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White House Looks To Distance Itself From Left On Crime And Immigration

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After the electoral defeat of a progressive prosecutor in Portland, top White House officials are feeling vindicated in their view that crime and immigration could be political liabilities for Joe Biden if he does not distance himself from the progressive flank of the Democratic party on those issues, Politico reports

“Particularly right now, Americans don’t want to feel like things are out of control,” said one Biden official. “Well-meaning ideas have gone too far, and we need a sensible approach.”

Biden’s aides argued this week that the results in Oregon served as validation of their long-running concerns that crime and an immigration crisis at the southern border risk overwhelming the president’s case for reelection — especially if the broader party is seen as soft on both fronts.

They are banking on the fact that their efforts to crack down on immigration and boost support for law enforcement around the country will resonate with voters — while not alienating progressive voters who pushed for more robust reforms on those issues in 2020. 

Biden himself has personally favored an approach that emphasizes more traditional support for law enforcement, alongside some criminal justice reforms. He spent much of his half century in politics as an ardent advocate for law enforcement and anti-crime measures, a reputation that complicated his path to the 2020 Democratic nomination amid scrutiny over his role in passing a controversial 1994 crime bill.

In his first State of the Union address he told lawmakers to “fund the police.” 

“The narrative about Democrats on crime became deeply distorted after Defund the Police became kind of a thing,” said Matt Bennett, executive vice president for public affairs at the center-left think tank Third Way. “In fact, [Biden] has been very aggressive about funding the police, and has flipped around that narrative in ways that I think are really helpful.”

Biden’s positions on the issues has angered some Democrats, including lawmakers who believe that the president’s approach on immigration will establish a border-enforcement-only posture as the starting ground for any type of legislative compromise. Black lawmakers have similarly warned that Biden’s tough-on-crime rhetoric risks harming people of color. 

But there is also deep-seated fear throughout the party of the alternative: A Trump presidency that has made clear it would prioritize mass deportations and sharp shifts away from the progress Biden has made on other criminal justice issues like gun violence prevention.

Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster, said that “in some cases, progressives are suffering setbacks because people are frustrated in those particular locales with notions of policy. In some cases, progressives are winning."

“But the truth is,” Maslin said, “we need both our bases and the middle, and we don’t have the luxury of picking one or the other.”


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