From the Left



Clarence Page: Hey, Chicago, New York Democrats sent you a message: Fund the police, but wisely

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Civic pride prevents me from looking too often to New York for political guidance. Chicago’s and New York’s styles of politics are about as far apart as their preferences for pizza.

But political junkies everywhere can marvel at the Big Apple’s latest challenge to the conventional political wisdom: the nomination of Democrat Eric Adams, a tough-on-crime, retired Black police captain, to be the city’s next mayor.

In the largest American city to try cumulative voting, Brooklyn Borough President Adams was positioned as precariously as the centrist Joe Biden was at the start of his presidential bid before his endorsement in the South Carolina primaries by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, House majority whip, put him on the road to victory.

Black South Carolina voters in particular helped Biden overcome concerns raised by his opponents, including then-Sen. Kamala Harris, that he might be too conservative for their increasingly progressive party.

New York Democrats raised similar questions about Adams, a former Republican in a quintessentially liberal city where Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber the Grand Old Party.

Yet Adams beat his more progressive opponents with a double-edged message much like Biden’s as violent crime rates surged nationwide into a leading issue during the pandemic: Support the police but banish the brutality.


He could speak persuasively as a Black New Yorker and ex-cop. “I was arrested, I was assaulted by police officers,” he preached on the stump. “I didn’t say woe is me. I said, ‘Why not me?’ I became a police officer, I understand crime, and I also understand police abuse. And I know how we can turn around, not only New York, but America.”

The message: We Americans can be tough on crime while also holding police accountable. Support for Adams came not so much from the hipper progressive confines of Soho or the Upper West Side as much as the sort of outer-borough ethnic, working-class and swing-voter neighborhoods that many Chicagoans like to call “the bungalow belt.”

While Black Lives Matter and other loud factions might demand “defund the police,” very few voters wanted that to happen. Most folks of all colors still want to have cops around when we need them, as long as there is some accountability for their behavior.

Among Democrats who felt vindicated by that message was Black kingmaker Clyburn, who called Adams’ victory more proof that calls to “defund the police” are a “nonstarter, even with Black people.”


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