Democrats ignore wave of crime at their peril
On the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, dozens of gunshots rang out in the middle of the day in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, forcing reporters and passers-by to duck and cover themselves.
The symbolism was undeniable – the fight a year after Floyd’s murder coincided with a wave of urban crime that made shootings terrifyingly common.
Indeed, the intersection where Floyd was killed, now a memorial blocked to traffic, has become a slogan for chaos.
The issue of public safety is perhaps poised to play its most important role in our politics since the mid-1990s, the start of a decline in crime that spanned decades and gradually eroded its political prominence.
Former President Donald Trump attempted to make law and order a defining issue in 2020, but the riots he so vigorously denounced were, in most places, too transient to become a overwhelming problem.
Now, more than a year after the start of a serious crime wave, Democrats are wrong if they think they will not be blamed for the rise in violence in Democratic-ruled cities.
Overall, murders increased by more than 25% in the United States last year, the biggest jump in 60 years. Certainly the dislocations of the pandemic have been a factor, but it’s also evident that the anti-police turmoil has put the cops on their heels. Room A is Minneapolis.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s assassination, city council pledged to end the police department, among the most strangely unworkable and self-defeating promises ever made by an elected body. Of course, he couldn’t follow through any more than he could have kept his promise to eliminate traffic lights or municipal snow removal.
Still, cops fled the force as crime soared. Impeccably progressive Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, who desperately wanted to indulge himself at a court-like anti-police rally last summer but, to his credit, would not pledge to defunding the police, rings the bell now sometimes as if channeling the old one. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani circa 1993.
Another dyed-in-wool progressive, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, facing lingering unrest that was once blamed on Trump, called on town residents to ‘take back the town’ and unmask, arrest and prosecute the rioters .
Los Angeles cut its police budget by 8% in the wake of the Floyd protests, and is now adding it right away. In South Los Angeles, the LAPD is increasing its patrols and vehicle stops to search for weapons and gang members.
Irving Kristol has said that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been assaulted by reality. While progressive politicians who now seem friendlier to the police weren’t assaulted, they were at least alarmed by the sound of approaching gunfire.
The turnaround is not universal. The other day White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if there was a crime problem and, sounding as evasive as when she spoke about the border, she would only say that ‘ there is a “gun problem”. This was a reference to the totally unconvincing argument that the increase in gun sales has led to soaring crime while the surge in gun sales since the mid-1970s. 1990s never led to an increase in crime.
The problem Democrats have is that they have accepted – and celebrated – people who speak out against the police as being consistently racist.
This argument naturally does not allow for nuance. In fact, that logically means asking for fewer cops and less police funding, a program that will be hard to sell to most people under the best of circumstances, but which is toxic in an environment of increasing crime.
Black Lives Matter has already lost its support in the polls, while confidence in the police has risen. Things would need to get worse for crime to become as central an issue as it was in the 1970s. But Democrats who aren’t alarmed that reporters dodge bullets at the George Floyd Memorial are tempting political fate.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.