Sinking Poll Numbers Force Democrats To Switch Course
Two years after the Left’s agenda to “Defund the Police” swept the United States, a national crime wave and its negative implications for Democrats in the 2022 elections has forced the ‘police defunders’ to abandon the campaign.
In many cases, former advocates of police-defunding reinvented themselves as pro-law enforcement, never acknowledging the devastating consequences the defunding movement has wreaked across the country.
In June 2020, following the death of George Floyd, the Democratic-controlled cities of Los Angeles, Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, New York and Minneapolis stripped millions of dollars out of their police budgets, directing them toward social services and youth programs.
These cities saw immediate jumps in violent crime.
According to data compiled by the FBI in its annual report on crime, the national murder rate rose by almost 30 per cent in 2020, more than any other time in the last half-century. The report shows that there were 4,901 more murders committed in 2020 than in 2019. Aggravated assaults in America rose by an estimated 12.4 percent.
According to data compiled by the MacIver Institute, Portland saw a 530 percent increase in its murder rate. Austin saw a 74 percent rise. New York’s murder rate was 56 percent higher. Chicago’s rose by 54 percent,
Republicans have blasted Democrats for the defund message, pointing to the crime wave and advocating for bolstering police departments to address it.
“The Biden Administration is trying to blame rising crime on everything except the true causes,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who pointed to the defunding push, immigration policy, and other issues. “[Democratic] policies that are enabling criminals and hurting police.”
Historic Rise in Homicides, Violent Crime
Glancing at headlines from 2020-2021 is chilling: Chicago Sun-Times: “Children In Chicago Dying From Gun Violence At Rate Three Times Higher Than Last Year”
New York Times: “With Homicides Rising, Cities Brace for a Violent Summer”
Washington Post: “Officials: Rise in Violent Crime Portends Bloody Summer: ‘It’s trauma on top of trauma’”
The Guardian: “US Saw 4,000 Extra Murders in 2020 Amid Surge in Gun Violence”
TIME: “As Shootings Continue to Surge in 2021, Americans Set to Face a Summer Plagued by Gun Violence” — “In the year and a half since the Covid-19 pandemic’s onset,” the article began, “gun violence has skyrocketed across the U.S., even with nationwide lockdown procedures, social distancing mandates and attempts to limit interactions between individuals.”
An analysis of crime data in the FBI Annual Crime Report, in combination with findings from the United Nations Human Rights Office, reveal the shocking fact that murder rates in most major American cities now exceed the rate of civilian deaths caused by the war in Ukraine.
Casualty numbers indicate a total of 5,401 Ukrainian civilians out of a population of almost 48 million had been killed since the Russian invasion.
This murder rate falls below rates in several American cities, such as Baltimore, Birmingham, Alabama, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Cleveland, Rochester, Portland, Kansas City, Milwaukee, the nation’s capital and other cities, according to statistics compiled by AH Datalytics, a data consulting firm.
Even smaller cities that typically have relatively few murders are seeing significant increases over last year. Killings in Albuquerque, N.M., Austin, Texas, and Pittsburgh, for example, doubled in 2021.
The Left’s Narrative Collapses
For more than a year, liberals have been pushing the narrative that the dramatic rise in homicides last year was due to the pandemic. Because so many people caught up in toxic relationships were suddenly trapped in their homes with their abusers, it was a tragic inevitability that the murder rate would go up, liberal pundits rationalized.
A close look at the FBI’s 2020 Crime Report throws doubt on this assertion. Violent crimes did not peak in March, April, and May (the months in which most of America was actually locked down), but rather in the summer—after the death of George Floyd.
This was when the subsequent nationwide move against policing in many major liberal cities drew its greatest momentum, the FBI’s Crime Report shows. The predicted lawlessness on the streets fueled a staggering increase in homicides in these cities, analysts say.
This dangerous situation was compounded by dozens of states throwing open their prison doors and letting out tens of thousands of inmates in a bid to mitigate the spread of Covid. Wisconsin alone let out 1,600—among them hard-core criminals—and saw as 70.5 percent increase in its homicide rate from 2019 to 2020.
During a year in which prisons were emptied, police departments were defunded, and soft-on-crime liberalism led to general lawlessness, it should come as no surprise that the murder rate shot up so dramatically, experts say.
Police Quitting Faster Than They Can Be Replaced
Law enforcement officials say that the impact of the defund movement has led to police officers avoiding violent neighborhoods, for fear of a lack of support from their departments if they are involved in a fatal shooting. The net effect is to embolden dangerous criminals who can be confident of escaping justice.
From Los Angeles and Houston to New Orleans and Minneapolis, the political response to the unrest led to “de-policing” and the resulting record-setting violence. Crime data analysts found that across 10 major cities, deadly violence rose as active policing fell, reported the Financial Times.
“Already bloody St. Louis hit a 50-year homicide high, a rate of 87 per 100,000 residents — a rate three times higher than Mexico and Central America. As Milwaukee announced slashing 120 officers from its police force, the city saw a 98 per cent increase in killings,” noted the article.
The growing hostility toward police has left law enforcement in many cities seeking to disengage from active policing. There is good reason for officers to pull back and choose more passive roles, the article explained.
Arresting suspects for drug and weapons crimes only to have the charges dropped by progressive prosecutors, exposes officers to the risk of disciplinary action and lawsuits for making so-called “frivolous” arrests.
Demoralized by the legal barriers that block the prosecution of suspected criminals and putting these same lawbreakers back on the street, “police officers are quitting or retiring faster than they can be replaced,” writes the Associated Press.
“Today’s increasingly hostile work environment for law enforcement has made them more risk averse and discouraged,” writes USA Today. “Veteran officers are running for the exits, putting in their retirement papers at a record clip. Those who remain on the force are disempowered, so they disengage from the hardest and riskiest, but most necessary types of police work.”
Police Departments across the country are scrambling to recruit personnel and also cutting back on their services to the community, according to the AP article.
“We’re getting more calls for assistance with fewer people to answer them,” said Philadelphia Police spokesperson Eric Gripp. “This isn’t just an issue in Philadelphia. Departments all over are down and recruitment has been difficult.”
Los Angeles, which is down more than 650 officers from its pre-pandemic staffing level, downsized its narcotics and gun-related units and reduced its homeless outreach teams by 80 per cent, the AP article noted.
Seattle recently announced $2 million in hiring bonuses and benefits to lure recruits amid a critical officer shortage that has hampered the investigation of serious crimes.
Voters Overwhelming Support Minnesota Police Department
Ironically, some of the most passionate advocates of defunding the police such as Minnesota progressives were among the first to make a U-turn in the face of rising crime in the city.
In September 2020, just months after leading an effort that defunded the police department to the tune of $1 million, Minnesota City Council members pushed Police Chief Arradondo to tell them how the department was responding to the violence. Minnesota Public Radio reported the answer the Council received, excerpted below.
“The number of reported violent crimes, like assaults, robberies and homicides are up compared to 2019, according to the Minnesota Police Department crime data. More people have been killed in the city in the first nine months of 2020 than were slain in all of last year. Property crimes, like burglaries and auto thefts, are also up. Incidents of arson have increased 55 percent over the total at this point in 2019. “
After much heated debate, a Ballot Question was added to the 2021 ballot asking voters to accept or reject a provision to replace the Minnesota police department with a “department of public safety.” This would mean scrubbing from the books a regulation that requires the police force to employ a certain number of law enforcement personnel.
The ballot results unveiled the voters’ choice in overwhelming numbers to preserving the police department—and a resounding failure of the defunding measure.
“The vote affirming the status quo is a setback to both citywide and national efforts to reduce or eliminate the role of police in America,” lamented CNN.
Proliferating Crime A Hot-button Election Issue
Public outrage over soaring crime rates has emerged as a hot-button issue driving voter sentiment in the lead-up to the November elections, second only to concerns over the economy. Poll after poll after poll in 2021 and 2022 have shown voters deeply opposed to ‘defund’ policies which they hold largely responsible for the skyrocketing crime rate.
As many as three out of four Americans believe that defunding police departments has contributed to the rise in violent crime across the country, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.
Sinking poll numbers for candidates calling for defund the police have driven home a message that even a child can understand: continuing to embrace this policy is a political death sentence.
In a dramatic enactment of that truth, liberal voters in San Francisco voted to recall their woke District Attorney Chesa Boudin, in what many believe to be the start of a progressive backlash.
The Democratic mayors of other large cities are now heeding that message, reversing course and leading calls for a tougher stance on crime. This change in position is being mirrored on Capitol Hill.
During a Feb. interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos raised the issue of progressive Rep. Cory Bush, D-Missouri, calling for defunding the police. “With all due respect in the world to Cori Bush,” said Pelosi, “that is not the position of the Democratic Party.”
Pelosi then declared, “Defund the police is dead.” But neither she nor any of her colleagues acknowledged the tragic loss of life their misguided policies had caused.
“Democrats are now admitting ‘Defund the Police’ was a massive mistake,” CNN echoed in its own about-face on the issue.
“This movement today, some people tried to hijack it,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), warned his party, according to Politico. “Don’t let yourselves be drawn into the debate about defunding police forces.”
Democratic Cities Pivot on Law Enforcement
Local and national Democrats are distancing themselves from “defund” policies, a reflection of how deeply unpopular the concept has become among most voters. The media is even promoting the idea that “most mainstream Democrats never embraced the defunding movement pushed by party progressives,” as a USA Today article maintains.
In Washington State, Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser played a high-profile role in the 2020 riots sweeping America. She renamed a street Black Lives Matter Plaza and joined thousands of demonstrators there who were shouting “Defund the police!” Bowser proposed cutting the police budget and redirecting money to social services.
Now, however, in the face of escalating violent crime, she and many other Democratic city leaders are scrambling to boost police budgets and hire more officers amid the deadliest crime wave in two decades. Bowser asked the city council this year or $11 million to hire 170 new police officers after a series of shootings. The council agreed to fund 40 officers.
In Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler “defunded” the Portland Police Bureau in 2020 by $12 million and eliminated three police units. As crime and chaos engulfed the city, shootings went up 173 per cent and murders jumped an astounding 255 per cent.
In the shadow of the carnage, goaded by public fury and pervasive fear, Wheeler now plans to reconstitute the disbanded “gun violence” squad and put $2 million back into its budget.
Atlanta was among many cities that in 2020 saw massive protests demanding the police department be defunded. Its city council was poised to slash $73 million in police funds but the measure failed by one vote.
Atlanta has since become one of America’s deadliest cities, according to the USA Today article. Murders are up 58 per cent compared to figures in 2019. Talk of reinventing the police department died down, and the city council added $15 million to the 2021 police budget and announced plans to hire 250 more officers.
In Progressive LA, the Scales Tip
LA’s Democratic political establishment has also been forced into a dramatic turnaround. As protests against the murder of George Floyd swept across the United States in 2020, Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti shocked law enforcement officials with a pledge to cut $150 million from the city’s police budget.
Two years later, a rise in homicides and gang activity coupled with a sharp increase in homelessness has fueled sufficient political will to tip the scales in the opposite direction, “even in progressive LA,” according to a Financial Times report.
Far from seeking to cut police funding, the frontrunners in the race to replace Garcetti in this year’s mayoral election are vowing to put more officers on the streets.
“After a shift in public opinion toward police reform [after the Floyd murder], the political base has almost completely reversed itself,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at the University of Southern California, quoted in the Financial Times article. “If anything, the traditional approaches to public safety and criminal justice are more popular now than they were two years ago.”
Democratic ‘Defunders’ Switch Sides
Progressive aims of defunding police departments have run into a brick wall in many cities that have seen proliferating crime. A USA Today/Ipsos survey found that about two-thirds of respondents believe crime is worsening and public safety demands bigger police budgets.
New York City was singled out as high on the list of cities that have seen a significant spike in violent crime that shows no signs of abating, according to the latest NYPD statistics. Major crimes are up 44 percent, with felony assault up 19 percent and robberies rising 47 percent, the latest NYPD data show.
Although murders have ticked down 9 percent, other crimes are well up, with shooting incidents rising 14 percent, burglary up 31 percent, and grand larceny auto soaring 81 percent.
The surge in crime, with voters rejecting the cutting of police budgets by large margins, has led to the waning of support for the defunding movement from vocal Democrats who had once been the movement’s ‘poster children.’
Dramatic turnarounds by former “defunders” include Rep. Mondaire Jones of NY and Democratic Rep. Stacey Abrams of Georgia. These legislators gained limelight in 2020 as vigorous proponents of cutting back law enforcement and defunding the police.
In a 180-degree pivot, both now sing a different tune. According to Axios, Abrams now says she wants to refund the police, and that she would raise base pay for Georgia state troopers and other law enforcement officers if elected governor in November.
Jones has also recanted. Back in June 2020, Jones told Wenonah Hauter during an interview, “Of course we need to end mass incarceration, and legalize cannabis and defund the police.” And in a July 2020 interview with political commentator Katie Halper, Jones said, “Let me go back and say we need to talk about defunding the police, cutting that funding and reallocating it to social [programs].”
Suddenly facing a tough primary against State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, Rep. Jones now says “black Americans do not want to send police officers out of their communities.”
‘What Happens The Day The Bank Gets Robbed?’
In another unexpected pivot, Democratic Karen Bass of California, long considered a leading light of California progressivism, has now pledged to put more police on the streets if elected mayor of Los Angeles.
Bass, a former U.S. Congresswoman who served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she would add about 200 officers to raise the LAPD’s headcount to 9,700.
Her main rival, billionaire Rick Caruso, surpassed those numbers by pledging to add 1,500 police to the force, bringing it to about 11,000 officers. Polls have shown Caruso and Bass in a dead heat in the “top two” primary, which will allow the two candidates with the most votes to advance to the general election in November.
As she was launching her campaign to be the next mayor of Los Angeles, Congresswoman Karen Bass met with activists from the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. “As Bass explained her public safety plan it became clear to all parties that they would not be working together” as Bass no longer endorsed by the BLM platform, wrote The New Republic.
According to a BLM spokesperson, Bass’s public safety plan “harms the movement.”
What a difference a couple of years can make. Bass had apparently undergone a significant shift in her thinking during that time. Two years ago, as rioters clashed with police officers in the streets of Los Angeles, the congresswoman authored a bill that would have banned chokeholds, police immunity from lawsuits, no-knock warrants in drug cases and other police “reforms.”
Today, she speaks differently. In an interview with Bloomberg published under the headline “LA’s Karen Bass Vows Tough Stance on Crime,” Bass said, “People around the city do not feel safe. There is a feeling of fear in the city. I am concerned that progressives are not really responding to what happens the day the bank gets robbed.”
“What happens when the bank gets robbed?” she asked. “The bank robber has to be arrested, right? And by the way, if I’m wrong, please tell me what the answer is. Please tell me a progressive answer for when the bank is robbed.”