In 1992, the Democratic ticket touted its toughness on crime:
MALE NARRATOR: They've sent a strong signal to criminals by supporting the death penalty.
[TEXT: Support the death penalty.]
Murder is up in New York City, New Orleans, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago, just to name a few Deep Blue hot spots.
For Democrats that’s a nightmare. Barack Obama is our President, but he’s their guy, and the cities are their base. Hope and change weren’t supposed to be so bloody, and so dystopic. Yet, sadly they are.
The bad old days have returned, and this surge in death and mayhem guaranties that crime will be a 2016 campaign issue. For the Republicans, the fraying urban landscape is an opportunity in the making. Heck, the GOP and the U.S. have seen this movie before.
In 1968, Richard Nixon rode the riots of Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware – the heart of what was then New Deal America – to the White House. Nixon, the Republican nominee, defeated a sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, as the Democrats failed to win a third consecutive term in office.
Twenty years later, in 1988, George H.W. Bush rallied from 17 points behind, and beat Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Bush ads railed against weekend furloughs from prison for convicted murderers and rapists, and Dukakis never knew what hit him.
Right now, it looks like Donald Trump and the Republicans are poised to make the most of the latest spasm of violence, and make no mistake, Trump understands the potency of crime as an issue. He’s not just talking about illegal immigration, Trump is addressing street crime and urban life.
For the Democrats’ upstairs-downstairs coalition, that’s a hard lesson to absorb. You see, the laws that got tough on crime — laws enacted by President Bill Clinton, and then-Senator Joe Biden back in the day — are now the targets of the Democratic base’s ire. When prospective Democratic nominee Martin O’Malley gets booed for saying that all lives matter, our nation has a problem.
Over the past half century, crime has helped elect two Republicans as president. In 2016, crime may elect a third.