Rising Crime Rate Could Hurt Democrats in Midterm Elections Crime-scene tape stops all but the residents at the end of the block where murder suspect Bart Ross lived on the city's northwest side March 11, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty)
By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 25 May 2021 12:35 PM
Law and order could become a major campaign issue for the first time in more than 20 years due to the national surge in violent crime, reports the Washington Examiner.
At least a dozen mass shootings were reported nationwide this past weekend. In Washington, D.C., homicides and shootings have risen three straight years.
Progressives’ calls to defund the police following George Floyd’s death while in police custody could hurt Democrats if crime again becomes a top issue for voters.
"Rising crime is a problem that must be addressed through both economic policies that are incentives to work while also giving law enforcement the support they need to enforce our laws,” Republican strategist Jon Gilmore told the Examiner.
"Republicans were successful in the 2020 cycle by addressing this important issue, and they would be wise to continue that drumbeat in the midterms."
In the 1988 presidential election, Democrat nominee Michael Dukakis saw a 17-point national lead evaporate due in part to the "Willie Horton" ad about Massachusetts’s furlough program for convicted violent criminals. Dukakis went on to lose 40 states.
As the violent crime rate lowered since the 1990s, voters became less concerned with the issue – something that likely benefited Democrats.
Former President Donald Trump campaigned against violence in major cities last year, frequently invoking the phrase "law and order."
Although some GOP operatives preferred emphasizing public safety rather than the anti-crime catchphrases Trump tended to use, the hardline stance gained votes.
Increasing anxiety about crime, and perceptions Democrats did not support law enforcement drove conservative-leaning nonwhite voters to Trump, a top Democrat data scientist said, according to the Examiner.
Trump won voters whose top issue was crime and safety by 44 points. President Joe Biden carried those who listed racial inequality by 85 points.
The crime issue posed a complicated dynamic for incumbent Trump, who pointed to a rise in crime on his watch as an argument for voting against Biden.
With Biden and Democrats in control of all 3 elected branches of the federal government, they now have sole ownership of the issue.
Many Democrats have blamed the crime escalation on the pandemic and easy access to guns.
"Well, I would say, certainly, there is a guns problem," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. "And that's one of the reasons that we have proposed and now are implementing funding for community violence prevention programs across the country."
"Putting in place commonsense gun safety measures is something that has been a priority for [Biden] throughout his career. He helped pass the Brady bill, he got background checks in place, he helped get the assault weapons ban passed, and he will continue to encourage and push that with members while he is president. Top of his agenda."
While in the Senate, Biden was among Democrats who tried to balance the party’s law-and-order stance with concerns about racial inequality. He helped pass a 1994 crime bill – signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton — that included the assault weapons ban.
That legislation, however, was blamed for contributing to the mass incarceration of Blacks. Trump campaigned against Biden’s role in the law’s enactment, as he also did against Hillary Clinton in 2016.