How much has the GOP changed since 1988? Whereas during the Bush-Dukakis campaign, Republicans ran a “Willie Horton ad,” highlighting the extreme position of Democrats on releasing criminals back onto the streets, now Republicans are attacking Democrats, who have lurched light-years to the left of Dukakis on crime, for not being weak enough on the issue!
Last night, during the Democrat debate in Ohio, the RNC communications teams sent out an email at 9:57 p.m. titled, “RNC Reality Check: Kamala Harris’ record on criminal justice.” California has become a cesspool of crime, with property crimes and rape skyrocketing in recent years since the state adopted the radical Left’s “criminal justice reforms.” But that’s not what Republicans were attacking Harris for. They’re upset that she “fought to keep inmates locked up in overcrowded prisons so they could be used for cheap labor.” They also criticized her for “increasing bail costs” and for defending capital punishment.
Is this some sort of October fool’s joke?
Republicans apparently need to highlight, negatively, the “tough on crime” record of a Democrat candidate way behind in the polls. This illustrates just how far the entire political class has shifted on the issue of public safety. Radical alt-Left Democrats of just a few years ago were to the right of where establishment Republicans are today.
It is simply insane that Republicans would misleadingly highlight Harris’ supposed tougher record on crime at a time when California is facing a resurgence of the 1980s crime wave as a result of the very policies Harris and every other Democrat candidate is now advocating for on national policy. Why in the world wouldn’t Republicans hit all the candidates on being weak on crime, including gun felons, while disarming law-abiding citizens? Who needs Republicans anyway if Democrats are already advocating their pathetic weak-on-crime policies?
Just last week, the American Conservative Union Foundation for Justice, part of the organization that hosts the annual CPAC gathering, referred to criminal justice reform as a “moral issue” that “conservatives need to own.” The problem is that these radical policies have already been implemented, with devastatingly immoral consequences to public safety. It is a moral issue conservatives should own, in exactly the opposite way that the ACU meant.
What is the sort of email blast a non-Orwellian GOP would have sent out during last night’s debate regarding California? Something like, “Prison population plummets in CA, crime rises, and guns confiscated from peaceful citizens while gun felons go unpunished. The Dems want all of America to be California.”
As Barbara Harvey of Cal Matters observes, “California has some of the nation’s strongest gun control laws, but local gun crimes are increasingly being prosecuted by federal authorities.” Why are local law enforcement turning to federal prosecutors? Violent gun felons are barely serving any time in state prison, so they are opting to prosecute them at the federal level, where they will serve more time. As U.S. attorney McGregor Scott, one of the federal prosecutors covering part of California, said, “We focus on people with lengthy criminal records, prior convictions for crimes of violence, and focus on those, because those are the problems in these communities.”
Amid all California’s anti-gun legislation last year, Democrats blocked a bill that would have increased sentencing for felony possession of firearms. They care more about letting criminals on the streets than even about hating on guns. Voters passed Proposition 47, which dramatically reduced the penalty for drug offenses and property crimes. What are the results? Heather Mac Donald compiled the following data:
In the city of Los Angeles, violent crime rose nearly 20 percent through August 22, 2015, compared with the same period in 2014; property crime was up 11 percent. Shooting victims were up 27 percent. Arrests were down 9 percent. In Santa Ana, felony crime was up 33 percent in May 2015, compared with May 2014. Violent crime was up 28 percent, property crime up 43 percent, and robbery up 89 percent. In nearby Costa Mesa, violent crime increased 47 percent, and theft was up 44 percent, through late July, compared with the same period in 2014. In San Francisco, violent crime was up 13 percent, and property crime up 22 percent, through June 2015 over the previous year.
Just how bad is property crime in San Francisco? Money talks, and economic decisions by businesses don’t lie. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that police records show a record 203,000 hours in off-duty work was logged by city cops over the past year, over five times more than in the previous year. Businesses are hiring off-duty cops in record numbers, because unlike private security guards, off-duty cops can actually carry weapons, and they maintain direct contact with the police department via radio. According to retired San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran, the increased crime “goes hand in hand with the homeless problem and the drug epidemic in the city.”
In addition, violent crime has increased by 13 percent since 2014. In August, a man who was released under the latest early release bill, Assembly Bill 109, was accused of stabbing two people to death after he was released early, despite his history of felonies and gang activity.
Ironically, prison costs have increased in California, even as the prison population has decreased by over 36,000, or 22 percent, since 2011. Over the same time, California’s population has grown by 5.6 percent. The jails are also seeing less intake because the state abolished the requirement of bail for most crimes. The moral of the story? When you pursue reduction in prison cost at the expense of public safety, you get neither.
In the 2011 case Brown v. Plata, the Supreme Court upheld an activist lower-court mandate that California reduce its inmate population to alleviate overcrowding. Scalia called it “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history,” noting that a sane court “would bend every effort to read the law in such a way as to avoid that outrageous result.” Alito predicted a “grim roster of victims.”
Yet evidently, Republicans now side with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and are more concerned with releasing even more criminals than protecting public safety, and they think Kamala Harris was too tough on crime! They could hit her and every other candidate on dozens of pro-criminal initiatives. They could hit them on sanctuary policies that have turned the state’s Central Valley into an MS-13 haven. They could hit them on Democrats allowing illegal aliens to serve on state boards and commissions, a clear violation of federal law prohibiting officials from “inducing” or “encouraging” illegal aliens to remain here. But no, they choose to hit them on arresting too many people!
As California faces crime, drugs, and homelessness, most voters care about their neighborhoods more than any other geopolitical issue. Republicans could crush Democrats on the issue of crime, even with Trump struggling with his image on some other issues. Instead, they have chosen to drag-race Democrats to the gates of anarchy in abolishing prison.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.