Crime as an issue in 2016

Bill Otis wonders whether crime will be a significant issue in the 2016 presidential election. It could. Although the crime rate remains low compared to what it was in the days when crime policy was a major issue (and a winning one for Republicans), crime has spiked in many cities and drug addiction has soared.

Moreover, the two presidential candidates set the issue up nicely. Donald Trump is a tough talking guy. Hillary Clinton can’t talk tough about crime because the Black Lives Matter movement holds sway in her Party. Even her “big dog” husband had to back away from tough remarks about crime.

The issue is also set up because of the push of lenient sentencing legislation in Congress. With real life legislation on the table, Clinton can’t campaign on platitudes. She has to take a position on the leniency legislation.

Clinton has no choice but to support it, and likely would even if she had a choice. Trump has yet to take a stand.

Jeff Sessions, who advises Trump, sees crime as playing a role in this election. He says:

Crime is a factor that I think is going to play bigger in this election than people realize because crime is going up, drug addiction is surging — 120 deaths a day from drug overdoses. It’s just a stunning number.

Sessions, along with Tom Cotton, has led the fight against leniency legislation. However, Newt Gingrich is an advocate for such legislation. Gingrich has managed to gain Trump’s ear and might even become his running mate.

Even if lenient sentencing legislation doesn’t become an issue this year, Trump might benefit from growing concern about crime. His persona alone gives him an edge on Clinton when it comes to crime, and sentencing isn’t the only dimension to the issue. Policing practices are at least as important.

But if Trump wants to get maximum mileage from the crime issue — and be on the right side of it — he should take the position of Sens. Sessions and Cotton, and add leniency legislation to his list of betes noirs.

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