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Democratic Candidates Boost Law-and-Order Rhetoric

In Democratic strongholds, a rise in violent crime has pushed the party’s candidates to address the issue of public safety in newly urgent terms. Even before the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde reignited the debate over gun control, day-to-day gun crimes and other acts of violence were rattling the electorate, the New York Times reports. Long seen as a political wedge for Republicans to use against Democrats, crime is increasingly a subject of concern within the Democratic Party and the big cities that make up much of its base. From Baltimore and Atlanta in the East to San Francisco and Seattle in the West, the candidates and elected officials pushing to address crime more aggressively are largely people of color. Candidates are motivated not mainly by fear of Republican attacks, but rather by mounting outcry from the Black, Hispanic and Asian American communities bearing the brunt of a national crime wave.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who made taking on crime the centerpiece of his campaign, has received the most national attention of these figures for his law and order rhetoric, and more recently for his struggles to implement effective anti-crime policies in office. Democratic candidates are casting aside the timidity that characterized their party's arguments during the 2020 election, when many focused on root-and-branch reform of the criminal justice system after George Floyd’s murder. Even though violent crime had begun rising during the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic leaders shied away from discussing it directly for fear of offending parts of their political base. Alarming trends have changed the political conversation. Baltimore is on track to record more than 300 homicides for the eighth straight year, along with a rise in carjackings, robberies and other serious crimes. Persistent violent crime has pushed voters’ tolerance to the breaking point. Those developments have transformed the Democratic Party’s discourse on law and order, forcing the party to balance its determination to overhaul the criminal justice system with the imperative to protect its most loyal voters from violence. Tom Perez, the former Democratic National Committee chairman running for governor of Maryland, said, “Crime is a real issue for voters in this campaign, and it should be. And it’s not just an issue limited to Maryland — it’s across America.”

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