It would appear that leftists don’t actually like a lot of the radical policies they have been advocating for since the beginning of the lockdowns and the death of George Floyd in spring 2020. From homelessness to crime to Covid policies, the left is backtracking on much of its platform in the face of disastrous results and frustration from rank-and-file liberals. Recent developments in our nation’s capital provide some of the most dramatic examples.
Cities across the country are taking a more aggressive stance on homeless encampments in response to residents’ complaints, including Washington, D.C. An early February poll conducted by The Washington Post found that three-fourths of Washingtonians support the district’s plan to clear the camps of homeless persons that now proliferate across the city.
That the American Civil Liberties Union and even some D.C. council members oppose Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s cleanups have not stopped their enforcement. Bowser has quite a mandate for this: the number of city residents who want these camps cleared does not substantially change based on respondents’ race, and is above 70 percent for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian residents.
That the district is pursuing this policy with substantial local support is a bit ironic, given that so many prominent leftist organizations, local leftist leaders, and Democratic politicians have been trying for more than a year to protect these encampments. This included Ann Marie Staudenmaier, wife of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Tom Perez, who last year advocated for homeless camps in the district to be permitted and protected. “Don’t evict them from the only place that they have to call home,” she urged.
Perhaps it has something to do with how large numbers of homeless persons affect the cleanliness, security, and attraction of neighborhoods. A separate recent WaPo article cited residents who noted homeless persons in the camp have harassed them. One D.C. resident said downtown is “not pleasant” and that the ubiquity of the encampments threatens the security of local residents.
Although many on the left would likely grimace to say it, national trends on curbing these camps indicate a significant percentage of the rest of America feels the same way.
Refunding the Police
Mayors of America’s largest cities, once responsive to calls to defund the police, have done a dramatic reversal in response to local frustration with higher crime rates. Now “refund the police” has become the cry of many liberal residents.
In D.C., residents’ opinions on crime and police have experienced this shift, given increased crime and murder rates in the city since 2020. According to a recent WaPo poll, a sizable majority (59 percent) now agree that increasing the number of police officers patrolling communities would reduce the amount of violent crime in D.C.
“The share of Washingtonians who say they are not safe from crime has risen to 30 percent this year from 22 percent in November 2019 and is the highest in more than two decades of Post polls,” reports the WaPo.
This is quite a change from the “defund the police” initiatives city residents — and various activist groups — so loudly endorsed after the death of George Floyd. The D.C. government in 2020 supported measures in June 2022 to cut $15 million from the police department budget. At the time, the police chief warned this could lead to the loss of hundreds of officers and that underfunding training and equipment might result in officers using more excessive force.
Thankfully, D.C. is not alone in wanting to refund the police. As NBC reported in February, Democratic politicians are calling the “defund the police” movement “dead” and mayors in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago are “moving to increase police budgets and end ‘the reign of criminals.’”
Surrendering to Pandemic Fatigue
Democratic states are also ending many Covid restrictions in the face of rising complaints from their constituents. Consider D.C. Mayor Bowser’s mid-February announcement that she would lift the city’s vaccine requirement for businesses and “dial back” the city’s indoor mask rules. This announcement followed a number of states — including many governed by Democrats — that have also eased their restrictions as polls come back showing their rising unpopularity. Now D.C.’s party scene is “returning to normal,” reports the WaPo, even though coronavirus case counts in and around Washington remain “high.”
This is a remarkable and speedy shift, especially considering D.C. had some of the most strict Covid restrictions in the country. Perhaps the District’s dramatic about-face has something to do with widespread annoyance with pandemic restrictions, even among liberal voters. Perhaps it results from the rising tide of Democratic politicians listening to their constituencies despite “public health guidance” claiming the country is moving too fast in loosening the rules.
Perhaps all of these changes also relate to the fact that the District of Columbia is no longer experiencing the population boom and gentrification that have defined the last couple of decades. The capital’s population declined by 2.9 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to the Census Bureau. Living in an increasingly dangerous, filthy nanny-city is apparently not that appealing, even to the District’s majority leftist population. This has been part of a broader national trend as people across the nation in 2021 left Democratic-run states.
Mugged by Reality
To borrow a phrase from the late Irving Kristol, D.C. residents (and liberals across the country) have been mugged by reality — and in some cases actually mugged. Perhaps living in a lefty utopia where the homeless camp wherever they like, undisturbed by a defunded police force, with fickle and irrational health-related restrictions isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Democrat D.C. residents, like the rest of Americans, don’t actually like their public spaces overrun by homeless persons, their neighborhoods suffering increased violent crime rates, or their cities stuck in a cycle of never-ending draconian public safety regulations.
What this all means is that, thankfully, certain activist narratives that threatened all Americans have lost considerable steam. It also means these policies are likely political liabilities in upcoming elections. Perhaps it also shows there are certain things that all Americans can still agree on.