Did the focus on crime help the GOP seal a midterm victory?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the major stories and debates of the day.

What is happening

In the run-up to the midterm elections, Republican candidates have focused heavily on crime as part of their final pitches to voters – pumping millions into ads aimed at portraying their Democratic opponents as ‘soft on crime’ “. This strategy seems to have worked. Polls suggest Democrats which seemed to be improving over the summer, have weakened in recent weeks.

The economy, particularly inflation, continues to be the top issue for voters. But the percentage of Americans who say crime is “very important” has risen in recent months, with a particularly notable increase among independents who can decide key races across the country, according to a released last month. This shift in voters’ views coincided with a significant increase in the crime debate in and one Republicans saying the Democrats’ liberal policies have caused a deadly spike in crime across the country.

The true picture of crime in the United States is much more complicated. After declining steadily for decades, murders at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But the most recent data suggests that the trend in 2021 and has so far this year. However, changes in the way the FBI collects crime statistics just how representative these numbers really are.

Looking at the statistics from a national perspective also masks differences in local crime rates — some of which run directly counter to GOP claims about the dangers of Democratic leadership. States with the in the nation, for example, include many conservative strongholds. Republican attacks also tend to distort Democrats’ positions on crime. Although generally more open to reform than the GOP, very few Democratic candidates actively support sweeping changes like police defunding.

Why there is debate

Political analysts on both sides of the aisle say Democrats made strategic mistakes that left them particularly vulnerable to attack from the GOP. Chief among them, many say, is the movement to “defund the police.” Despite being promoted by only a small number of progressive Democrats, the party has been unable to shake off the claim that it is not engaged in law enforcement. Other experts say crime is a tough issue for Democrats because the party itself is deeply divided on the best approach to public safety, while the GOP is firmly unified behind ‘tough on crime’ policies. .

Some left-wing pundits say mainstream Democrats have invited those struggles by rejecting any vision of public safety that doesn’t focus on the police. They argue that by refusing to consider real reforms, the party is denying young voters who are desperate for change and choosing to fight Republicans on their own turf.

Political pundits widely agree that voters don’t consider statistics when thinking about crime. Instead, they look at their own lives and wonder if they personally feel less secure. They believe that in times of rising crime, voters are inclined to turn to candidates who make them feel validated to be concerned, rather than those who try to tell them that the problem is not as bad as it is. they think so.

And after

Voters will head to the polls on November 8 and they will deliver a verdict on the two parties’ messaging on the issues.


Calls to defund the police have done lasting damage to voters’ trust in Democrats

“In my many years in politics, I have never seen a more destructive slogan than ‘defund the police’. … This election season, I can’t find any Democrats – real Democratic candidates – running on this no- meaning. The overwhelming majority of Americans — including most black Americans and most Democrats — oppose defunding the police. Yet the political damage caused by this slogan has been real. — Paul Bégala,

Crime is one of many issues on which voters reject Democratic leadership

“Chaos is bad for the ruling party. Inflation is a form of social chaos, as are uncontrolled borders and violent crime. They did not fall from the sky. The first two are attributable to policy decisions by Mr. Biden and the Beltway Democrats, the latter to elected Democrats across the country. Most voters, especially right-leaning independents, don’t like chaos. —Daniel Henniger,

Valid alternatives to the “tough on crime” approach don’t make good campaign soundtracks

“There is a parallel case that good crime policy at the state and federal level is inseparable from investments in education, safety nets and housing programs that could help break poverty and the concentrated desperation. … But these interconnected benefits show up over the years, not immediately in the midst of a crime spike. And it’s not the conversation about crime that’s happening in 30-second campaign ads and debate scenes with an election just around the corner. — Emily Badger

Democrats’ reform plans offer nothing for those concerned about crime today

“A functioning justice system must be fast, safe and fair. Democrats who seem concerned only with fairness are trying to balance themselves on a one-legged stool. Elected officials who have pledged to increase social investments to prevent the crimes of tomorrow must offer a credible plan to people who fear becoming the victims of today. -Harry Siegel

Talking about crime can tap into racist attitudes that aren’t usually discussed openly

“Fear of crime is a clever old tactic that plays on America’s inherent anti-black and racialized fears.” — Kandist Mallett,

Democrats have been too shy to defend their own policies

“Democrats have a choice of trying to defend their ideas or excluding any pointed discussion about them. That tells you all you need to know that they are heavily invested in the latter. —Rich Lowry,

It doesn’t matter what the data says when people are scared in their own lives

“The Democrats will ask you: who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? They are guilty of the worst kind of obfuscation and doublespeak. And they don’t seem to realize it and fewer and fewer people are buying it. Democrats need to remember that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. —Tom Wrobleski,

Voters are unhappy with Democrats on a range of issues

“Inflation, an unpopular Democratic president and economic jitters are the backdrop for Republican takeovers. The crime is the scary publicity material to close the deal. —Jim Newell,

In their quest for social justice, Democrats have lost sight of public safety

“The battle to defeat Trump’s race war… has blocked many from seeing the priorities and needs of working-class African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters. These are the voters who have withdrawn from their historic support for the Democrats. To be honest, many assumed that tackling long-standing racial inequality would be their top priority. But that assumption becomes indefensibly elitist when it turns out that those voters were much more focused on the economy, corporate power and crime. —Stanley B. Greenberg,

Democrats failed to give voters an alternative view of public safety

“When [‘tough on crime’ is] the only option is what people go for because in the absence of a proactive, affirmative view of security, you choose what you know, even though you know it doesn’t really work. — Insha Rahman, criminal justice reform advocate, at

GOP is united on crime, Democrats are divided

“This current crime wave was likely caused by the pandemic. Yet it is the party of pandemic denial that flogs him, while strangely, the party that took the pandemic seriously is now the one out of touch with reality. Democrats are obviously in conflict — over the role of the police, over the GOP’s demagoguery of urban areas, over acknowledgment that something has gone wrong in their turf. —Danny Westneat,

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images

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