A hot, violent summer will follow Democrats to the polls

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Crime will make this the summer of Democrats’ discontent.

They are already vulnerable on this issue, but a confluence of factors will likely worsen matters as the summer progresses. The political impact will be bad, but its timing — just months before the election — makes it all the more so.

Crime has surged as a serious issue for Americans. Gallup polling late last year found 63 percent of Americans describing crime as “either extremely or very serious.” That’s a huge jump from Gallup’s 54 percent finding in 2021 and exceeds previous highs of 60 percent from 2000, 2010, and 2016. 

And Americans see crime getting worse. “More than three-quarters of Americans, 77 percent, believe there is more crime in the U.S. than a year ago,” Gallup notes, “and a majority, 55 percent, say the same about crime in their local area.”

As bad as this public perception is, those holding it most strongly heighten its political impact.  

Republicans, Democrats’ primary political opposition, overwhelmingly (78 percent) see crime as a serious U.S. problem. Seventy-four percent see it getting worse locally and 92 percent see it getting worse nationally.  

Independents, Democrats’ primary political targets for persuasion, see crime only slightly less pessimistically: 60 percent see it as a serious U.S. problem, 53 percent see it getting worse locally and 78 percent see it getting worse nationally. 

With findings like these, it’s no wonder Biden polls so poorly on the issue. According to Real Clear Politics average of national polling, Biden’s approval rating on crime is just 40.5 percent; his disapproval is 54.5 percent. 

Further, Democrats are associated with initiatives that increase their political vulnerability on crime.  The Defund the Police movement is entirely a left-wing cause, and the areas where it has been implemented are almost entirely blue jurisdictions. 

The same pattern applies to sanctuary cities, the open border policy, the calls to abolish ICE, to reduce bail for those awaiting trial, decreased criminal prosecutions and lower sentences for criminal offenses. The pattern of decreased enforcement, reduced prosecution and reduced penalties are clear, and they all point one way: toward the Democrats who have supported them and the consequences for the jurisdictions they govern. 

While crime is already a problem for Democrats, this summer is likely to make it worse. One reason is that summer is when more crimes and more violent crimes ones — murder, rape and assault — are committed. 

Another reason is where crimes are committed. Urban areas have more crimes because they have more people. But they also have higher crime rates than suburban or rural areas.  

Democratic politicians dominate most urban areas. Of America’s top 20 largest cities, only two (Dallas and Fort Worth) have Republican mayors. Of the top 100 largest, fewer than 30 have Republican mayors.

Many of these blue cities are also noted for their lenient district attorneys. Again, these are Democrats. The trend has become so pronounced that many states have tried to give prosecutorial powers to the state instead. Almost invariably, these have been Republican-led efforts at the state level to rein in Democratic prosecutors in Democratic cities. 

Whether you accept that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between these elements, their coincidence is unmistakable. The city of St. Louis alone has more than 1,000 unsolved murders. It has also been associated with lenient prosecutions of crime and attempts by the state to step in and take control.

If this weren’t enough to give Democrats a political panic attack, further compounding factors should be. It is not just higher crime in their jurisdictions in the summer before a presidential election. It is that some of these crimes have been and will be tied back to other Democratic policies — for example, Biden’s open border policy and Democratic sanctuary cities.  

The recent killing of a Houston girl is a case in point. The horrific details and the suspects’ illegal immigration status underscore how these can come together in headlines.  

Before this, it was Laken Riley’s murder. And Rachel Morin’s. 

The connections (of policies and politicians), timing (just months before the election), and compounding (multiple elements coming together) will be brutal for Democrats. And to take it a step further, Democrats will hold their national convention in Chicago in late August, inevitably drawing protestors and perhaps calling to mind Democrats’ bloody 1968 convention in the same city. 

At the heart of this lies the fact that Democrats themselves do not get it — not that they don’t see their political problems, but that they don’t see crime the way the rest of America does.  

In Gallup’s polling late last year, only a bare majority (51 percent) of Democrats saw crime as a serious U.S. problem.  Only 39 percent saw more local crime and only 58 percent more crime in the U.S.. These are, respectively, 14 and 20 percentage points below independents’ views. 

Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, a longtime Democrat, once said that a conservative is just a liberal who got mugged the night before. This summer, it may be Democrats who find themselves mugged by the politics of crime. 

J.T. Young was a professional staffer in the House and Senate from 1987 to 2000, served in the Department of Treasury and Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004, and was director of government relations for a Fortune 20 company from 2004 to 2023.

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