DEMS’ SHIFT ON CRIME DEEPER THAN JUST MIDTERM WOES
Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada is one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in the country. Her suburban and rural district, which grips Las Vegas from the south and west like a monkey wrench, has flipped back and forth between the parties repeatedly since it was created in 2002.
She’s got a challenger to her left in Tuesday’s Nevada primary, but her real concern is November. Five Republicans, including frontrunner April Becker, are running to take her on in what will certainly be a costly, brutal general election campaign. As she gets ready for the fight of her political life, Lee is trying to shore up her stance on the issue that multiplied Democrats’ miseries this year: crime.
At a meeting with police officers last week, Lee wasted no time in getting her tough-on-crime bona fides on the table. “I always open these up and say I do not want to defund the police,” she said. “And in fact have voted multiple times to increase funding to police departments.”
It’s a far cry from two years ago when, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, Democrats united against police brutality and considered some radical suggestions for its elimination. In San Francisco, voters had already backed a radical change in law enforcement the previous year, electing Chesa Boudin as district attorney. Boudin’s win was part of an overall effort backed by deep-pocketed progressive donors to force change on the local level, and in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, he saw enormous opportunity to install tough-on-cops prosecutors nationwide.
“What has changed in the last couple of weeks is people who were otherwise uninterested in political or criminal justice issues are saying ‘How can I help, where can I donate money or time?’” Boudin told Politico in the heady days of June 2020. But after two years of rising crime rates and vagrant camps in big cities from coast to coast, Democrats seem to have had enough. Boudin got bounced Tuesday in a recall election in a city where Dems took 85 percent of the vote in 2020. Down in Los Angeles the two top finishers in the mayoral race, both Democrats, ran on fighting crime and reducing vagrancy.
The day after, President Joe Biden put an exclamation point on it: “The voters sent a clear message last night: Both parties ought to step up and do something about crime, as well as gun violence.”
Crime and vagrancy, though, are only part of Democrats’ frustration with their party’s embrace of social justice at the apparent cost of practical, effective governance. In February of this year, San Francisco voters ousted three members of the local school board over their decision to take time renaming schools for social justice figures (a move the board later abandoned) instead of trying to get schools reopened during the pandemic.
We tend to see crime as a red-blue issue: Republicans run on law and order, while Democrats oppose tough police tactics. And certainly, part of the shift in the Democratic Party is driven by self-interest and the prospect of a November wipeout. Lee’s enthusiasm for police power in a suburban district in a swing state can easily be understood as a flight to safety. But that misses what’s going on underneath. Democrats are moving on this issue even without the threat of Republican gains.
New York Mayor Eric Adams kicked things off for tough-on-crime crusaders in the bluest parts of America, but the trend continues. Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary is showing all the same signs that city-dwelling Democrats are ready for law and order again.
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Biden job performance
Average approval: 38.4 percent
Average disapproval: 54.6 percent
Net score: -16.2 points
Change from one week ago: No change
Change from one month ago: ↓ 4.2 points
[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 41% approve-56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 33% approve-55% disapprove; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 38% approve-53% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve-54% disapprove; American Research Group: 39% approve-55% disapprove]
Generic congressional ballot
Democrats: 43.2 percent
Republicans: 44.2 percent
Net advantage: Republican Party +1 point
Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↓ 1.6 points
Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↓ 0.8 points
[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 39% Democrat, 37% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 41% Democrat, 46% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 47% Democrat, 42% Republican; NBC News: 46% Democrat, 46% Republican; Monmouth University: 43% Democrat, 50% Republican]
TIME OUT: MINI MASTERS
Writer Larry Bleiberg takes us to mini-golf paradise for Garden & Gun: “Standing on a putting green five stories above Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the wind blows through my hair as I struggle to line up my shot. How can I think about golf as a sea monster eyes my every step, and giant Venus fly traps stand ready to snap at the sky? Those stirring sights await players at Mt. Atlanticus, a miniature golf course so clever, so devious, and frankly, so weird, that my son Harrison and I had to return for a final game before wrapping up our weekend getaway. The course stands as a tribute to designer Jim Bryan, a former English professor and expert on J.D. Salinger. It’s his masterpiece, a Southern landmark, in the same league—to me—as Graceland, Biltmore and—dare I say?—Augusta National.”
SURPRISE SHOWDOWN IN NEVADA GOP SENATE PRIMARY
Time: “Last August, Donald Trump … endorsed Adam Laxalt in Nevada’s [Tuesday] primary for a competitive U.S. Senate seat. In many ways, Laxalt was an obvious choice. He not only was a co-chair of Trump’s 2020 campaign in Nevada, he was one of the most prominent voices supporting efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. … Laxalt, a former state attorney general, had nearly a 40-point lead in the polls, leaving many to believe he was the only viable candidate to take on the Democratic incumbent, Catherine Cortez Masto. … Sam Brown, a retired Army Captain whose face bears the scars of an IED ambush in Afghanistan [has] managed to turn the race into one of the most competitive GOP primaries in the nation. … Last month, in a striking blow to Laxalt’s campaign, the Nevada Republican Party endorsed Brown in the eight-way primary. Brown has also won several Republican straw polls, including in Clark County, the largest in the state.”
S.C. congressman: No impeachment regrets despite primary woes: The Charleston [S.C.] Post and Courier: U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, the embattled Republican congressman fighting for political survival in a heated primary challenge, said if he loses his seat over his vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, ‘It’ll be worth it.’ … Rice is facing an unexpected difficult challenge from state Rep. Russell Fry… who won Trump’s endorsement. … Rice has made it clear during the campaign that he is willing to stake his political career on the Trump impeachment vote. If Trump runs for president in 2024, Rice noted, ‘I think I think it will hurt us.’ Trump called Rice ‘a total fool’ during a March rally in Florence, which along with Myrtle Beach comprises the main metro areas in South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. … ‘National media want to protect Tom Rice and pull out all stops to promote Democrats to vote in our primary,’ Fry wrote.”
Hot and cold on Trump, Haley tries opposition again: Politico: “Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley … is putting her political muscle behind South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, a freshman congresswoman who blamed Trump for the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot — and who is now facing a Trump-endorsed opponent, Katie Arrington, in next week’s Republican primary. … After lambasting Trump following the Capitol riot, she has since softened her posture toward the former president. She has said she will not run in 2024 if Trump does.”
Arizona GOP Senate candidate blames “black people, frankly” for gun violence: USA Today: “A U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona who has been endorsed by Donald Trump blamed ‘Black people’ for gang warfare and gun violence. Discussing the ‘gun violence problem’ on a talk show two months ago, Senate candidate Blake Masters said: ‘It’s gangs. It’s people in Chicago, St. Louis shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly. And the Democrats don’t want to do anything about that.’ Masters, a venture capitalist who has major financial backing from tech billionaire Peter Thiel, is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in the Arizona primary on Aug. 2.”
Republicans want McCormick to try, try again: Politico: “GOP leaders, donors and strategists are urging David McCormick … who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes to Mehmet Oz in this year’s Republican Senate contest, to run again in two years against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. … Though [Casey] has been a formidable opponent in the past, Republicans think the three-term senator will be vulnerable because he has become more liberal in recent years. … ‘I would absolutely encourage Dave to run,’ said Rob Gleason, former chair of the state’s Republican Party, who noted that ‘he’s got 100 percent name ID’ and is ‘going to have the finances’ to pay for another campaign. … Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz, slammed McCormick by name as ‘absolutely the candidate of special interests and globalists and the Washington establishment.’ If McCormick runs for Senate again in 2024, he would have to grapple with the aftershocks of those attacks—especially from Trump, who has a diehard base in Pennsylvania.”
Former Romney adviser Lanhee Chen’s strong showing in California comptroller race buoys GOP hopes statewide—Washington Examiner
Two Democrats advance in traditionally Republican California Senate district— Los Angeles Times
Is California’s top-two primary system delivering better outcomes?—Claremont McKenna College
Feds nab Michigan lawmaker who aided Capitol rioters, urging “this is war, baby!”—Detroit News
WITHIN EARSHOT: AS GOES CORNYN …
“Basically, if Cornyn is on board, it would be a pretty good sign that McConnell would be, as well.” —Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking to NBC News about the significance of high-ranking GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas potentially backing bipartisan legislation to fight school shootings and the likelihood that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may give his blessing.
You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and always good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission anonymous. My colleague, the perspicacious Samantha Goldstein, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!
CUTLINE CONTEST: DUDE …
A pensive President Biden illustrated a note that examined the relative value of the presidential bully pulpit, but you, dear readers, have visions far beyond that. Our winner is:
“Does anyone remember where we parked Air Force One?”—Michael Johnson, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“President Biden attempts a new rebrand for Build Back Better: ‘It’s finger-lickin’ good.’”—Lucas Bateman, Lubbock, Texas
“President Biden, shortly after reading an inspiring edition of [Matt Labash‘s] Slack Tide, imagines himself nonchalantly drawing on a cigarette like the young, cool Tom Waits he always wanted to be.”—Matthew Maxcy, Marble Falls, Texas
May’s contest winner, Chris Lee, is especially pleased with their prize: “In my AP Government class when we talk about the science of polling, we start with the 1936 Literary Digest poll, so an Alf Landon pin is perfect.”
The June contest is off to a rip-roaring start, so don’t delay! Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!
NOW URINE TROUBLE
MLive: “Michigan legislators want to make it a crime to use fake urine or other means to cheat employer drug screens. … THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, may be detected by urine screens for up to a month after the user’s high has faded, and it’s been legal for any adult in Michigan … since 2018. When people consider the possibility of losing a prospective job over legal marijuana use, [Alister Senters, manager of the Tobacco Shoppe in Adrian] said many are willing to subvert the test with fake urine or other masking products. ‘Fake urine is 100% the most popular,’ he said… Some Michigan lawmakers hope to put an end to fake urine [with bills] that would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine… The punishment is upped to a felony carrying up to five years in prison if the products are being sold commercially for profit.”
Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a book on media and politics available August 23. Samantha Goldstein contributed to this report.