June 2, 2023

purpose politics

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Cross purpose politics
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats are working at cross purposes within their own parties and among their own tenets. People are complicated, so politics are complicated. California could elect a billionaire former Republican who champions law and order while at the same time declaring the state will be a haven for women seeking abortion care. In both instances, California would be siding with the majority of voters.
          People vote on the issues that bother them most, and in California, in two of the most liberal cities in America, people voted against a district attorney for being soft on crime and for a billionaire shopping center developer who until recently was a Republican and is touting law and order.
          This is a major shift in partisan attitudes that Democrats better pay attention to as they seek a message to limit the damage the party in power typically faces in the midterm elections. Voters are worried about crime, both petty and violent, and in cities, a homeless population that has taken over public spaces, is the ticket to win for the GOP.
          Democrats are under attack for seeming to care more about the rights of the people peddling drugs than the people victimized by fentanyl overdoses. San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin was elected three years ago on a platform of “decarceration.” He cut the jail population almost in half, in part by ending cash bail, which allows offenders to go free while awaiting trial without having to post money to assure their return.
          Voters questioned his priorities. He failed to stem a wave of “smash and grab” robberies of retail outlets in broad daylight, and criminal prosecutions fell. Dozens of prosecutors left or were fired on Boudin’s watch, signaling dissatisfaction with his approach so it was not surprising when 60 percent of the voters chose to recall him.
          In Los Angeles, billionaire developer Rick Caruso won enough votes in a low turnout primary to force a runoff with longtime Democratic lawmaker Karen Bass. She ran on a traditional Democratic platform while Caruso focused on law-and-order issues specific to Angelinos. He promised to restore order to sidewalks and public spaces taken over by an explosion in the homeless population.
          This is not the first time a Republican has hijacked the politics of liberal cities. In 1993, voters elected tough-on-crime mayors in traditionally Democratic cities with Rudy Giuliani in New York and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, so Caruso has a good chance to repeat history with the same message.
          Going into the midterms, Republicans have an advantage on law and order, and inflation, which may or may not significantly ease before November. The Democrats are favored by big majorities on retaining abortion rights and regulating guns by curtailing access to military style weapons.
          The slogan, “Defund the police,” adopted during the protests over George Floyd’s brutal murder, inflicted damage on Democrats even though President Biden and most leaders in the party disavowed the phrase and distanced themselves from the policy.
          Republicans have challenges too, hypocritically shouting law and order while simultaneously opposing gun control.? Even if they double the size of the police force, try juveniles as adults, and hand out longer prison sentences, refusing to take semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians, will only lead to more horrifying incidents of carnage.
          It will soon be up to the voters to decide who they return to office and who they punish and hold accountable for the issues that bother them the most, whether it’s crime and homelessness or abortion and guns.  One size doesn’t fit all, so voters will have to choose, and we will all live with the consequences. 
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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