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Blue State Blues

Susan Estrich on

The bluest state in the nation is bleeding red. In San Francisco, progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin, scion of a famous liberal family, was soundly recalled. In Los Angeles, billionaire developer Rick Caruso (full disclosure, a friend from my University of Southern California days), who was a Republican until three years ago, led the pack and is headed for a runoff against a highly qualified progressive Black woman who, in past years, would have been the odds-on favorite. Not this year.

What gives?

Very simple. Homelessness and crime are what gives. Quality of life is what gives. Cleaning up LA was Caruso's on-target message.

I have been arguing for 40 years that Democrats, especially progressive Democrats, need to address the crime issue not from the perspective of the perpetrators but from that of the victims. I've been called a racist more than once for it, even though the truth is that most violent crime is intraracial. The victims are Black and Hispanic. How can it be racist to protect them, to give them a voice?

It so happens that California had an election on Tuesday, which gave Angelenos a chance to voice their frustration. The underpasses where you enter the freeway are virtual tent cities. The grounds of the Veterans Affairs hospital look like a tent city. And that is the case everywhere you turn. They clean up the beach, but four blocks away is a refugee camp. It will not do.

If the polls are to be believed, people are just as frustrated in the other Big Blue state, New York. According to the New York Post, more than 70% of New Yorkers are afraid they will be the victims of violent crime. That is an astounding figure, all the more so because fear of crime exacts huge costs of its own and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If law-abiding citizens are afraid of the subways, the subways become more dangerous. If people fear walking around in their own neighborhoods, the streets become even more dangerous. If progressives don't understand this, the voters will make it clear to them.

Safe subways, safe streets, not having to step over people, quite literally, to get down the street. These are issues that should not divide along partisan lines, and the fact that they still do is our own fault -- and by "our," I mean it is the fault of progressives.

 

My son's girlfriend teaches high school at a charter school in Venice. One of her students, a junior, was shot and killed last weekend. A stray bullet. The last week of school, which was supposed to be a celebration, is anything but.

Then there was the Facebook post that stopped me in my tracks, from a teacher in a wheelchair who told her students that if an active shooter came into the classroom, she would not be able to protect them the way an able-bodied teacher might, and they should try to escape. Their safety, she told them, was her top priority. The students responded that they had already thought about that and decided that they would carry her.

This is what fourth grade students are talking about. This is what their parents are worried sick about. Progressives can either speak to those fears with concrete answers or they will keep losing to those who do.

I have been to this movie. Back in 1988, my candidate for president, Michael Dukakis, was done in by the story of a Black murderer who raped a white woman while out on a weekend furlough. Willie Horton was his name; in Democratic circles, it became shorthand for "soft on crime." If Democrats are not careful, his legacy may shape another election in November.

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