The massacre at a Christmas parade reveals the dangers of their crime policies.
Here’s the common reaction to the Waukesha, Wis., murders: It’s nuts that the suspect, with his long criminal history, was free on $1,000 bail posted days before the automotive rampage.
Here’s New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a tweet the day after the Waukesha murders: “Today, we sent a letter . . . to NYC’s 5 District Attorneys requesting information on excessive bail in the NYC court system.” The letter was also signed by fellow New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney and Maryland’s Jamie Raskin.
That disconnect will haunt Democrats. Waukesha is one of those rare moments when the consequences of an extreme ideology are brutally exposed to a nation. It’s a big new midterm problem for Democrats, one that could prove as difficult to overcome as rising inflation, Covid surges and parental backlash against educational fads like critical race theory.
Crime is soaring nationally, after progressives spent years pushing to water down bail rules, forgo prosecutions, release prisoners and even defund the police. The governors, mayors and prosecutors who indulged these demands uniformly have Ds behind their names.
The numbers had already been spiraling into a political problem. The violence that the left egged on in the wake of George Floyd’s murder has only grown. Nationally, homicides increased by 30% from 2019 to 2020. Chicago is likely to end 2021 with its highest murder rate in 25 years. Portland, Ore., home to routine violent riots, is on track to surpass 1,200 shootings this year, compared with 400 in 2019. Los Angeles recorded more homicides in July than in any month for more than a decade.
Citizens have already responded at the ballot box. On Nov. 2, Minneapolis voters rejected an initiative to abolish the police force. Pro-policing candidates won mayoral races in New York City ( Eric Adams ), Seattle ( Bruce Harrell ) and Buffalo, N.Y. (incumbent Byron Brown, elected as a write-in candidate after losing the Democratic primary to a self-described socialist). On New York’s Long Island, two Republican district-attorney candidates beat Democrats in races that were referendums on state bail changes that let repeat offenders go free.
Left-wing Democrats are struggling to adjust. Longtime Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm conceded that Waukesha suspect Darrell Brooks —charged with killing six and injuring at least 40 others—had been let out on “inappropriately low” bail. He promised an internal review. The same Mr. Chisholm previously bragged that his office reduced prosecutions, incarcerations, and cash bails.
In the weeks before Waukesha, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers put 500 National Guard personnel on active duty in Kenosha to forestall violence that might accompany the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. It was an about-face from the August 2020 riots, when he let Kenosha burn. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin ran in 2019 on a promise to end “mass incarceration” and cash bail. He’s now tweeting his “outrage” over the organized looting of his Union Square shops and vowing to bring “felony charges.” According to an NBC Bay Area analysis, San Francisco officers made 131 arrests for felony domestic violence during the fourth quarter of 2020. Mr. Boudin’s office dismissed 113, or 86% of them.
You can’t tweet away pro-crime policies that have been years in the making. While attention of late has been on policing reform, progressives have for a decade been more broadly demanding an end to what they call a “racist” criminal-justice system. Their demands include the termination of most effective policing tactics as well as an end to cash bail, mandatory sentences, and prosecutions for most crimes.
They were notably successful at the state and local level. Soon after taking office in 2014, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to curtail sharply the police department’s use of “stop and frisk” searches. The same year, California voters effectively decriminalized shoplifting by approving a progressive ballot measure that defined thefts under $950 as a misdemeanor. Many left-leaning district attorneys engaged in what Mr. Chisholm calls “prosecutor-driven justice reform.” The lockdowns and the reaction to the Floyd killing unleashed a crime wave on a system that was primed for failure, and those changes won’t easily be undone.
Good luck to Democratic elected officials caught between public backlash over the growing breakdown of safety and progressives who want yet more change. As AOC and her compatriots complained about “unnecessary pretrial detention” in Waukesha’s wake, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan sat down with Axios to defend her support of the 2020 Breathe Act, which would end life sentences, kill the “three strikes” law, prohibit police use of Tasers, and fully empty federal prisons within 10 years. The White House felt compelled to explain Tuesday that President Biden “does not support abolishing prisons.”
Data from the October WSJ/NBC poll found that voters now trust Republicans over Democrats to handle crime by a 22-point margin. Add voter discontent over inflation and Covid, then re-evaluate some of those crucial 2022 swing state races. In Wisconsin a recent Marquette poll found that 69% of registered voters believe crime is rising nationally. Only 19% of independents approve of Mr. Biden, and 23% would vote to re-elect Mr. Evers. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is considered the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbent and hasn’t decided if he’s running. Democrats are making that decision easier.
The horrific crime in Waukesha stemmed from policy failures that demand political accountability. That begins and ends with Democratic policies.