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GOP blaming Dems for Michigan school shooting fits its midterm election strategy

Republicans are working to create the perception that all crime is Democrats’ fault.
Image: Police cars blocking a road.
A police road block restricts access to Oxford High School following a shooting on Nov. 30, 2021 in Oxford, Mich.Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images

It didn’t take long for the right to blame the left for America’s deadliest school shooting in three years. Just four days after the tragic shooting that left four people dead and seven others injured at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro put the blame on “liberal school personnel” who, she said, had seen enough warning signs from the 15-year-old suspect not to send him back to his classroom but to suspend him from school.

It didn’t take long for the right to blame the left for America’s deadliest school shooting in three years.

Notably, Pirro didn’t blame conservatives, even though between Tuesday’s deadly school shooting and her show Saturday, the GOP, in blocking a bill that would have required background checks at gun shows, once again demonstrated its opposition to taking even the most modest step to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Instead, Pirro stuck to a popular conservative narrative that liberals are the root cause of violence in our society.

This certainly isn’t the first time conservatives have blamed liberals for crime. It’s a standard allegation. But the current combination of troubling crime statistics coupled with the approach of midterm elections means Democrats had better be prepared for an even more intense onslaught of fear-inducing allegations. Because Republican strategists seem poised to go into the midterms and beyond pushing the mantra that Democrats have a crime problem.

Murders rose by almost 30 percent in America last year, the biggest increase since the FBI began collecting such data 60 years ago. The record rise in homicide didn’t accompany a broader increase in general crimes. Rather, this surge was specifically about violence. Nor was the increase in homicides a regional or geographically isolated increase; it was a nationwide phenomenon.

Fox News, without factual foundation, has happily led the blame game against the party its personalities say is responsible for crime. Tucker Carlson, Dana Perino, Laura Ingraham and other anchors have featured guests or expressed their own opinions that Democrats are to blame for rising violence. It’s a smart political strategy, because the vast majority of American voters view crime as a major concern.

However, there is conflicting evidence that there’s a direct cause-and-effect link between policies typically associated with Democrats and increased violence. Despite that lack of conclusive evidence, bail and sentencing reforms, decriminalization of marijuana, progressive policing and prosecution and even activist judges have all been tagged as likely culprits. But we live in an era when facts and truth are victims of propaganda and perception. Republicans are helping craft the perception that Democratic leaders are to blame. How the party deals with that perception may mean the difference between voters’ walking away from the party or trusting their elected officials to remain in office to address the problem.

This year, the crimes drawing high-profile attention include large-scale “smash and grab” robberies of high-end retailers committed by organized flash mobs with as many as 80 thieves in cities from Chicago to Minneapolis, San Francisco to Los Angeles. In the Los Angeles area, police are combatting a marked spike in “follow home” robberies, in which people believed to have luxury homes or cash are targeted for theft as they drive to and enter their residences. Last week, philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, 81, the wife of music industry executive Clarence Avant, was murdered in the couple’s Beverly Hills home, police say, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti linked her murder to follow-home robberies. Just as Pirro blamed “liberal school personnel” for the school shooting in Michigan, there are those in Los Angeles who blame liberal policies for the increase in violent crime there.

Providing for people’s safety and security is a basic function of government. If the Democrats want to continue to govern, they must prioritize crime. They can start by going on offense on two fronts — a battle against crime and a pushback against perceptions. Here are three things they can do now:

First, violent crime is about guns. That problem lies squarely at the GOP’s feet. Democrats need to hammer that home to all voters. Last year, according to the FBI, 77 percent of all homicides were committed with firearms. Democrats shouldn’t let voters forget that two days after the Oxford High School shooting, the GOP refused to help close the gun show loophole. When it comes to exposing GOP complicity in gun violence, the Democrats need to “wash, rinse, repeat.”

Democrats shouldn’t let voters forget that after the Oxford High School shooting, the GOP refused to help close the gun show loophole.

Second, the organized smash-and-grab retail thefts will continue to terrorize city and suburban shoppers through the holiday season and next year’s midterms unless steps to beef up law enforcement are quickly taken. Regional law enforcement task forces must be formed and funded, intelligence analysts must be hired, and overtime must be approved so stores can be secured and ring leaders can be identified. Police partnerships with social media platforms should focus on algorithms that alert on key words and indicators that plans for large-scale thefts are underway. If these mobs travel to commit their robberies, as they often do, they may be violating the federal Hobbs Act, and the FBI should be asked to team up with local police.

Third, enhanced legislation should be proposed now to reflect the organized nature and cumulative financial losses of smash-and-grab events. Some police, prosecutors and retail associations say current laws for individual shoplifting charges are inadequate to address crowd-size crimes. If so, Democratic leaders should take the lead in ensuring that the charges and the punishments match the crime, especially for repeat offenders.

If lawbreaking continues to climb and the GOP convinces the public that Democrats are the culprits, then Democrats won’t have to worry about coming up with real solutions to the problem. Because they’ll have been removed and won’t have the power to address it.