After Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost re-election last month, Democrats are seemingly finding their way to the center on crime and law enforcement with the goal of not losing their own elections because of soft-on-crime policies. According to The Hill, while some Democrats remain stern on attacking police and law enforcement, others are beginning to turn away from that rhetoric and embrace a more centered approach on handling the nation’s crime issues. A Reuters/Ipsos survey revealed that “crime and corruption” ranked second as the most important issue, just behind the economy.
The change in direction is causing tension within the Democrat party. With President Biden announcing that he would support a GOP resolution that overturns a District of Columbia bill that was soft-on-crime, Democrats have split with 33 senators siding with Biden, and House Democrats having voiced their opposition. Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way, a center-left think tank, reminded Democrats that while it is okay to have disagreements, they should remember that they have “more disagreements with the other side,” adding that they must not lose sight of that fact while disagreeing with one another.
Still, some believe that changing their rhetoric on crime and law enforcement is necessary for some leaders who want to remain in their seats. Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at Third Way, said that looking at the trend of Democrat elections is important and should be used as a guide for future elections. Looking at the latest races in which Democrats have lost, Kessler said he believes that Democrats will be taking a more stern approach to crime, noting that “we’re seeing in local races the defund-type candidates and policies taking a drubbing.”
With the Democrat party appearing to split over the issue as progressives maintain their anti-police rhetoric, President Biden is trying to carefully navigate the issue. In 2020, Biden, who was at that time a presidential candidate, joined the rallying cry for police reform, according to The Hill, but has since “distanced himself against defunding the police.” In his State of the Union Address, Biden voiced support for law enforcement while condemning the death of Tyre Nichols. Kessler argued that having a “strong position on crime” while believing in police reform are two positions that can be held simultaneously.
Although progressives who remain firm in their anti-police arguments are warning Democrats not to cave in to “right-wing attacks,” others are either waking up to the serious crime plaguing the nation, or are aware that the anti-police positions are causing Democrats to lose, and they are willing to change.