March 4, 2021

MICHAEL BARONE ON THE DEMOCRATS’ POLICIES: Is there any reason to think this time will be different?

When public policies have produced disastrous results and when alternative policies have resulted in immediate, seemingly miraculous improvement, why would anyone want to go back to the earlier policies? Is there any reason to suppose that this time will be different?

Not that I can see. The earlier policies, a pullback from active policing and certain punishment and open-handed welfare system providing incomes for single mothers were put in place in the 1960s, within living memory for some of us. The intentions were good. It was a time of high hopefulness that America’s shameful history of racial discrimination and mistreatment was over.

The public accommodations and employment sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, controversial when passed, were more successful than even their most enthusiastic advocates dared to expect. The justifiably draconian measures of the Voting Rights Act of 1968 resulted almost immediately in full enfranchisement of black people.

Some sought more advances. As violent crime rates rose alarmingly among the blacks who had been streaming into cities for 25 years, prison populations actually declined and police in major cities were reined in. As national unemployment rates fell, births to unwed mothers and welfare dependency rose. In the decade from 1965 to 1975, violent crime and welfare dependency, both heavily concentrated among blacks, nearly tripled. Tripled.

For two more decades, crime and welfare dependency remained at the same high levels, sometimes zooming higher. Only with the work-required welfare reform of Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin and the active-policing pioneered by Rudy Giuliani in New York in the 1990s did the numbers come sharply down.

Left behind were central city neighborhoods with burnt-out houses and empty lots, empty and bombed-out storefronts, downtowns and entertainment districts abandoned and boarded-up.

Now it looks like we’re starting the same cycle again. The deaths of a suspect in Minneapolis last May led to a resurgence of “mostly peaceful” (which is to say, “often violent”) Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the country. An even sharper rise in murders than after Black Lives Matter emerged after the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, incident.

Murders were up about 30%, far above the previous record of 13% in 1968, with blacks eight times more likely than whites to be both perpetrators and victims. Police departments are being defunded, effective crime-stopping procedures banned, and criminal penalties are being reduced and low-dollar burglaries are left unprosecuted.

We know where such policies led before. Is there any reason this time will be different?

The explanation is that Democrats don’t care about the downsides to these policies, because they feel like the upsides offset them. So what are the upsides that they see?

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