Can Republicans Speak up for the Victims of the Anti-Police Movement? | Opinion

A surge in violent crime while much of the media and the Left seek to defund and abolish police gives the GOP an issue to run—and win—on.

The statistics from the July 4th weekend are as stark as they are horrifying. In Chicago, 87 people shot, 17 of them fatally. In New York, 64 were shot, leaving 10 dead. In Atlanta, the toll was 31 shot and 5 killed. The story was much of the same in many other cities over the same period. And what made it even more tragic is that many of the victims were children.

But while these numbers are universally decried, there is very little discussion about what could be done about it. More to the point, is there anyone in American politics willing to speak up and say that it's long past time for a revival of efforts to ensure law and order in American cities?

So far, the silence is deafening. Democrats are leading the charge to support the defunding or abolishing of police departments. Mainstream Republicans are too afraid of being accused of racism to speak up for the rule of law—or even to denounce the trashing of American history by radical mobs that are toppling statues of the Founding Fathers.

The surge in violence is a wake-up call for Republicans who look on impotently, seemingly helpless to aid beleaguered law enforcement.

Instead of conceding their defeat in the culture wars about race and police, it's time for the GOP to fully embrace the issue. Doing so is not only Republicans' sole path to political salvation in a year in which polls are now predicting they are likely to suffer a devastating defeat in November, but it is also a way to revive the moribund GOP in cities where it barely exists as a political force.

While the numbers for the holiday weekend were especially egregious, there was actually nothing new about cities racked by violence. That's especially true in the last several weeks, as the police—and not violent criminals—have become public enemy number one in the eyes of the Black Lives Matter movement and its cheerleaders. With law enforcement under severe scrutiny as the alleged face of systemic racism that targets all African-Americans (despite a lack of statistical evidence to prove that charge), the so-called "Ferguson effect" is very much in effect. That means officers are choosing to back off from aggressive police work aimed at the gangs, drug dealers and violent thugs who are responsible for the lion's share of these crimes, lest they be accused, fairly or unfairly, of racism no matter what they do.

The ability of the Black Lives Matter agenda to demonize police is best illustrated by the way the #DefundThePolice movement is gaining victories across the nation.

Among the most egregious examples was New York City last week, when the overwhelmingly Democratic membership of the City Council approved a budget submitted by Mayor Bill de Blasio that sliced $1 billion out of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) $6 billion budget. The impact of the budget on the NYPD's ability to defend New Yorkers is potentially catastrophic. The uniformed force will be reduced by 1,163 officers, and the elimination of overtime will ensure that cops won't always be available when needed.

The shootings in New York were also the product of the NYPD's decision to disband its plainclothes anti-crime unit weeks earlier, in response to the post-George Floyd protests. The unit's elimination only whetted the appetite of police opponents for even more defunding and insidious anti-cop rhetoric.

Is there an alternative to these destructive policies that are wrecking major American cities—all of which are run by Democratic mayors?

Anti-police protester in New York City
Anti-police protester in New York City Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Democrats don't think so. They are confident that deep-blue cities are in their pocket. City politicians fear being labeled as insufficiently "woke," not being voted out by the party of Donald Trump—which, in most cities, barely even exists as a token opposition.

But it wasn't that long ago that New York was being not just governed, but also transformed, by a Republican. Rudy Giuliani's two terms as mayor fundamentally changed New York for the better by reducing crime, and set up his successor Michael Bloomberg—who initially ran as a Republican—for similar success.

Democrats ran the city into the ground during David Dinkins' disastrous term as mayor, from 1989 to 1993. That forced New Yorkers to consider the alternatives.

Are Republicans ready to do the same today?

A younger Rudy Giuliani, who was ready to return to fighting for the city he loves, might make it possible—even though his reputation has been tarnished since he left City Hall. But the GOP bench in New York is tissue-thin right now, with potential mayoral candidates all outliers or unknowns, rather than the sort of political heavyweight that Giuliani was in his first runs for mayor in 1989 and 1993.

But along with finding good candidates, what Republicans need most is the courage to swim against the tide and to risk being accused of purported "racism" simply by running on a platform of opposition to crime and anarchy in the streets.

The same is true for Republicans all across the country.

Too many Republicans, including some advising Trump, actually think "criminal justice reform" and "bail reform"—both referring to releasing criminals from prison to prey upon the innocent—represents the path to political victory. But the opposite is true.

The violence gives Republicans a rare opportunity to address an issue that resonates with so many Americans. Liberals are dismissing such concerns as "white resentment." But that sort of contempt for American history and values is begging to be challenged. All the GOP needs is the guts to reject the cries of racism that will come from liberals looking to delegitimize any effort to divert the country from a racism narrative that doesn't explain why children are now gunned down in American cities.

Republicans can lose while playing by the BLM playbook's rules—or they can refuse to accept the false premises behind a movement that is making America unlivable for people of all races. If they chose the latter, they'll at least give themselves a fighting chance in November.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.