For Americans who’ve been outraged both by the decline in public safety since the summer of 2020 and the radical ideas that inspired the chaos, this has been a good week. The forces of destruction were delivered a sharp one-two punch.
The left jab: On Tuesday, Lori Lightfoot, the progressive Chicago mayor who three years ago proposed an $80 million cut to the city’s police department, was voted out of office. In the time that passed between her push to shrink police funding (Lightfoot avoids the term “defund”) and her ouster, Chicago saw homicides hit a 25-year high. And while shootings and murders have dropped slightly in recent months, crimes such as theft, car-jackings, robberies, and burglaries continue to spike. The anti-crime Democrat Paul Vallas, who’s heading into the mayoral runoff as the clear favorite, has said, “Voters want a mayor who’s going to get the city back on track and who’s going to address its most pressing issues, and obviously, the issue of public safety is front and center.”
The right hook: President Joe Biden told Democratic senators on Thursday that he will not veto recently drafted Republican-led legislation that kills a social-justice-driven D.C. crime bill. The D.C. law would end most mandatory sentencing; reduce penalties for violent offenses, such as robberies and carjackings; and expand the requirement for jury trials in cases of misdemeanor. This in a district that in December marked two back-to-back years with more than 200 homicides for the first time in two decades. And homicides are already up 36 percent in D.C. from this point last year.
These developments herald phase two of the counter-revolution pushing back on the radical revolutionary project that was birthed in the summer of 2020. In phase one, which peaked in 2021, low-profile defund advocates in cities such as Seattle and Buffalo were defeated at the ballot box. And other liberal pro-defund politicians began to walk back some of their rhetoric, talk tough on crime, and put more money toward policing. This, recall, was when San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, whiplashed from being a defund champion to saying things like, “It is time for the reign of criminals to end…. And it comes to an end when are we more aggressive with law enforcement and less tolerant of all the bulls**t that has destroyed our city.” Lori Lightfoot, too, pulled a switcheroo back then, pleading for federal law-enforcement resources and declaring, “We cannot continue to endure the level of violence that we are now experiencing. I feel the urgency every day.”
But as Tuesday’s election result shows, a change in rhetoric wasn’t nearly enough. In phase two of the counter-revolution, first presaged in June by the recall of San Francisco’s lawless district attorney Chesa Boudin, we’re seeing seismic shifts in the direction of law and order.
When the counter-revolution first got off the ground, I wrote, “The one place where citizens can freely reject the revolution is in the privacy of the voting booth.” Thus, Lightfoot’s ouster. And back when the radical revolution was spawned in 2020, I wrote, “As more Americans endure the noxious consequences of the unraveling, elected officials responsive to their needs will be compelled to change course.” That’s Biden and the D.C. crime bill. It’s less important that politicians sincerely believe in aggressively cracking down on crime than that they know Americans expect them to do so. Going forward, Democrats will take the wrong side of the public-safety issue at their own political peril.
We’re nowhere near done with the madness. Pro-police mayors of crime-ridden cities will still have to do battle with woke city councils and leftist prosecutors. And the pervasiveness of anti-police fanaticism has left patrol cops and police chiefs afraid to do their jobs. What’s more, in city after city, police recruitment is falling off a cliff and attrition is spiking. The widespread restoration of public safety is still over the horizon, but when it arrives it will be because voters in ever greater numbers will have registered their disgust and elected officials will have gotten the message. It will happen because of weeks like this one.