No, concerns over crime isn't a racist dog whistle

AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

Democrats appear to be headed toward a very bad time in November.

While inflation and gas prices aren’t exactly helping, crime has been a huge issue this campaign season. While anti-gun candidates have tried to frame gun control as an anti-crime measure, the voters aren’t responding to that.

When it comes to crime, voters tend to trust Republicans more.

So, it seems Democrats are doing what they always do. They’re trying to make concerns over crime appear racist.

Dangerous. “Different.” A coddler of criminals and enemy of police.

Those are some of the attacks launched at Democratic candidates this year as their GOP opponents seek to tap voters’ fear of rising crime rates and tip the election scales toward the GOP. And the strategy seems to be working, with Republican Senate candidates in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania gaining ground in the polls as they press the issue of crime more forcefully.

But analysts say there is also something more nefarious at play – a cryptic way of appealing to voters who blame racial minorities for crime or don’t want a Black person representing them in Washington.

“When they talk about crime, it’s usually people of color” that candidates and ad-makers are referencing, says Christopher Stout, an Oregon State University professor and author of two books on racial politics.

“It’s really a subtle way” to turn voters away from Democrats, Stout says. “Republicans look at it as a way to win back some persuadable voters.”

But it’s not really about crime – or it’s not only about crime, says Sharon Austin Wright, a University of Florida political science professor and author of two books on race and politics. It’s also about race and tapping suburbanites’ fears about Black criminals coming into their communities, even if that fear is unfounded.

“I think it’s really just coded language, and it’s not uncommon,” Wright says. While in the mid-20th century, candidates would openly use racial epithets, that changed later in the century, when GOP candidates would talk about busing and “states rights” to tap racial animus, she says. Now, crime and “socialist” are the themes, she says.

Pro-tip: If you hear the dog whistle, you’re the dog.

All over the nation, millions of people are concerned about crime, and I hate to break it to people like Wright, but it’s not just white folks.

In fact, some of the people most concerned are black and Hispanic voters, many of whom live in crime-ridden areas.

And let’s be honest, it’s kind of racist to assume that concerns over crime are driven by racism. It’s basically their own belief that “criminal” somehow means “minority” driving it, yet criminals come from all walks of life and all are reasons for people to be concerned.

Of course, they also argue that comparing progressive candidates to progressive members of Congress is racist, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

The truth is that black and Hispanic people are victimized by criminals. For example, in 2019, among homicide victims where the race was known, more than 54 percent of all victims were black. In fact, earlier this year a report from The Heritage Foundation found that black and Hispanic folks bear the biggest burden during this current spike in crime.

So no, concerns over crime aren’t “coded racism” or any other such nonsense. That’s nothing more than an attempt to deflect on an issue Democrats are getting their butts handed to them on, one that will likely cost them Congress.

That’s all we’re seeing here.