Is All Sanity Local?

In recent years the old saying that ‘all politics is local’ has been turned around. It seems like we’re so polarized now that all politics is national. It feels like it all just comes down to which side of the divide you claim to be on.

Or maybe not. There are encouraging signs in local races from around the country. Even liberal voters have had it with crime and disorder. They’re willing to vote for more moderate candidates who take the problem seriously over ideological progressives who see everything in terms of oppressor/oppressed identity politics.

Here are some high profile examples. Earlier this month Minneapolis voters rejected an initiative to abolish the police force, and incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposed that referendum, won easily. In New York former cop and now Mayor Eric Adams defeated far more liberal candidates on an anti-crime agenda. Pro-policing candidates also won mayoral races in ultra-liberal Seattle and in Buffalo. There incumbent Byron Brown was re-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. Progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin is the subject of a recall drive in San Francisco, a city that has pioneered smash and grab flash mob looting on his (Cartier) watch. Also in San Francisco, there’s a move to recall three school board members because they wasted time on things like renaming schools while they ignored parents’ pleas to reopen schools. Liberal Democratic Mayor London Breed supports the recalls.

But national and state Democrats continue to whistle past the graveyard being prepared for their occupancy after next year’s mid-terms. Just last week liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank downplayed crime in an otherwise good column about what’s right about Joe Biden. Milbank, like most national Democrats, sees the problem as over-blown, a mere byproduct of the pandemic and, anyway, much less serious than it was 30 years ago.

New New York Mayor Eric Adams won by showing urgency on crime.

After the horrific killing of six people and the mangling of dozens at a holiday parade in Waukesha by a felon out on $1,000 bail, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced, “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. Again, that was the day after the Waukesha tragedy.

And, here in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers continues to pump out pardons for felons. He has already set a record for Wisconsin governors.

In fairness, it’s true that public officials at “higher” levels of government tend to be out of touch. It’s mayors and other local officials who are literally on the ground, dealing with the nitty-gritty, looking their constituents in the eye and confronting hard realities. But, still, Republicans are much better at getting a feel for what’s really concerning for voters and then playing to it. Democrats still want to lecture those voters on what they should care about.

It’s too early to tell what will happen with Evers. In addition to all those pardons, he mishandled the riots in Kenosha that led to the whole Kyle Rittenhouse mess. His approval ratings are way underwater and it’s going to be a bad year for the party in power anyway. On the other hand, the Republicans seem to want to hand him a gift opponent in the unhinged Rebecca Kleefisch. And Evers is a low-key, likable kind of guy who doesn’t lend himself to hysterical claims of “Socialist!”

But, clearly, Evers has not helped himself on the crime issue. He’d do well to employ some tough talk and some anti-crime proposals. A special session might be a good idea. Let the Republicans gavel it in and out in seconds and see how that plays in Platteville.

But before next November, we have the spring elections here in Madison. Three school board seats are up and all are currently occupied by members who pushed to remove cops from Madison’s high schools and who support a mushy student disciplinary code. The result is so much chaos that kids at Madison East aren’t showing up in school for concern about their own safety.

So, the question is: will Madison follow other liberal bastions like New York, Seattle and Minneapolis? Will we make an adjustment toward the sane or continue on the current disastrous path?

Welcome to the 284th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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