Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Democrats’ crime problem

By W. James Antle III, The Week

Democrats are grappling with an issue they thought they had largely put to bed in the 1990s: crime. President Joe Biden turned his attention to the wave of gun violence in major cities on Wednesday. The Democratic primary for New York City mayor was dominated by crime, with the candidate pledging to get tough leading (pending the results of ranked choice voting).

Historically speaking, rising violent crime has created major political headaches for Democrats and played to the advantage of “law and order” Republicans. The approach the party took to defuse this issue nearly 30 years ago, such as the Biden-designed 1994 crime bill, had unintended consequences for communities of color and is now out of step with the liberal activist base.

That doesn’t mean that base is in step with broader public opinion, however. While the country was horrified by the death of George Floyd, top Democratic data scientists believe “defund the police” hurt the party’s candidates in last year’s elections. The problem is similar to that which plagued Democrats starting in the 1970s: While concern about crime can easily bleed into racism, it is not synonymous with it.

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