Does President Trump believe that he will win re-election by exposing how radical Democrats have become since the Bill Clinton era, or by selling himself as to the Left of 1990s-era Democrats on crime? If he chooses the latter, shedding the law-and-order agenda he promised in 2016, it’s hard to comprehend the political calculus.
On Monday, President Trump tweeted, “Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!” A little over an hour later, he followed up by asserting, “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 bill!”
Are we now the party of trying to out-left the Left and militate against one of the few bipartisan successes of our lifetime, which led to a huge decline in the homicide rate?
Defenders of the president will note that he is simply trolling Joe Biden in his usual style. But do conservatives win by trolling Democrats from the Left or by exposing their leftism? Do we win by repudiating their radicalism or validating it more aggressively than they do?
In reality, it used to be that Trump fully understood this issue.
Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and hispanics-a tough subject-must be discussed.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2013
Trump is correct. The sad reality is that violent crime is disproportionately committed by African-Americans. In 2017, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, of the 11,883 homicide offenders whose race is known, a whopping 54 percent were black, 43 percent white, and three percent other. In 2012 (the last year the FBI broke down the race of those arrested for other offenses), African-Americans accounted for 32.9 percent of those arrested for rape, 55 percent of those arrested for robbery, and 34.1 percent of those arrested for aggravated assault.
Yet Trump was also correct when he asserted that African-Americans are disproportionately the victims of these crimes and are therefore hurt the most by weak-on-crime policies.
Likewise, the primary victims of violent crimes are in the African American and Hispanic communities. These people want LAW AND ORDER now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2013
Indeed, in 2017, 1,272 more black people were killed (7,851) by homicide than white people (6,579). That is simply an astounding statistic given that black people compose just 13 percent of the population. In cases where the race of both the victim and offender were known, a staggering 88.4 percent of black homicide victims were murdered by black offenders.
Also, as Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald wrote in her must-read book, “The War on Cops,” “the statistics on the race of criminals as reported by crime victims match the arrest data.” She observes that dating back to 1978, “a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim reports and in arrests – a finding replicated many times, across a range of crimes.”
Why toss African-American crime victims overboard to placate the criminal leniency complex? They are most likely to be the victims of these proposals.
The prison population is plummeting and has been for a while, particularly among black people and younger folks entering the system. As Keith Humphreys, a noted psychiatry professor at Stanford University, observed in the Washington Post several years ago, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistic shows incarcerations of 18- and 19-year-olds has declined by 40 percent from 2003 to 2013. Last month, he noted the across-the-board decline in incarceration in recent years “with the black rate of decline outpacing that of whites.” According to Humphreys and co-author Richard Lane, “the African American male imprisonment rate has dropped by a third since its peak and is now at a level not seen since 1991. African American women’s rate of imprisonment has dropped 57 percent from its peak and is now at a 30-year low.”
Thus, the entire notion of the 1994 crime law inducing mass incarceration of blacks is refuted by the reality of the decline in black incarceration over much of the same period.
Sadly, crime is going up in many areas over recent years, and the drug trafficking is now driven by transnational gangs and cartels much more than by African-American criminals. Now is the worst time to become even more lenient in an already lenient system that is reluctant to lock people up, particularly if they are of a specific race.
Look no further than Baltimore to see the tragedy of pursuing racial talking points at the expense of good public policy and public safety. Back in the early 2000s, even arch-liberal Mayor Martin O’Malley understood the people wanted law and order, and he aggressively arrested criminals in the city. Since the city declared war on the cops, refused to lock up juveniles, and aggressively stigmatized incarceration of African-American criminals at all costs, things have changed. The homicide rate went from roughly 40 per 100,000 during O’Malley’s tenure to 57.8 in 2017, the highest rate in the nation and higher than that of El Salvador.
That is the legacy of the leniency complex that Trump should be against during his re-election campaign. At its core, we don’t have an incarceration problem in this country, nor do we have a “Jim Crow” justice system. We have a broken culture and family structure, widespread in but not exclusive to inner cities. It’s time to treat the ailment, not the symptoms, especially when the symptoms are “improving.” Unfortunately, black victims will be the most harmed by the dismantling of more aggressive policing, tougher sentencing, and more incarceration.
Being weak on crime hurts everyone, but disproportionately ravages African-American neighborhoods. Trump once understood this.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.