It’s 1968 Again: Crime an Issue for 2016

Crime is back.

Murder is up in New York City, New Orleans, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago, just to name a few Deep Blue hot spots.

For Democrats that’s a nightmare. Barack Obama is our President, but he’s their guy, and the cities are their base. Hope and change weren’t supposed to be so bloody, and so dystopic. Yet, sadly they are.

The bad old days have returned, and this surge in death and mayhem guaranties that crime will be a 2016 campaign issue. For the Republicans, the fraying urban landscape is an opportunity in the making. Heck, the GOP and the U.S. have seen this movie before.

In 1968, Richard Nixon rode the riots of Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware – the heart of what was then New Deal America – to the White House. Nixon, the Republican nominee, defeated a sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, as the Democrats failed to win a third consecutive term in office.

Twenty years later, in 1988, George H.W. Bush rallied from 17 points behind, and beat Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Bush ads railed against weekend furloughs from prison for convicted murderers and rapists, and Dukakis never knew what hit him.

Right now, it looks like Donald Trump and the Republicans are poised to make the most of the latest spasm of violence, and make no mistake, Trump understands the potency of crime as an issue. He’s not just talking about illegal immigration, Trump is addressing street crime and urban life.

On a recent TV appearance, Trump said that law enforcement must be allowed to do its job — the way they know how to do it — in order to stop things from spiraling further downward. Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly invokes Nixon’s call to the “Silent Majority,” as a shout out to the Republican base, and to law abiding, tax paying Americans of all parties.

To be sure, the polls say that Trump is dead on. He handily leads the Republican field nationally by double digits. On Saturday, Trump won the straw poll at the National Federal of Republican Assemblies in Nashville. The latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll shows him leading in the Hawkeye State.  In the eyes of the GOP, The Donald gets it.

Indeed, it’s not just Republicans who worry about crime. In New York City, crime stands to crater the career of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the guy who was the campaign manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate race.

Unpacking a recent Qunnipiac Poll on de Blasio’s performance, Politico tells us, “More alarming for de Blasio, politically, is the rise in the number of people who consider crime a serious problem.” Back in December, just one-in-three New Yorkers considered crime to be a “serious problem.” Now, the number is 46 percent, and rising.

Yet, instead of tackling the growing problem head-on, de Blasio fought his police commissioner over adding cops to beat, until the Mayor finally surrendered. For de Blasio, trashing Trump was his top priority. Not exactly a way to run a city, Mr. Mayor.

Oh, and the GOP also says thank you to Hillary Clinton.

You see, back in April Clinton demanded body cameras in every police department in the country so that the police – and not the criminals — would be the ones under the microscope. As the keynote speaker at Columbia University’s 18th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum (the fate of Dinkins, defeated for reelection after a single term because of the law-and-order issue, ought to have told her something), Clinton put it this way: “We should make sure every police department in the country has body cameras to record interactions between officers on patrol and suspects.”

Gilding the lily as is Clinton’s wont, she let us know that cameras would “improve transparency and accountability,” and “protect good people on both sides of the lens.” But the sermon didn’t end there. No, Clinton preached that “For every tragedy caught on tape, there surely have been many more that remained invisible … but this is a commonsense step we should take.”

Common sense? If you’re a Republican opposition research video tracker, that is.

Technology has made us all unwilling spectators to the latest crime wave. These days, we no longer just watch feed from attention grabbing riots. Instead, real-time footage of violence, hate, and the resulting loss of life steam into our living rooms.

This past week, television caught the on-air killings of Roanoke reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, while video captured the execution-style death of Darren H. Goforth, a Sheriff’s Deputy in Harris County, Texas. The Omnipresent, Lidless, and Unblinking Eye touches us all.

For the Democrats’ upstairs-downstairs coalition, that’s a hard lesson to absorb. You see, the laws that got tough on crime — laws enacted by President Bill Clinton, and then-Senator Joe Biden back in the day — are now the targets of the Democratic base’s ire. When prospective Democratic nominee Martin O’Malley gets booed for saying that all lives matter, our nation has a problem.

Over the past half century, crime has helped elect two Republicans as president. In 2016, crime may elect a third.


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