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Democrats Should Be Worried About Crime

crackup

It’s looked unified compared to the fractious Republican presidential field, but contentious issues—like increasing crime—could tear it apart.

David Frum writes: Nobody explained the crack-up of the New Deal coalition better than New York Mayor Ed Koch at the 1980 Democratic convention:

When I ran for Mayor, I went up to a Bronx senior citizens center, and I told 200 senior citizens: “Ladies and gentlemen, a judge I helped elect was mugged recently. And do you know what that judge did, ladies and gentlemen? He called a press conference and he said to the newsmen, ‘This mugging of me will in no way affect my decision in matters of this kind.’ And an elderly lady got up in the back of the room and said, ‘Then mug him again.’”

It was crime more than any other single issue that drove blue-collar voters in the industrial states from the party of Truman and Johnson to the party of Nixon and Reagan. In 1974—a year of energy shock, inflation, recession, Watergate, Vietnam, and other crises—Americans told pollsters they regarded crime as the single-most important issue facing the country. That year, the Department of Justice introduced a new and more accurate method of collecting crime statistics. It found that 37 million American households—one out of four—had suffered a rape, robbery, burglary, assault, larceny, or auto theft in the previous year.

“It was crime that separated New Democrats from Old in the 1980s. Bill Clinton was determined that nobody would Willie Horton him. He backed the death penalty, endorsed longer sentences, and funded local police forces, all with a view to stopping crime by punishing criminals.”

It was crime—and the welfare programs thought to incubate crime—that elected Republicans across the American industrial heartland in the 1990s: governors like Michigan’s John Engler, New York’s George Pataki, Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge, and Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson, as well as mayors like Rudy Giuliani in New York City and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles.It was crime that separated New Democrats from Old in the 1980s. Bill Clinton was determined that nobody would Willie Horton him. He backed the death penalty, endorsed longer sentences, and funded local police forces, all with a view to stopping crime by punishing criminals.

[Read the full text here, at The Atlantic]

Then the crime rate fell. It fell suddenly, it fell fast, and it fell far. By 2010, rates of crime against person and property had fallen to levels not seen since the early 1960s. In New York City, crime rates tumbled even lower. The great crime decline reshaped cities, remade the economy, and transformed American politics.

As crime declined, the law-and-order issue faded—and the national Democratic party revived. A potent symbol of that revival: Michigan’s Macomb County, the famed barometer of white-ethnic backlash. This blue-collar suburb of Detroit had delivered landslide majorities to John F. Kennedy in 1960—and to Ronald Reagan in 1984. Pollster Stanley Greenberg conducted a series of focus groups in the county in the mid-1980s. At one, he read aloud a quotation from Robert F. Kennedy about the wrongs done to black Americans. “No wonder they shot him,” snapped one participant….(read more)

Source: The Atlantic

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