President Joe Biden's focus on gun control and law enforcement reform amid a violent crime surge could hurt Democrat prospects in the 2022 midterms.
Biden's policies also embolden his opponents, and might cause problems within his own party, Fox News reported Monday.
Republican lawmakers have blamed the current crime wave on progressives' calls to "defund the police," and Second Amendment advocates have accused Biden of attacking legal gun ownership.
Biden, though, also risks alienating progressives who are concerned the president's tactics will undercut their push for law enforcement reform. He has encouraged cities to use COVID-19 stimulus funds to hire more officers, while members of his party have called for sweeping budget cuts for police.
Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican political consultant and founder of North Star Opinion Research, said an expected increase in summer crime combines with the current political landscape to create a "major vulnerability" for Biden and Democrats heading into the midterms.
"One of the most potent criticisms over the last 40 years of Democrats is that they’re soft on crime and reluctant to crack down on crime," Ayres told Fox News. "This surge and the forces on the far-left talking about defunding the police feed into the suspicious that Democrats are simply not serious about combating crime."
Democrats also might need progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to change their rhetoric.
"The Squad and AOC and others need to recalibrate their messaging, perhaps, too, because you can only say so much about reimagining the police and things like that when people are at home seeing these upticks in crime, when people are fearful, in many areas, to go out on the street," Kevin Walling, a Democrat campaign strategist, told Fox News.
More than 73% of Americans think crime is on the rise nationally compared to one year ago, according to Fox News, and 72% percent of survey respondents said they either had a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in the police.
"[Crime is] one of the top issues and I think Democrats ignore it at their peril," Trevor Burrus, a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, told Fox News.
"I think it has a bunch of complex causes. The thing is, American voters are fairly straightforward in the things that they care about."
Biden last month announced an anti-crime plan that included a "zero tolerance" policy for federally licensed gun dealers who violate laws, a call for increased funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the creation of "strike forces" to combat interstate weapons trafficking, according to Fox News.
Second Amendment supporters seized on the gun control measures and accused Biden of misrepresenting the crime wave's root cause.
"Reasonable gun control measures like background checks could conceivably ward off some of the mass shootings we've experienced recently, but they will do nothing to thwart the crime wave plaguing our cities in recent months," Ayres said. "That surge in crime is a result of demonizing the police in the wake of the George Floyd killing."
In his announcement, Biden also suggested that states and cities could use $350 billion in collective funding from the "American Rescue Plan" to hire officers, pay for overtime or invest in technology aimed at curbing gun violence.
The homicide rate surged 24% in the first quarter of 2021 in 34 cities, with 193 more murders than in the same three-month period in 2020, according to a report from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.
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