Next week, there’s a good chance that Democrats will face a reckoning for advocating, and in many cases implementing, policies that lead to crime. Naturally, the New York Times, which favors Democrats and their soft-on-crime policies, is not amused. Naturally, it cries “racism” and invokes Willie Horton.
Republicans have shied away from making crime a major issue ever since Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media created the myth that a 1988 ad holding Michael Dukakis accountable for giving a weekend pass to convicted murderer Willie Horton was unfair and racist. The pass enabled Horton to commit rape and assault. As I argued in this post, the pro-Bush ad pointing this out was neither unfair nor racist.
Nonetheless, the Dems succeeded in deterring ads holding them accountable for their soft-on-crime policies. They succeeded in part because of Republican cowardice, but mostly because crime receded dramatically thanks to tough-on-crime policies adopted after Dukakis’ defeat. Now that crime is again rampant — due in large part to the abandonment of tough-on-crime policies — invoking Willie Horton isn’t going to cut it.
Discussion of crime intersects with race because blacks commit a vastly disproportionate amount of crime in America. During election season, the intersection is more pronounced because black politicians tend to be leaders in the movement leniency for criminals movement.
But these realities aren’t the fault of Republicans, and there is no reason why Republicans should be deterred by them from talking candidly about the Democrats’ reckless positions on policing and the punishment of criminals. Nor is it racist for them to do so.
It’s possible, of course, for a given campaign to cross the line. If, for example, Willie Horton had been white, the pro-Bush ad that depicted him as black would be an obvious instance of racism. But Willie Horton was black.
The New York Times is desperate to show that pro-Republican ads have crossed the line this year. Thus, Times reporter Jonathan Weisman scoured the country for examples to use in his article. The examples he came up with fail to support his point.
Here’s Weisman’s lead example:
In Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, is the Democratic nominee for Senate, a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad targeting him ends by juxtaposing his face with those of three Democratic House members, all of them women of color, and the words “different” and “dangerous.”
But Barnes is different and, from a law-and-order perspective, dangerous. He has supported abolishing ICE (he wore a T-shirt with those words), cutting funding for police departments, and ending cash bail.
These are radical policies associated with the BLM movement. They put Barnes in the same camp as members of the radical left-wing House “Squad.”
And it turns out that the pictures of “three women of color” the Times complains about are all of Squad members. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that all four original members of that far-left, soft-on-crime group are ”women of color.” (Jamaal Bowman, a recent addition, is a black man.)
Here’s another example:
In North Carolina, an ad against Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for Senate, who is Black, features the anguished brother of a white state trooper killed a quarter-century ago by a Black man whom Beasley, then a public defender, represented in court. The brother incredulously says that Beasley, pleading for the killer’s life, said “he was actually a good person.”
The Times doesn’t dispute the content of this ad, including the fact that the murdered state trooper was white; that the killer was black; and that Beasley called the killer a good person. Nor is there reason to doubt that the GOP would be attacking Beasley if she had called a white murderer a good man. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that her client, the killer, was black.
In my view, Beasley was just doing her job as public defender. I don’t fault her for it. In that sense, the ad is unfair (though not racist).
However, in an era when the left attacks prominent conservative figures for representing unpopular corporate clients, it’s too late for the Times to object to an attack on a liberal lawyer for praising the character of a murderer.
Here’s an example the Times presents that’s mildly disturbing, until one digs half an inch into the story:
In a mailer sent to several state House districts in New Mexico, the state Republican Party darkened the hands of a barber shown giving a white child a haircut, next to the question, “Do you want a sex offender cutting your child’s hair?”
Note first that we’re talking here about several races for the state legislature in New Mexico. Given the enormous number of election contests occurring throughout America, if this is the best example the Times can come up with of a racist ad, no one should be alarmed.
In fact, however, the ad isn’t racist at all.
The state GOP wanted a visual representation of the danger posed by the New Mexico Democrats’ support for removing “conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude” from a list of reasons to deny or revoke a professional license, including a license to be a barber. It found a stock photo of a barber cutting a child’s hair.
In the stock photo, the barber’s hands are white. Why not use it, unaltered, in the ad?
Because the barber whose hands are in the photo isn’t (as far as anyone knows) a child molester. To use his white hands would have assigned a race to a hypothetical barber who, it is implied, has molested or is likely to molest a child.
Making the barber’s hands black would have done the same thing. But notice that the Times doesn’t say the ad makes the barber’s hands black — only that it “darkened them.”
True. But even darkened, the hands don’t appear to be those of a black man. To me, one of the hands looks like that of someone who is probably white. The other one looks gray. You can examine the picture here and judge for yourself. (Scroll down to the second picture which presents a full view.)
In sum, the ad leaves the race of the barber ambiguous, which was probably the least racialist way to handle it.
The final set of examples does not come from anything the GOP used in a campaign ad. It consists of two comments made by two members of Congress on their own initiative during rallies:
This month, a Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, said Democrats favored reparations “for the people that do the crime,” suggesting the movement to compensate the descendants of slavery was about paying criminals. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., made explicit reference to “replacement theory,” the racist notion that nonwhite immigrants living in the country without legal permission are “replacing” white Americans, saying, “Joe Biden’s 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you.”
Tuberville’s comment is idiotic. It’s true that, depending on how reparations legislation is drafted, some criminals could benefit financially. But some criminals benefit financially when taxes are cut.
However, one stray, dumb remark from a Senator doesn’t show that by emphasizing the issue of crime, Republicans are “injecting race” into the midterms.
As for Greene, whatever one thinks about “replacement theory,” in the comment at issue (which the Times truncates), she made no reference to anyone’s race. And her complaint wasn’t about “replacement” in general, but about illegal immigrants taking jobs from Americans, burdening schools, and changing the culture — all of which they do. Blacks are at least as likely as whites to experience the adverse effects of mass illegal immigration.
In any case, the Times cites no other instance of a GOP candidate invoking replacement theory in this cycle. It’s silly to conclude from the most extreme House Republican’s comment about the effect of illegal immigration on employment, schools, and culture that the GOP’s focus on crime in the midterms is racist.
Democrats are all about leniency for criminals. Now, they hope that by playing the race card, they will receive leniency from voters for having relentlessly backed ruinous policies that undermine public safety.
I don’t think they will get it. I think they will get a reckoning, instead.