Commentary: The Left Has Already Lost the War and Will Lose the Elections Today

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

I was having an unrelated conversation yesterday and the person made the argument that one of the reasons that Democrats are going to lose badly today is that they have not taken public safety concerns seriously.

But there is another explanation: the right this week have won the narrative that places like New York and San Francisco, and many others have—to use one commentator’s words—declined “into a degenerate hellhole.”

I was reading an interesting piece by Tana Ganeva, who quoted from a Fox News pundit conversation.  Brit Hume the long-time conservative media voice and Fox News reported noted that in New York “the streets are chaotic” and “it does remind me of the mess here in the ‘70s.”

But as Ganeva points out, “In 1973, there were 2,040 murders in New York and 135,468 incidents of violent crime. There were 678,881 property crimes. In 2019 there were 558, according to the same index, and 69,764 property crimes.”

There was a surge of homicides in 2020 coinciding with the first year of the pandemic, but they slowed in 2021 and began falling in 2022.

Ganeva pointed out, “New York today is nothing like the ‘70s.”

According to new Gallup polling, crime is the second most important issue for likely voters with the economy ranking first, and voters concerned with crime are more likely to vote for conservative candidates.

“Conservatives are resurfacing the failed policies of the 1990s and criticizing Democrats for supporting data-driven policies proven to create safer and healthier communities,” said Cristine Deberry, Founder & Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California.

The problem—Democrats are joining in.

As Deberry notes, “Ironically, Democrats joined Republicans thirty years ago in an era that led to America’s dubious distinction as the mass incarceration capital of the world, increased taxpayer spending by billions, all while failing to produce more safety. While many Democrats learned from this failure, it seems others are determined to repeat it.”

Republicans are attempting to paint the Democrats as soft on crime.  And Democrats’ response to is tout their own tough-on-crime message.

“They’re slamming Republicans as the ones who are soft on crime and not ‘backing the blue,’ as well as attacking parole reform, bail reform, and efforts to no longer prosecute drug possession,” Ofer argues.

He notes, “While Republicans are leading this charge, both parties are playing with fire, as the political rhetoric being deployed this election season has the potential to trigger a new surge in incarceration, as occurred following previous election cycles that starred tough-on-crime rhetoric.”

This, he argues is the same process that between 1973 and 2009 led to “an exponential growth in incarceration, from approximately 300,000 people in prisons and jails in 1973 to 2.2 million by 2009, making the U.S. the largest incarcerator in the world, with a rate 5 to 10 times higher than Western Europe and other democracies.”

The party is more split than they were back in the 1990s when they joined with Republicans to implement draconian crime measures that increased mass incarceration without improving public safety.

For example, in NY, Democrats are bracing for what could be stunning losses in the Governor’s race and contests with as many as four Suburban House District.  Many are pointing their fingers at Eric Adams, New York’s Mayor, “accusing him of overhyping the issue and playing into right-wing narratives in ways that may have helped set the party up for disaster on Tuesday.

“He was an essential validator in the city to make their attacks seem more legit and less partisan,” said one Democratic operative working on campaigns in New York cited by CNN last week.

But as CNN noted, there is a split.

“Other Democrats argue this has it backwards. While they accuse Republicans of political ploys they call cynical, racist and taking advantage of a situation fostered by the pandemic, they insist candidates would be in better shape if they had followed Adams’ lead in speaking to the fear and frustration voters feel,” CNN reports.

The problem I see is that while murder rates went up during the pandemic, the blame is less than clear.

The Prosecutor’s Alliance pointed out what we have been for months, “An exhaustive new study shows that homicides increased less rapidly in cities with forward-thinking prosecutors, and research shows 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates are red states.”

Furthermore, “in 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.”

In California, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the biggest risks for homicides came in conservative counties with iron-fist sheriffs and district attorneys, places where progressives in power are nearly as common as monkeys riding unicorns.”

The Prosecutor’s Alliance argued, “These realities have not stopped Republicans from making misleading claims that attempt to connect increases in some crimes during the pandemic with modern prosecutors and democrats more broadly.”

The problem is not necessarily that it hasn’t stopped Republicans from attempting to make those connections, the bigger problem is that it hasn’t stopped ostensive Democrats like Adams in New York and Brooke Jenkins in San Francisco, and elsewhere from doing the same.

A partisan split on the crime issue would largely cancel itself out, but by feeding into the issue, Democrats are giving it strength and legitimacy.  And just as they lost in 1994, they are going to lose in 2022.

We are not going to solve these problems by locking people in cages.  We need to provide people with treatment—mental health and substance use—and we need to provide them with housing and opportunity.  And until we do that, we are always going to be fighting a rearguard battle every time things get a little tougher—such as with a pandemic and an economic slowdown.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Matt Williams

    I have been having a series of conversation lately in which I have made the argument that one of the reasons that Democrats are going to lose badly today is that they have mishandled the Dobbs decision by constantly referring to abortion as the key issue.  For me, and many, many women that I number as friends the Dobbs decision is much more about returning women to their “proper place” as secondary to men … with a primary job in life of producing babies.  This subjugation of women to the Bible’s “go forth and multiply” pronouncements is symptomatic of the broader desire to subjugate all people who are not white heterosexual males.

    Abortion is a very narrow right.  Women’s rights to be treated as “equal” is much broader and more compelling/visceral.  There comes a point in a woman’s life where the ability to/risk of getting pregnant ceases to be a personal concern.  The desire to be treated as an equal member of society never ceases.  The Dobbs decision was more about “keep them barefoot and pregnant” than it was about access to abortion.



  2. Richard_McCann

    “Lost the war” is probably going too far–yet. But the more progressive (“liberal” is being taken back to its original libertarian meaning) faction will have to repackage its message to gain much more traction. (Matt’s observation is one such example.) The reactionaries (there are few conservatives left) may overplay their hand which is a classic political mistake. The question is whether the tide will be held off sufficiently to maintain a contestable democracy or will the rules be changed so much that America looks like the pre 1965 South with a dominant oligopoly.

  3. Ron Glick

    I keep trying to explain it to you but the learning curve is steep. Crime is not popular with the voters. Whether crime is high or low, it doesn’t matter, because one act of crime is 100 times as poisonous as one act of kindness. People like you, who want to take a more humane approach to criminal justice, need to simultaneously and unequivocally condemn crime otherwise you will get beat at the polls almost every time.


    1. David Greenwald

      It’s clearly easy to scare people into a “tough on crime” position, but the data indicates that that approach actually doesn’t work very well. Why? Because it fails to put the resources where they are needed to keep people out of the system and prevent people from committing new crimes upon release. In fact, just opposite, we make it almost impossible for people who are released to get the treatment and training they need to avoid the cycle of incarceration.

      1. Ron Glick

        Dude I get it. But you can be for all that while at the same time condemning the crime. You need to consistantly and unequivocally  disavow the crime itself. Then once you have that out of the way you  need to ask, what then do we do about it? But without the constant condemnation of the crime you never get to the policy debate and get hammered on the issue.

        Its just like in a non-violent movement you must be clear that you renounce violence. In your case its renouncing crime. Doing so serves a a shield against attacks on support of lawlessness. Without doing that your credibility can get challenged.

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