Yesterday I wrote about which of the candidates in the crowded Democratic field competing to go up against Sen. Ron Johnson might have the best chance. But, truth is, if the party doesn’t wake up to what’s going on around it, it won’t matter. Any one of them will lose, even to the likes of Johnson.
Consider three contests.
In deeply blue New York City, Eric Adams has won the Democratic nomination for mayor. Adams is a former cop who emphasized controlling crime and he defeated candidates from the far left, who emphasized things like “equity.”
In deeply blue California, Gov. Gavin Newsom might well lose to a hard-right Republican radio host, who is hammering away at crime and homelessness among other things. Newsom also did himself no favors by going out to a fancy French restaurant just as he was telling everyone else to hunker down because of COVID. But this still shouldn’t be close. Newsom’s main problem is a lack of enthusiasm for him in his own party.
And in deeply blue San Francisco, three school board members are facing recall elections because they couldn’t get their schools open while they found time to strip the names from no less than 44 of them. The schools’ namesakes were accused of real or imagined crimes against wokeness. Among those to be renamed: Abraham Lincoln High. The board reversed itself, but people are still angry enough that organizers got more than enough signatures to force the recalls.
This isn’t crazy Trumpsters hating on all Democrats. This is liberal Democrats who have had enough of the hard-left in their own party.
It will be difficult enough for the party in power in the off year elections, but crime, homelessness and identity politics threaten to bury Democrats next year.
They could also suffer if the economic recovery stalls out, but that would not be their fault. The economy is threatened by the Delta variant and the Delta variant is a direct result of conservative and Republican resistance to vaccines and masks. Any economic downturn would be fairly laid at the feet of the GOP. But politics isn’t fair. The Democrats would get the blame just for being in power at the wrong time.
But crime, homelessness and wokeness are Democratic afflictions and if they go down because of those three issues, they will have earned their defeats.
It’s not necessarily too late. If they could read the writing on the wall, the Democrats could do a few things to recover.
They could go ahead and pass Pres. Biden’s popular infrastructure bill, which is being held hostage by the hard-left in the House Democratic caucus. The progressives want to force the moderates, who are responsible for their majority to begin with, to vote for their massive $3.5 trillion social spending plan. Progressives should figure out that helping moderates stay in office is the only way to keep their majority next year. The moderates want to vote on the infrastructure bill first. It would be in the interests of progressives to let them.
For their part, the moderates probably worry too much about the size of the progressives’ bill. Voters still don’t seem all that concerned about deficits. Instead of standing in the way of it, the moderates should demand their own priorities. One priority could be money for local communities to hire more cops. Refund the police. They could link that funding to some common sense police reform measures, like 8 Can’t Wait.
Along those lines, Democrats need to stop talking about “the root causes of crime.” That sounds like they lack a sense of urgency about the problem. When the bullets are flying, as they are now with record numbers of shots fired incidents all over the country, people want to hear about what you’re going to do tomorrow.
Also as part of the big spending plan moderates could insist on money for homelessness. But, again, like police reform, that money needs to come with strings attached for local communities. The moderates need to insist that cities get tough about enforcing laws against vagrancy, disorderly conduct and the like. They might even link it to the passage of state laws that make it easier to involuntarily commit people with serious mental illnesses.
As for wokeness, I would not want to see Democrats cave on the Republican bills to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools, even though I think that CRT is wrong and dangerous. I just think it’s bad public policy to squelch certain unpopular lines of thought. But what they should do is drop the woke language. Stop using the language of victimhood (“equity,” “systemic racism,” “white privilege”) and start using the language of aspiration (“equality,” “fairness”, “earning your way out of poverty”).
As Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) has said, rhetoric like “defunding the police” is “cutting the throats of the party.” He compared it to “Burn, baby, burn,” a popular slogan among activists in the late 1960’s. “We lost the movement over that slogan,” Clyburn said. The same might be said for a lot of language that comes out of woke academia.
Clyburn made those comments in the aftermath of the disappointing House races last year, where Democrats lost seats when they were expected to pick up some. But if “defund the police” was tough on the Democrats in 2020, crime, homelessness and wokeness will be even tougher to overcome in 2022.
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