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 hide and cover themselves.
The symbolism was unmistakable – the protest episode a year after Floyd’s murder coincided with an upsurge in urban crime that made guns incredibly 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 importance.
Former President Donald Trump tried to make law and order a defining issue in 2020, but the riots he so forcefully denounced were, in most places, too transient to become a problem crushing.
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 upheaval of the pandemic was a factor, but it is also evident that the anti-police turmoil has put the cops on their heels. Room A is Minneapolis.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, city council pledged to end the police department, among the most outlandish and self-defeating promises ever made by an elected body. Of course, he couldn’t follow through on that, nor could he 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 make himself understood at a court-like anti-police rally last summer but, to his credit, would not pledge to fund the police , now sometimes gives the impression that he is channeling former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani around 1993.
Another staunch 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 adding it back now. In South Los Angeles, the LAPD is increasing patrols and vehicle stops to search for guns and gang members.
Irving Kristol once said that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been assaulted by reality. If the progressive politicians who now seem more friendly to the police were not assaulted, they were at least alarmed by the sound of the approaching gunfire.
The turnaround is not universal. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked the other day if there was a crime problem and, sounding as evasive as when discussing the border, she would only say there is a “gun problem”. This was a reference to the totally unconvincing argument that the increase in gun sales has led to an increase in crime while increases in gun sales since the mid-1980s 1990 had never led to an increase in crime.
The problem with Democrats is that they have accepted – and celebrated – people who have filed a full case against the police as being consistently racist.
This argument naturally does not allow for nuance. In fact, that logically involves calling 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 don’t care about reporters dodging bullets at George Floyd’s memorial are tempting political fate .
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.