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If Law and Order Is a Winning Message, Why Isn't It Working?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Courtesy of D.C. Metropolitan Police

A horde of teenagers in Chicago ran wild over the weekend, leading to arrests – but not before mayhem and gunfire were exchanged. The stories about crime increasing are numerous, and it goes beyond New York City. The nation’s capital is no longer as safe as it once was; there have been multiple shootings and stabbings along the Metro system. Carjackings in DC are also increasing, with no vehicle safe from the hands of criminals. Priuses are getting jacked, folks. The left made a concerted effort to elect soft-on-crime progressive district attorneys that have turned their surrounding areas into havens for criminality. You’d think that law and order would resonate. It hasn’t, at least not in a meaningful way where Republicans could reap the political benefits at the ballot box. So does the GOP stay on message, or does it need a retool?

Usually, Republicans have done well reaping the political dividends that arise when Democratic governance drops the ball on public safety. When New York City was a homicide mecca in the early 1990s, Gov. Mario Cuomo’s refusal to get behind the death penalty cost him re-election to George Pataki. Michael Dukakis’ academic and emotionally distant answer to a question posed by CNN’s Bernard Shaw about whether he would reconsider his stance on capital punishment if his wife were raped and murdered was one of the many torpedoes that sank his 1988 presidential bid.

Like national security, voters tend to trust Republicans to keep them safe at home and abroad. Yet, the 2022 election proved that this message didn’t resonate. It fell flat during the critical race that decided the composition of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We all see the stories, many of them local—why are voters hesitant about pulling the lever for Republicans? 

I shrugged off this observation as establishment snobbery, and maybe it still is, but candidate quality appears to be emerging as a leading cause. The candidate in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race was terrible, and in the 2022 midterms, we had a slew of candidates rife with baggage that could make even the most ardent Republican think twice about supporting their party. There’s nothing we can do now about it, and a part of me still shrugs off the candidate quality criticism since most of these people were the primary winners. The people elected these candidates to represent their interests in the general election; that must be respected. 

With 2024 upon us, do we keep hoping that a better crop of candidates can sell the law and order message, given that they don’t have deep character flaws and 2020 election theatrics taking up their whole spotlight? Do we gamble with an issue that hasn’t worked to energize and persuade right-leaning independents and suburban voters to our side? I’m not a gambling man, and 2024 isn’t a cycle we can lose. We must win the next presidential election, but we’re dealing with an electorate that has had it with Donald Trump and his crew overall. We saw that in the midterms—voters do not like Joe Biden or his agenda, but he brings political stability. Trump and his brand of politics are chaotic, and American families aren’t entrusting the government to him or candidates like him right now. There’s time to fix that, but will Trump moderate and become a more nondescript political figure? He’s a former president, not an outsider. Trump can be energetic but controlled, with an "I was right about everything" tour that could work, but he can’t be overly belligerent.

He needs to find new ways to sell himself to folks beyond his base, which isn’t enough to win anymore. Posting on Truth Social in all caps at 3 AM isn’t going to work. It might be too late for Trump to reinvent his image, if he even wants to do that—in which case we’re bound to be embarrassed again by Biden and the Democrats. 

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