Crime? What Crime?

Democrats have painted themselves into a corner on the number one issue of the day, crime. They tolerated and in many cases glorified the George Floyd riots as legitimate protests against oppression. They sympathized with criminals rather than law enforcement, arguing that America doesn’t have a crime problem, it has a law enforcement problem. They attacked law enforcement at every turn, actively trying to defund the police in some jurisdictions. And Democratic Party legislators and prosecutors effectively legalized theft in some cities and states.

To no sane person’s surprise, both violent and less-violent crime have exploded. Riots, arson, assault, homicide, carjacking, have all skyrocketed. And criminal gangs have taken advantage of the moratorium on law enforcement in a number of cities by organizing the mass looting of stores like Walgreen’s, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Apple, and so on.

Thus the Democrats are in the position of getting what they wished for. Only it turns out that the voters want something different: law and order. So what are Democrats to do? They can’t abandon their most deeply held, anti-law enforcement convictions. So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for one, tried the novel approach of denying the reality of the crime wave that has engulfed America:

Democrats on Capitol Hill are flummoxed by the waves of smash-and-grab retail thefts in their states, with some denying it’s happening and others saying they are not ready to make major shoplifting a felony.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said retailers could be fabricating the rash of smash-and-grab burglaries and “flash mob” shoplifting sprees.

“We have to talk about specifics because, for example, we’re actually seeing a lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” she told The Washington Times. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.”

Dissociation from reality is not unusual with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, but this is an extreme case.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s claim that the smash-and-grab crime wave is a hoax drew howls from fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as retailers and police detailed the huge impact of organized theft.

So far, the criticism of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has come exclusively from Republicans and retailers.

Which illustrates how tied up in knots Democrats are on the issue of public safety.

Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, called the New York Democrats’ remarks “tone-deaf and offensive” to the family of the Oakland security guard who was fatally shot in San Francisco last week. He was protecting a TV news crew covering a smash-and-grab theft in the area.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association also took issue with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez‘s assertion.

“Respectfully, the congresswoman has no idea what she is talking about. Both the data and stack of video evidence makes fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions,” Jason Brewer, senior executive vice president of communications for the trade association, said in an email. “If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that.”
Walgreens said in a statement to The Times that “organized retail crime is one of the top challenges” the company is facing and that the issue “has evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online.”

It is hard to overstate how out of touch with public opinion the Democrats are on crime and public safety. Many data points could be offered, but for now here is one: During the last week, my organization conducted its regular quarterly polling of registered voters in Minnesota. One question we asked was, “What should Governor Tim Walz’s top priority be for 2022?” The top response, with 28%, was “Responding to the surge in violent crime.” It is notable that this was twice the number of respondents who said the top priority should be covid.

No doubt leaders of the Democratic Party are anxiously trying to figure out how they should deal with political fallout over the whirlwind of crime they have unleashed. Denying its existence seems like one of their less promising strategies. But, to be fair, it is not easy to see what more plausible line they can take.

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