The Washington Post is a predictably liberal newspaper very slightly to the right of the New York Times (in other words, not Maoist). It woodenly goes along with whatever the liberal position du jour is, including opposition to the death penalty and an unfriendly skepticism toward the police and policing.
A week ago today, however, there was an election. As has widely been reported, more liberal candidates took a pasting, running from 12 to 16 percentage points behind what Joe Biden won in 2020. Crime and policing were issues across the country, including although not limited to Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac from the WaPo — which dutifully took note.
There appeared the following article, titled, “The electoral demise of ‘defund the police’.” I’m quite sure the WaPo’s usual readership was not happy. Here’s a sample:
Because the defund movement took off in mid-2020, it was largely too late for the issue to be truly reflected on that year’s ballot. But versions of it were very much before voters in Tuesday’s election and in the 2021 primaries. The lesson: Voters are open to police overhauls and new oversight, but they strongly rejected some of the more drastic ideas — including in some very blue areas. And amid rising crime nationwide, pro-policing messages won the day.
In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed by a police officer, voters rejected by double digits a proposal to turn the Minneapolis Police Department into a somewhat-nebulous Department of Public Safety that would have been overseen by the city council. Two city council members who had supported the proposal also lost their seats by wide margins.
Results on Long Island in New York also appeared to demonstrate uneasiness with going too far on criminal justice change. Republicans flipped district attorneys’ races in Nassau and Suffolk counties while focusing their campaigns on the state legislature’s move to limit judges’ ability to set cash bail for more-minor charges — an effort that had pitted moderate Democrats against liberals.
Police issues also were front and center in Seattle, where moderate Democrat Bruce Harrell defeated M. Lorena Gonzalez. Gonzalez had supported cutting police funding by 50 percent and transferring the money to other community efforts, somewhat similar to the Minneapolis amendment. Harrell made opposing defunding the police central to his campaign.
Perhaps the splashier result in that city came in the city attorney’s race. There, Republican Ann Davison won in a deep-blue city — a result hailed by some Republicans as proof that their party can compete anywhere.
Now don’t get me wrong. The Post understands the results but doesn’t really accept them. The remainder of the article is largely devoted to the theme that “people understand that the cops need a slap in the face, but we on the Left need to be more circumspect and clever in our messaging.”
That reaction comes as no surprise to those who’ve spent years following this issue. The pro-criminal side never really changes. When it takes a drubbing, it’s never that it was out of step with public opinion (much less reality). So don’t expect any real shifts in behavior. Expect, at best, some hunkering down on the issue and a prettier package next time.
Still, we need to take what we can get. At least the WaPo acknowledges that it has a problem, which is more than I’ve seen on some of the criminal justice sites that normally think elections are a big deal.