HomePoliticsReporter's Notebook: Democrats fight crime as a pressing issue heading into midterms

Reporter’s Notebook: Democrats fight crime as a pressing issue heading into midterms


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The Democrats have a problem heading into the midterm elections.

And Republicans know it.

it’s crime

Over the summer, House Democrats planned to strengthen police funding before the midterm elections. But such a package to beef up the police — and neutralize the GOP’s “soft on crime” mantra — depended on something more important to Democrats: police reform.

House and Senate Democrats began pushing legislation to reform law enforcement since the death of George Floyd in the spring of 2020. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C ., worked behind the scenes to forge a compromise on police reform.

never arrived

Crime scene tape stretches around the front of a home where a man was shot on May 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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House Democrats are now trying to coalesce a package of bills to help the police, but also to impose police reforms. The party was never able to get the right mix to win the votes of moderate and progressive Democrats. Obviously, some on the left want to impose stricter rules and penalties on the police to prevent future episodes like George Floyd and hold the bad guys accountable. The moderate Democrats’ proposals to improve law enforcement were anathema to some on the left.

“There is no urgency,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D.C., when asked last week about the police bills. “There were some people who wanted them to go up. They weren’t scheduled to go up.”

Clyburn suggested that the House consider the bills before the midterms. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that the chamber will introduce four public safety bills aimed at reforming and improving police on Thursday..

Still, Republicans believe that Democratic inaction on crime and policing is a gift that keeps on giving.

“I think Rep. Clyburn misses the urgency here,” said Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee. “I’m surprised that our fellow Democrats don’t seem to want to watch because it’s obvious all over America that we have rampant crime.”

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a protest in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina turned violent on May 31, 2020.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a protest in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina turned violent on May 31, 2020.
(Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty)

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Inflation and the economy are listed as the top issues voters are concerned about ahead of this fall’s midterm issues. But crime rivals pocket issues. Republicans attribute the rise in crime to Democrats. Republicans will surely remind voters of the leftist chant to defund the police. The Republican Party accuses progressive prosecutors of coddling criminals.

“This has been an intentional strategic campaign by the far left. And now Americans are being mugged, mugged and killed,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

McConnell’s attack is typical of the Republican Party when it comes to policing.

“Republicans have been effective in terms of jumping on that and using it in light of public concerns about rising crime and really using it as a weapon against Democrats in terms of this year’s midterm elections,” said political scientist Michael Bitzer at Catawba College in North Carolina. “The inconsistency of messaging, particularly when Democrats have to defend so many seats and control of Congress, really is kind of a head scratcher in terms of campaign strategy.”

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Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., is a moderate and one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election this fall. Spanberger chastised liberals in late 2020 for their rhetoric of defunding the police and how it nearly cost Democrats control of the House.

“I grew up in a family of police officers. And for me, the sacrifice and the uncertainty that comes with it, those kinds of service commitments, is something that I will always, always be grateful for,” Spanberger said.

Spanberger says that the key to better policing is recruitment and training. And that costs money.

“Recruit the best. The best can train cops in general and retain them,” Spanberger said.

But Fox is told that Spanberger’s bill will not be part of an upcoming police package.

“We’re going to continue to support each other to create safer communities,” promised House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. “There are ongoing conversations in terms of how we continue to strengthen the relationship between the police and the community. And I hope those conversations bear fruit.”

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In particular, Jeffries highlighted the guns/mental health bill that Congress passed over the summer, the most significant gun bill passed by lawmakers in nearly three decades.

Democrats in Congress hoped to shore up support for the police. Passing a pro-police bill would defund the police as a political responsibility.

The Democrats insist they they were the party that funded the police, through the $1.9 trillion partisan COVID bill passed by Congress last year. So the Democrats are now targeting the Republicans.

“It would be nice if the other side would be more cooperative on that. Unfortunately, we’re up against a MAGA GOP asking us to defund the FBI,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y., who leads the political efforts of the Democrats in the House. “We think that’s crazy.”

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This links the debate on both sides to the politics of the election year.

“Certainly the Republicans are going after the initiative to defund the police. But Joe Biden turned around and said, ‘Well, you’re trying to defund things like the FBI from the far right.’ So I think both sides are trying to frame the issues in the way that best appeals, particularly to moderate swing voters,” Bitzer said. “Both sides are trying to go to extreme lengths to instill fear, to threaten voters, to make them fear the other side and that will benefit them in the November vote.”

“Democrats cannot escape reality. The increase in crime. Open borders,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who faces a competitive re-election this fall. “That’s what this election is about.”

Johnson is right up to a point. The choice is about what both parties want to be about.

Democrats hope the election will focus on abortion and threats to democracy following last year’s riots on Capitol Hill. Former President Trump’s endorsements of various House and Senate candidates, along with him again dominating the news cycle after Mar-a-Lago, is not what Republicans want to talk about. If the election veers in that direction, Democrats could be in luck this fall.

But an election over inflation, the economy and crime boosts Republicans.

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Could Passing a Police Bill Help Democrats? Of course. But that hasn’t happened yet.

That phenomenon could sum up the election in a nutshell because Democrats never changed the narrative on the economy and crime.



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