New York Democrats were shocked by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’s successful initial showing in the Democrat primary race to succeed Bill de Blasio as mayor. Adams was the only Democrat candidate who ran on a law-and-order platform, against a large field of opponents who mostly spouted the familiar hard-left/progressive criticisms of the NYPD and the law enforcement establishment.
According to New York Times reporter Lisa Lerer, by voting for Adams, the city’s minority voters were sending the progressives a disturbing message, rejecting their harsh accusations of systemic police racism and welcoming Adams’ promise to work closely with the NYPD to restore safety in the city’s streets.
Adams, who is black, got into trouble with the law as a youngster, but eventually straightened himself out to become an officer in the NYPD. During the mayoral primary campaign, he openly denounced the progressive anti-police rhetoric of New York’s elected leaders, from de Blasio to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He said that the progressive criticisms threatened the lives of “black and brown babies” and were being pushed by “a lot of young, white, affluent people” driven by an ideological agenda divorced from the reality of violent crime rising in the city’s streets. Instead of defunding the NYPD, Adams promised to restore its protective presence which had been systematically demeaned and reduced during Mayor de Blasio’s eight years in office. In response, Adams was rewarded by a plurality of Democrat voters in the city’s minority neighborhoods, from Eastchester in the Bronx to East New York in Brooklyn, who gave him a clear lead at the end of the first round of primary vote counting last week.
Citywide, 46% of Democrat primary voters said that restoring public safety in New York City should be the new mayor’s top priority.
Lerer argues that Adam’s primary success was not a fluke. She contends that it reveals a serious disconnect between the agenda being pushed by liberal progressive activists and the typical views on crime, police, and public safety held by many black and Latino voters, who are frightened to live in New York’s increasingly crime-ridden neighborhoods. For them, the outspoken campaign by progressives to step up the pressure on local police to combat white supremacy and work towards racial justice is actually counterproductive, because it reduces the ability of the NYPD to do its primary job of protecting citizens.
Because of the complications introduced by the new ranked choice voting system, and the gross incompetence of the New York City Board of Elections, the outcome of the Democrat mayoral primary remains in doubt, The corrected vote tally released last week, which included the ranked choice results, indicated that Adams’ initial lead over his two nearest challengers, former de Blasio administrator Kathryn Garcia and progressive Maya Wiley, had been reduced to less than 3 percent, with another 125,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted.
A MINORITY VOTER REBELLION IN THE MAKING
The growing minority voter rebellion against the anti-police and anti-racism progressive rhetoric is not a phenomenon unique to New York, nor is it entirely new. In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump’s pro-law-and-order message enabled him to make significant gains among minority voting groups, especially Latinos, although it was not enough to enable him to win reelection. However, those additional minority voters did enable Republican congressional candidates to capture 15 formerly Democrat-held congressional seats in districts across the country, while Democrats were able to flip only three.
The results of the New York City mayoral primary reinforced an alarming message that finally seems to be getting through to Democrat political strategists, and even the mainstream news media, which has been actively trying to downplay and suppress reports of rapidly rising gun violence and fear in cities across America over the past year.
For example, Politico has been blaming the public’s growing impression that violent crime is on the upsurge across the country on “Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump… attempting to pin the rash of violence on the [Biden] White House, even though increases in gun violence happened during the previous administration. . .
“Conservative media outlets are carrying a steady stream of foreboding headlines highlighting the rise of year-over-year shootings and homicides.”
LIBERALS HAVE IGNORED THE CRIME ISSUE FOR TOO LONG
But the nationwide spike in gun crimes and mass shootings over the past year is real and continues to accelerate at an alarming rate — and Adams’ success in the mayoral primary is proof that Republican claims that they are making serious inroads into traditionally pro-Democrat minority voting blocs is not more pro-Trump “fake news.”
Polling confirmed that as the rate of violent crime and shootings climbed in New York City over the past year, public safety became the dominant issue in the mayoral primary race, even among members of the lopsided majority of registered Democrat and predominantly liberal voters in the city.
In his first press conference after the initial primary results were announced, Adams sent a disturbing message to the progressive leaders of his party. “I am the face of the new Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential elections.”
BIDEN SEEKING TO SWITCH SIDES AGAIN
President Biden’s political advisors have heeded the message sent by the minority voters in the New York City primary who responded so positively to Adams’ pro-police rhetoric. The always politically-agile Biden has already begun to pivot on the issue, announcing a new plan last week to address the wave of violent crime washing over cities across America.
This will be the second time in Biden’s long political career that he has decided to take a hard stance against a rising national crime problem. In the early 1990s, he helped write a tough federal anti-crime bill imposing stiff mandatory jail sentences on relatively minor drug offenses which wound up incarcerating much of a whole generation of young black males.
Biden paid a heavy political price for the results of that crime bill early in the 2020 presidential primary race. To salvage his presidential candidacy, he was forced to repudiate the anti-crime bill he wrote and apologize for it.
Now, Biden and his advisors have decided to reverse course on the issue again, in reaction to the rising tide of violence, coupled with a sharp decline in the enforcement of law and order by local authorities, and the wholesale retirement or resignation of veteran officers from police forces across the country. The resulting spike in crime has become so alarming to ordinary citizens that politically savvy Democrats like Biden can no longer afford to keep ignoring it.
RISING GUN CRIME IN CITIES ACROSS THE NATION
In city after city — almost all of them long-governed by Democrat officials — the story of rising crime accompanied by the demoralization and demonization of local police is similar.
In Mayor de Blasio’s New York City, with the country’s largest police force, the murder rate is up 48% over 2019, while shooting incidents have increased by 107% over the past two years. During just one weekend last month, 22 people were shot in New York City, leaving five dead. Over the past two months, there have been two shooting incidents in Times Square, one of the most heavily police patrolled areas in the country, including one in which two women and a four-year-old child were wounded, and the other in which the innocent victim was a 21-year-old Marine who was visiting from Upstate New York. Fear of rising crime has contributed to the record number of New York residents who have abandoned their expensive homes in the city over the past year, making a pragmatic decision to pack up and move their households to someplace cheaper and safer.
In Atlanta, murders are up by 58% compared to this date in 2020. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has been unable to keep her promises to city residents to stem the rising violence, so she has resorted to blaming the problem on Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to relax the state’s Covid restrictions earlier than most other states in the country. In an interview on MSNBC, Bottoms contended that because Kemp decided that it was safe for Atlanta’s “night clubs and bars [to] remain open, we had people traveling here from across the country to party in our city,” causing all the trouble — without presenting any proof to back up her unlikely claim.
In Portland, murders are up by an astounding 800% over the past year. According to Portland Police Association’s Daryl Turner, the “roving gangs of black-clad rioters do not speak for the hundreds of thousands of residents and business owners of Portland who want a safe and clean city… These rioters, bent on destruction, hijacked social and racial justice movements. These rioters burned and looted our city. Yet local [Democrat] politicians supported them.” Meanwhile, the Biden Justice Department has dropped almost half of the criminal cases against rioters in Portland who attacked a federal courthouse there.
Seattle city officials permitted violent protesters to take over several downtown city blocks, declaring them to be the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” (CHOP) autonomous zone, and ordering Seattle police to abandon the local precinct station. During what Seattle’s liberal Democrat mayor, Jenny Denkin, described in 2020 as “a summer of love,” homicides in her city occurred at the highest rates in 26 years.
In San Francisco, all 17 Walgreens drugstores in the city have been closed due to rampant shoplifting, because the city’s liberal district attorney, Chesa Boudin, has refused to prosecute the perpetrators in court. For similar reasons, burglaries are up 62 percent this year in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco’s congressional district. As a result, there are now two separate San Francisco community groups circulating petitions to force a recall election to oust the district attorney. This is in addition to the now likely recall election for California’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, sparked by statewide outrage at his handling of the pandemic.
In Los Angeles, where the police department saw its budget cut by $150 million, county-wide murders climbed by 95%.
In Minneapolis, where money was also diverted from the police budget, there has been an 89% increase in homicides during the year of violence since George Floyd died at the hands of Derek Chauvin, one of the city’s white cops, who was sentenced last week to serve 22.5 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder.
AN EPIDEMIC OF MASS SHOOTINGS
Most frightening is the recent acceleration of mass shooting incidents across the country.
There were three mass shootings in Chicago during one week in June. Large clusters of weekend gun deaths have become so routine in Chicago that they don’t even make the national news anymore. Chicago’s rookie mayor, Lori Lightfoot, ran for office on a platform promising to reform the local police. Since taking office, she has continued to demonize the Chicago Police Department, reassigned veteran detectives to routine street patrols downtown, and stationed empty police patrol cars, with their blue lights flashing, along the main commercial strip of Michigan Avenue in a laughable effort to deter street crime.
Longtime Chicagoans are now afraid to venture downtown or stroll along the beautiful lakefront after sunset. They are tired of Chicago’s children being gunned down in street gang wars, or seeing news reports of visiting tourists being stabbed, while a clueless Mayor Lightfoot proclaims that “systemic racism” is the root cause of the spreading lawlessness and violence. Disgusted Chicago residents are now emulating the pattern in New York City by voting with their feet to escape the growing threat in the city to their personal safety. Meanwhile, Lightfoot has joined de Blasio as a national poster child for Democrat incompetence, and a local media target for ridicule.
The Philadelphia Inquirer commented in the wake of one recent weekend’s toll of two dozen people shot, three of them fatally, “If the current pace holds, the city will record more shooting victims by early August than it did in all of 2017.”
Lax law enforcement policies have also been encouraged by Philadelphia’s recently re-elected progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner. His office’s reluctance to prosecute those responsible for the uptick in crime and disorder in the city’s streets and the region’s SEPTA mass transit system has significantly slowed the recovery of Philadelphia’s Center City business district from the pandemic. In addition, a recent decree by a federal judge stated that Philadelphia police officers “will no longer be permitted to stop, question or detain people for ‘quality of life’ violations, potentially including panhandling, smoking marijuana. . . or holding open liquor containers.” As a result, many of the Center City’s former workers who live in Philadelphia’s suburbs are still unwilling to start commuting to their offices again.
The spike in gun violence is no longer a problem confined to the country’s largest cities. Last month, a mass shooting in Austin, Texas, killed one person and injured 14 others. In rural Sumter County in central Florida, roughly halfway between Tampa and Orlando, nine people were shot, one fatally, during a burst of gunfire at an annual local Father’s Day event.
The list goes on. Just about every major US city has seen mass shootings over the past two months, and what promises to be a long, hot summer season of violence is now just getting started.
BIDEN WHITE HOUSE REFUSING TO ACCEPT BLAME
But while the White House has finally recognized the nationwide crime wave as a serious problem that must be addressed, it still vehemently denies that its policies supporting the racist rhetoric and vilification of police by progressives like AOC and the Black Lives Matter movement bear any responsibility for it.
Instead, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been trying to deflect the blame onto the policies of former President Trump, and calling for new restrictions on the Second Amendment right for citizens to own guns to protect themselves and their families. She recently told reporters, “The president feels a lot, a great deal, of the crime we’re seeing is a result of gun violence. There’s been actually a rise in crime over the last five years, but really the last 18 months.”
But crime statistics do not support that White House contention. More American police officers died in the line of duty last than in any other year since 1974. A recent study of 10 large police forces by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) found that homicides really began to surge last June, with the onset of violent protests nationwide against the death of George Floyd, and that increase has continued through 2021. The rise in shooting deaths has been sharpest in those cities in which progressive Democrat officials have succeeded in at least partially defunding the local police, including Portland, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
In an op-ed published by the Washington Times, Jason Johnson, the president of the LELDF, notes that reported police arrests and stops — a key indicator of police force effectiveness in stopping violent crimes — has plummeted in cities across the country, from Chicago to Los Angeles and Louisville to Houston, while the rate of violent crime has been soaring in those same cities. Johnson attributes that trend to cops on the street pulling back instead of intervening to stop such crimes, out of fear that they could be sued, fired, or even criminally prosecuted “for doing their jobs.”
Johnson writes that the situation is worst in those cities where Democrat officials ordered local police to stand down rather than try to curb widespread outbreaks of violence. “In Baltimore,” he writes, “where I previously served as deputy police commissioner, public officials undermined and attacked rank-and-file law enforcement after the 2015 riots. The police responded in kind and arrests fell by 50% over the next five years while homicide jumped 65% — making [Baltimore] America’s big city murder capital nearly every year.”
AN EMERGING NATIONAL POLITICAL ISSUE
In truth, Biden is faced with a political dilemma in trying to deal effectively with gun crime and violence, which has been ranked by the Pew Research Center as the third greatest concern for most Americans, surpassing racism, the pandemic, and most other domestic and economic issues, and trailing only the budget deficit and the affordability of health care.
In the April Pew poll, 48% of those surveyed said they considered violent crime to be a big problem, and another 36% called it a moderately big problem. A November Gallup poll had a similar finding, with 78% of those responding saying they believed that the crime rate was rising.
Just last summer, Biden joined with his fellow Democrats and the mainstream media in trying to assure the American people that the widespread looting, rioting, and violence they were witnessing were “mostly peaceful protests” justified by concerns over systemic racism infecting local police departments in cities across America.
Today, most minority residents of American cities appear to more concerned about their personal safety, and, in sharp disagreement with the rhetoric of progressive activists, would much rather see an increase rather than a reduction in the police presence in their neighborhoods to better protect them.
TRYING TO BLAME THE PROBLEM ON GUNS
So far, however, the response of the Biden White House and Democrat officials across the country has focused on tougher restrictions on the proliferation of hand guns as its main strategy to reduce the dramatic spike in gun violence, which was up by 24% in the first quarter this year compared to the same period in 2020, and by 49% since 2019.
In his Washington Times op-ed, Johnson notes that the new Democrat plans to fight violent crime “almost never mentions law enforcement, prosecution or accountability except for the new bogeyman ‘gun traffickers’. . . The real perpetrators of violence — gangs, drug dealers and violent felons — are curiously absent from this discussion since in the new ‘woke’ calculus they are ‘victims’ as much as those they intimidate, maim and kill.”On June 15, more than two dozen mayors, including Lori Lightfoot, signed a letter asking the White House to take further action aimed at limiting the public’s access to guns, ranging from investigating federally-licensed gun dealers to cracking down on illegal gun sales over social media platforms.
It’s all been tried before, with little effect. Even during the decade when a federal ban on assault rifles was in effect — as part of then-Senator Biden’s 1994 tough anti-crime bill — it did not have a major impact on reducing the number of gun deaths, which was why Congress failed to renew it after its expiration in 2004. Unfortunately, the Biden White House still doesn’t have any new strategies to deal with the problem, or even a rational explanation for why gun violence has been increasing so rapidly on its watch.
Biden’s Justice Department recently announced the formation of five taskforces that will target the flow of illegal firearms into places like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC — all of which already have very strict gun control laws.
But these measures will do little to keep guns out of the hands of those who seek to use them illegally. According to a 2019 Justice Department report, the vast majority of criminals who possessed a gun while committing their offense either bought it on the street or underground (43%) or got it from a friend or a family member or as a gift (25%). Only 7% purchased the firearm from a gun shop, and 0.8% got it at a gun show.
The federal government can only go after guns that are being sold illegally — but most guns are purchased and owned legally. Democrat attempts to pass federal, state and local laws further restricting legal arms sales often run afoul of the right to private gun ownership guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
The spike in violent protests triggered by the death of George Floyd last year prompted large numbers of Americans concerned about their personal safety to legally purchase a handgun for the first time, but there is no indication that those weapons were disproportionately responsible for the sharp recent increase in gun murders and mass shooting incidents.
Biden’s main legislative gun-control initiative, a renewal of the federal assault-weapons ban, is completely irrelevant to urban gun violence. Despite the nationwide publicity generated by mass shooting incidents involving assault weapons, the vast majority of the roughly 20,000 gun murders committed in America last year were carried out one at a time, using handguns that would be untouched by Biden’s proposal to renew the ban on military style semi-automatic rifles.
BIDEN CAN’T AFFORD TO ALIENATE PROGRESSIVES
While trying to come up with a more effective answer to the explosion in gun violence, the White House must also be careful to avoid alienating influential Democrat progressive activists.
For the past decade, progressives have made considerable progress in implementing their ideas for reforming the nation’s criminal justice system. They still take great pride in claiming responsibility for the decriminalization of marijuana and the reduction in penalties for other drug crimes, more lenient parole policies, and the elimination of minimum sentencing guidelines, all of which have contributed to the emptying of the nation’s prisons.
But even some liberal Democrats now realize that their soft-on-crime policies have created a growing political backlash among moderate voters. As a result, some of them are now trying to cautiously distance themselves from the rhetoric of progressive activists who are still pressing their accusation, as an article of faith, that this country’s law enforcement agencies have been infected by “systemic racism,” and that police officers are the main source of the problem rather than an essential component of the solution.
In a thoughtful analysis of the problem from a leftist perspective by Eric Levitz, published in New York Magazine, he warns his fellow progressives that they may be hurting their own cause by their denial of the public’s perception of the seriousness of the rise “in certain pockets in certain cities” in gun deaths and lawlessness.
Levitz writes, “Since frightened electorates are often reactionary ones, the rising salience of crime imperils the entire progressive project. . . The left is complacent about a large increase in the already exceptionally high rate of homicide victimization endured by the urban working class.
“I think it’s both politically and morally imperative for progressives to disavow such complacency. The threat that public alarm over crime will trigger a punitive turn in policy is real.”
Levitz cited a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll which confirmed that the poor and minority group members who are most victimized by rising crime are mostly opposed to the progressive calls for reducing the police presence in their communities.
He also notes the hypocrisy of the mainstream media and many progressive liberals for playing up the racial aspect of the relatively few white-on-black police shootings, and mass shooting incidents, while at the same time ignoring “a 30 percent increase in homicide concentrated in low-income black communities,” resulting in a far greater number of lost lives.
For these reasons, President Biden has also been forced to act cautiously in disassociating himself from the incessant calls by progressive activists to defund local police departments, while quietly encouraging cities to use some of their unspent federal Covid relief money to recruit replacements for the huge number of disgusted veteran cops who have resigned or retired early over the past year, leaving many departments desperately short-handed.
However, the federal funds Biden has made available for that purpose cannot possibly replace overnight the thousands of qualified, motivated, and experienced police professionals across the country who have responded to incessant attacks by “woke” Democrats, Black Lives Matter activists, and the mainstream media by abandoning their careers in law enforcement.
Suitable replacements will not be easy to find. Former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, who became famous for helping then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani virtually eliminate New York City’s violent crime problem, has said that even he would not want to be an ordinary cop on the beat today. Police departments across the country are being forced to raise salaries and benefits while lowering their admissions standards, and are still having trouble attracting enough recruits to fill their vacancies.
RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE THIN BLUE LINE
Even the New York Times has belatedly acknowledged that local police provide the main line of defense for ordinary citizens against violent crime, and that the rapidly thinning ranks of that protective blue line of cops increases the risk of a serious breakdown in law and order, our personal sense of security, and the quality of life in our cities.
In a recent front-page article, the New York Times profiled Lindsay Rose, a seven-year veteran female cop who is joining more than 80 officers out of the total of 238 members of the police force in Asheville, North Carolina, who are quitting or retiring early.
Asheville’s police retention problem is widely shared in cities across the country. A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum of almost 200 police departments found that over the year from April 2020 to April 2021, retirements were up by 45% and resignations by 18%. If the current trend holds, the number of police officer retirements in the nation’s 10 largest departments will increase by 40% this year over last year’s already elevated figure.
In New York City, 2,600 officers retired from the NYPD in 2020, compared with 1,509 during 2019. Police resignations in Seattle have increased year-to-year to 123 from 34, and there have been 96 retirements compared to 43. The Minneapolis police force, which had 912 uniformed officers in May 2019, is now down to 699.
Asheville Police Chief David Zack expressed sympathy for his officers who were leaving, even though it meant that “a lot of our experience is walking out the door.” To help Zack recruit new cops to take their place, the city council approved a modest salary increase, but progress has been slow. It takes the Asheville department roughly a year to train new officers, and of the seven new recruits who started training in December, six have already quit.
To fill the gaps at highly skilled positions created by the departures, the department has had to retrain some of its cops and trim back its routine enforcement operations to concentrate on more serious crimes. Its officers are now making fewer traffic stops, and responding in person to a reduced variety of citizen complaints.
WHY COPS ARE LEAVING
Chief Zack said that several cops told him they are leaving due to the current prevalence of anti-police rhetoric. “We have become the bad guys, and we did not get into this to become the bad guys,” the cops explained. Some said they got tired of taking the insults and the abuse directed at them. Many expressed disappointment that police and elected officials failed to come to their defense in the face of unfair criticism about their handling of the local protests following George Floyd’s death. Officer Rose said that the criticism came as “a rude awakening.”
Of those officers who are leaving the Asheville police force, only about half are accepting similar positions in other departments. The rest said that they are tired of the stress that comes with the job and are walking away from their careers in law enforcement to seek employment in other sectors of the labor market.
The morale of the cops who remain on local police forces across the country has also suffered due to the unfair criticism of their professional performance. Law enforcement experts talk about the “Ferguson effect,” in which fear of such criticism or disciplinary measures from their police superiors has made many front-line cops much less willing to actively intervene in situations where their actions might be second-guessed after the fact.
COPS MORE RELUCTANT TO ENFORCE THE LAW
As a result, fewer suspects are being stopped by cops before they can commit a violent crime. In many cases, lenient prosecutors are declining to prosecute those criminals who have been arrested, allowing them to continue menacing their communities.
Another study by the LELDF found that progressive district attorneys and prosecutors in cities across the country have dismissed 20% more felony cases than their predecessors and achieved guilty verdicts in significantly fewer cases overall, leaving more violent criminals free to prey on innocent people in the streets.The cumulative result is that many citizens are now feeling much more endangered by crime. As the results of the New York City mayoral primary indicate, more minority voters who feel threatened are now willing to reject local Democrat candidates for spouting anti-police progressive political talking points in favor of those like Eric Adams, willing to defy the progressives by standing up for the cops who are risking their lives every day to protect people from violent crime.
A POLITICAL GIFT TO REPUBLICANS
The deteriorating violent crime problem has been a political gift to Republicans, and remains an effective political talking point for former President Donald Trump and other Republican national leaders in the runup to the 2022 midterm election campaign.
During a recent speech to the North Carolina Republican Party Convention, Trump said, “As we gather tonight, our country is being destroyed before our very own eyes. Crime is exploding. Police departments are being ripped apart and defunded. Can you believe that?”
Similarly, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee stated, “American small businesses, families, and communities are experiencing the devastating effects of anti-police rhetoric and police department budget cuts at the hands of Democrat politicians.”
While Republicans sense a political opportunity, more Democrat strategists have recognized that the anti-police rhetoric of the young progressive activists is a potential wedge issue that could alienate a major portion of their traditional minority and working-class urban voter base who are growing more concerned about the threat of violent crime.
There is also a real chance that in the upcoming 2022 midterm election cycle, Democrat primary candidates across the country could be forced to choose between the two competing voter constituencies on this issue — and wind up satisfying neither.