It doesn’t rise to the level of reading tea leaves, but some on the left are warning of a prickly issue that could prove problematic for Democrats in the midterms – and beyond.
Crime statistics in the United States are trending the wrong way. The rate of murders throughout the country has risen an astonishing 25% since 2020. With George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, lawlessness and violence are metastasizing nationally.
The precipitous and unchecked gains in power made by Black Lives Matter coupled with the loud messaging on the left to Defund the Police have also played outsized roles in this worrisome development. And no less than progressive prognosticator Ezra Klein is taking notice. Like a bespectacled Cassandra, he recently tweeted:
“Homicides in cities were up by 25-40 percent in 2020, the largest single-year increase since 1960. And 2021 isn’t looking any better. This is a crisis on its own terms. The politics of this could really tip, and not just in cities — if these numbers keep getting worse, then as with Nixon and Reagan in the 70s and 80s, it could bring ‘law and order’ conservatives (including Trump) back to power in 2024.”
This clarion call was taken up by others, including Slate national correspondent William Saletan and ex-communicated liberal writer Andrew Sullivan, who took White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to task for euphemistically referring to lawbreaking as “community violence.”
Spikes in crime and skyrocketing murder rates in cities across America — including in New York; Oakland, CA; Kansas City; Washington; Atlanta; and Louisville, KY — are causing some progressives to raise a red flag. And the trajectory hasn’t improved from what Democrats had hoped was limited to a 2020 “COVID crime wave.” This year may turn out to be more violent than the last during the heart of the pandemic.
And political casualties are starting to litter the battlefield.
Based on her inability to curb the worrying surge in crime in her city, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has announced she likely won’t run for re-election – a tacit admission of her failure on the issue of lawlessness.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is in the pitched battle of his political life, facing a recall election this summer. To assuage the anger at his job performance and mollify his constituents, he has suddenly thrown billions at education, is magically lifting masking mandates, and is opening his state completely on June 15.
But his prison release program, which sprung 8,000 inmates ostensibly to save lives during COVID, comes at a highly inopportune moment for the embattled governor. This may not be the right political moment to appear soft on crime. And Newsom is not the only elected official in California under duress for his job performance. Far-left San Francisco Attorney General Chesa Boudin is also facing a recall as that city confronts the most dire social and criminal challenges in memory.
With crime soaring and a catastrophe at the border, which reportedly is letting known criminals sneak into United States illegally, Democrats are voicing their concerns that Republicans might successfully employ “Nixon-style law and order” messaging in 2022.
But their greater fever dream is that it could occasion the return of former President Donald J. Trump.
Read more from Pennel Bird.