homelessness on the West Coast is an enormous shortage of housing that drives up rents. California lacks about three million housing units, in part because it’s difficult to get permission to build...

Public sector efforts to build housing are often ruinously expensive, with “affordable housing” sometimes costing more than $1 million per unit, so the private sector is critical. Yet one element of progressive purity is suspicion of the private sector, and this hobbles efforts to make businesses part of the solution. Business owners who earn an income from their company are effectively barred from serving on the Portland City Council.

A less generous way to say this is that all of the damn socialists and environmentalists make it nearly impossible to build anything on the West Coast. Even the city itself has to spend $1.7 million to build a single public toilet in a space where there is already plumbing run.

Kristof eventually concludes that the problem with the West Coast is that progressive ideologues have no oversight. Their unchecked power means they are free to do whatever they want and the result is often a disaster.


Perhaps on the West Coast we have ideological purity because there isn’t much political competition. Republicans are irrelevant in much of the Far West, so they can’t hold Democrats’ feet to the fire — leading Democrats in turn to wander unchecked farther to the left...

One encouraging sign is that the West Coast may be self-correcting. I’ve been on a book tour in recent weeks, and in my talks in California, Oregon and Washington I’ve been struck by the way nearly everyone frankly acknowledges this gulf between our values and our outcomes, and welcomes more pragmatic approaches.

I think he's right that there are some signs of change. San Francisco did recall Chesa Boudin and three woke members of the school board. Oregon did eventually realize that drug decriminalization was a terrible idea. And Californians could be on the verge of undoing Prop. 47, though the governor and many Democrats are still fighting that on ideological grounds.

We're still a long way from common sense winning all of these battles but at least it's winning some of them some of the time. Even on the West Coast, it's possible to go too far left these days. But it's a very uphill battle because progressive schools and college campuses ensure there is still an army of know-nothing ideologues more concerned about saying the right thing (whatever that may be at a given moment) than making these places livable.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos