Public safety could play its main role in our politics since the mid-1990s, the beginning of a decade-long decline in crime that steadily undermined its political significance.
Donald Trump tried to make law and order a dominant issue in 2020, but the unrest he so vehemently denounced was too ephemeral in most places to become an overwhelming issue. He has also faced the difficult position of cracking down on disorder as an incumbent rather than a challenger, and his chaotic style of governance did not go well with a message of order.
But now, more than a year on from a serious crime wave, Democrats should be careful – they are deceiving themselves into believing they are not being blamed for a surge in violence in democratic-run cities that is clearly a consequence at some level is by police forces who feel pressured and overwhelmed.
Overall, the US homicide jumped more than 25 percent last year, the biggest jump in 60 years. In New York City, the murders rose nearly 50 percent. In Los Angeles, crime rose 36 percent. And the story is the same in town after town.
Certainly the upheavals of the pandemic were a factor, but it is also evident that the police were raised by agitation against the police. Appendix A is Minneapolis.
In the feverish days and weeks following Floyd’s assassination, the city council promised to eliminate the police department in what is among the most unusual and self-destructive promises ever made by an elected body. Of course, it couldn’t be implemented any more than it could have fulfilled the promise to eliminate traffic lights or municipal snow removal.
Even so, police officers have left in droves while crime has risen sharply. Murders, rape, robbery and assault increased 25 percent over the past year, with the increase being more than 60 percent steeper in the neighborhoods around the intersection where Floyd was killed.
Impeccably progressive Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fry, who was desperate to ingratiate himself at a tribunal-style rally last summer but didn’t want to commit to defusing the police, now and then sounds like he is Rudy Channel Giuliani around 1993.
“The violence has to stop, it is unacceptable,” he said a few weeks ago at a community meeting. “We should hold these perpetrators accountable.” He added, “If you make big, overarching statements that we are going to defuse or abolish and dismantle the police department and get rid of all officers, there will be an impact.”
Another dyed-in-the-wool progressive, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who, in the face of ongoing riots once blamed on Trump, has urged city residents to “take back” the city from the rioters and expose, arrest and remove them prosecute.
Los Angeles cut its police budget by 8 percent after the Floyd protests and is now basically adding the funds right away. In south Los Angeles, the LAPD is stepping up patrols and vehicle stops to search for weapons and gang members.
Irving Kristol famously said a neoconservative is a liberal who has been invaded by reality. If progressive politicians, who now sound friendlier to the police, weren’t assaulted by reality, at least they were alerted by the sound of guns approaching them.
The turning point is not universal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki was recently asked if there was a crime problem. If she sounds as evasive as she did when discussing the border, all she would say is that there is a “gun problem”. This hinted at the wholly unconvincing argument that increased arms sales led to an increase in crime, when an increase in arms sales had never increased crime since the mid-1990s.
The problem that Democrats have is that they have either spoken out as being systematically racist against the police or they have allied with people. Of course, this leaves no room for nuances and logically includes the demand for fewer police officers and less police funding.
This is an agenda that will be difficult to sell to most people under the best of circumstances, but is toxic in an environment of increasing crime.
Black Lives Matter was already Losing support in the pollswhile confidence in the police has increased. It would have to get orders of magnitude worse for crime to become as central an issue as it was in the 1970s. But safe roads are a non-negotiable expectation of all voters. That is why “law and order,” whether demagogic by George Wallace or much more responsible by Ronald Reagan, has such power.
Democrats not concerned that reporters can’t stand without the George Floyd memorial Dodging bullets is a tempting political fate.