The health care defeat is just the latest setback for the progressive movement amid signs the party is recalibrating its stances on policing and criminal justice. Elected officials from San Francisco to New York City have ramped up their tough-on-crime rhetoric in response to an uptick in violent incidents and a rash of organized property crimes that have left Democrats vulnerable to political attacks from the right.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at Kingston 11 Cuisine on Oct. 8, 2021, in Oakland, California.
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The national reckoning over policing — and in particular, the “defund the police” campaign — appears to be losing steam in California; Gov. Gavin Newsom has sought more money for law enforcement, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed has moved to broaden police surveillance powers after decrying the “bullshit that has destroyed” the city.
Intraparty rifts have deepened over oil production bans that threaten labor union jobs, as well as land-use restrictions that deter housing construction. Environmental progressives are getting regularly drowned out by demands for more housing and jobs in the state.
And despite championing single-payer during his 2018 gubernatorial run, Newsom himself took a pass on the latest bill and avoided discussing it in much detail when asked last month. The governor has slow-walked the idea since taking office in 2019, only going so far as to establish a commission that is studying various costs and options.
The outcome also demonstrated how Sacramento is not the automatic progressive-policy machine people assume. An anti-evictions bill opposed by real estate groups stalled for lack of votes the same night. Business interests, law enforcement and the oil industry can still marshal decisive influence, often working with centrist Democrats.
“California, for as progressive as it is, there’s still a lot of purple here,” said Democratic consultant Roger Salazar, a Democratic consultant who works mainly on ballot initiatives and was once a spokesperson for former Gov. Gray Davis. “While the…