Between 1932 and 1968 Democrats had held the White House in seven of the last nine Presidential elections. They had capitalized on the public’s perception the GOP was not a competent manager of the economy. But in 1968 the party could not overcome an issue that devastated their nominee’s campaign: crime!
From New York to Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston, the scourge of crime has returned in spades. In the last week the public has witnessed Illinois police officer Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz be killed by three men and the execution style killing of Harris County, TX officer Darren Goforth.
Democrats appear helpless to stop heading towards their destiny. The party’s bread and butter issues have been a volatile mix of income and race, and with it has come the rise of crime. Democrats have few answers to alleviate the public’s growing concerns.
The response from the White House has been underwhelming. The best the President could muster was, “Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable.” Well, I’m glad the President could stand with the cops.
At the local level Democratic leadership has been unable to solve these problems. The response in Baltimore and Philadelphia has been to blame the police to the horror of suburban taxpayers. Only in Chicago does it seem the Democratic mayor (Rahm Emanuel) is standing by the police.
In an effort to stop a divisive movement within party ranks, the DNC has tried to court the Black Lives Matter movement much as they did with the Occupy Movement. To party elites distress the movement showed them the middle finger.
Unable to mollify the movement the summer of 2015 may be more remembered as the season of crime than the summer of Trump or Sanders. The Democratic Convention of 1968–when the party split on the Vietnam War–is raising its ugly head.
Republicans have taken notice. Ted Cruz excoriated the White House and the Democratic Party for their response and policies. Cruz stated, “From the president, from the top on down as we see . . . whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement.”
Cruz is not the only Republican hammering the issue home though. Donald Trump has called the administration soft on crime and he attacked Bush for calling illegal immigration an “act of love.” Bush fired back a day later by reminding voters of Trump’s past support for Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi.
Democrats might be able to take joy in Republicans taking potshots at each other in another situation. But the real shots being fired are coming from their cities. Republicans have no power in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, or other major cities in the US. Totally run by Democrats for decades on end, the party’s politics have turned these cities into shooting galleries. Democrats response? Stick body cameras on cops.
Such a response is lacking and honestly forgets what initially won the party suburban converts. In 1992 Bill Clinton broke with party elites and promoted anti-crime laws and incarceration. In 1993 he worked with Republicans to sign anti-assault weapon legislation and put 100,000 new cops on the streets. Lastly, he even took Sister Souljah to task for advocating blacks kill whites.
A similar candidate has no chance of getting out of the Democratic primary. Hillary has largely repudiated her husband’s crime legacy and focused on recruiting the Black Lives Matter movement. While it’s clear that Sanders would like to focus more on income inequality, he has been driven to promote civil rights legislation catering to racial grievances. Webb, Chaffee, and O’Malley, well, they don’t even poll as a footnote.
Despite demographic and political shifts that favor Democrats, the issue of crime can serve as a strong political rallying cry. It’s not the political and economic elite that feel the effects of crime but rather the average Joe and Jane.
These are the quintessential swing voters of modern America and they have witnessed murder rates rise up to 76 percent in Milwaukee, 60 percent in St. Louis, 56 percent in Baltimore, and 44 percent in D.C.
This is having an impact on the campaign. Polls show Clinton is barely garnering one-third of the white vote, and she is continuing to lose ground in the pivotal suburbs. In strongly white swing states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, her standing has slipped in virtually every category.
A new NBC/Marist poll finds Clinton trailing Trump by five percent and Bush by a whopping 11 percent in Iowa. In New Hampshire, she holds a one-point lead over Trump but trails Bush by 5%. It’s not a stretch to say these voters have noted the Democratic nominee’s change in tone on crime of late.
Just as the party’s split in 1968 cost them the Presidency, the same could occur in 2016. Unless Democrats find a way to rectify the views of their upscale-downscale base with the rest of mainstream America they will lose next year. That is what the summer of 2015 has truly been about.