Democrats who joined in reckless political attacks on police need voters to forgive and forget the crime surge that followed. Don’t count on it, especially when it comes to candidates who continue to attract the enthusiastic support of defunders.
Eric Bradner, Omar Jimenez and Donald Judd report for CNN:
Republicans in Wisconsin have in recent weeks hammered Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on crime, casting the Democratic nominee to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson as “dangerous” as they seek to reach the small swath of suburban voters who could decide one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races.
Public safety is not just an issue for suburban voters. Today it’s difficult to find any jurisdiction in Wisconsin—or anywhere in America for that matter—where citizens want fewer police officers on the streets. Therefore even leftists like Mr. Barnes have been sticking to a consistent script in the 2022 election cycle. CNN reports:
In Wisconsin, Barnes, in his own ad launched two weeks ago, said Republicans are trying to scare voters, calling the charge that he wants to defund the police “a lie.”
“I’ll make sure our police have the resources and training they need to keep our communities safe and that our communities have the resources to stop crime before it happens,” Barnes says in the spot.
But even CNN can’t completely ignore his record, reporting:
The attacks so far have focused on Barnes’ efforts as a state lawmaker to end cash bail, as well as a 2020 interview with PBS Wisconsin — weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in neighboring Minnesota — in which Barnes suggested that funding should be redirected from police budgets to other social services.
“We need to invest more in neighborhood services and programming for our residents, for our communities on the front end,” he said then. “Where will that money come from? Well, it can come from over-bloated budgets in police departments.”
“Wisconsin saw a 70% increase in murders from 2019 to 2021,” notes CNN, and voters should hold politicians who supported defunding accountable. In February, Daniel Bice wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
… Barnes is now distancing himself from two unpopular, far-left political movements — defunding police and abolishing ICE — despite support from groups backing these efforts and past social media activity referencing these causes.
Indeed, in the case of “Abolish ICE,” the 35-year-old Milwaukee Democrat even got the T-shirt.
“Don’t know how I missed this reply, but I need that,” Barnes tweeted July 4, 2018, when a Madison activist offered him a red “Abolish ICE” shirt from the Democratic Socialists of America in his size.
Mr. Bice noted a different message in the current election cycle, although its meaning could be open to interpretation:
“I am not a part of the Abolish ICE movement because no one slogan can capture all the work we have to do,” Barnes said in the statement.
Mr. Bice reported more of the disturbing history:
Barnes has received the endorsement of five national groups that have called for defunding the police… In November, Barnes was a speaker at a major meeting of the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a supporter of defundpolice.org. The center tweeted last year, “Defund police. Defund police states. Defund militarized occupation. Defund state-sanctioned violence.”
… As for the numerous groups that favor defunding police but are backing him, Barnes had little to say.
His campaign declined to provide the Journal Sentinel with his answers to the endorsement questionnaires from the Center for Popular Democracy, Democracy for America, Indivisible, MoveOn.org or the Working Families Party. Each of these groups also supports the movement to eliminate ICE.
As radical as the defunders are, it’s hard to say they haven’t made progress in achieving their goal. A recent report for PBS Wisconsin by the nonprofit Badger Project notes:
The number of law enforcement officers in the state ticked down again in 2022, setting a new record for the lowest statewide total since the Wisconsin Department of Justice started tracking the numbers in 2008.
To relieve some of the burden on law enforcement agencies, and attempt to de-escalate encounters between police and civilians, some cities and counties across the state are experimenting with sending non-police employees to answer some 911 calls.
Nothing scares criminals like a non-police presence in response to 911 calls. The idea is to dispatch the non-cops to take information about low-level offenses. But in no way does this mean that serious offenses are getting the attention they deserve.
These days even when budgets are available to hire more cops, it’s harder than ever to find people willing to do a dangerous job that too many Democrats love to demonize when it suits them.
In Wisconsin, the resulting tragedies are not concentrated in the suburbs but in the state’s largest city. The PBS report continues:
Milwaukee has taken the brunt. In 2020, the city set a record for its highest number of homicides in one year: 190. In 2021, it broke that new record by reaching 197. And with 160 homicides recorded by the end of August 2022, the city is on pace to break that record again.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel maintains a website tracking the data and now reports:
There have been 163 homicides in 2022.
This is 30 more than last year at this date.
The PBS Wisconsin report adds:
Instead of “Defund the police,” some law enforcement reformers have promoted a different slogan: “Solve every murder.”