By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com
So now we know how the Republicans will campaign to unseat Democrats – at every level, from local villages and school boards, to towns and counties, to state and federal office: fomenting culture wars, often out of thin air, which they brand “kitchen table issues.” It comes under the categories of Crime (but not gun crime), victims (not gun victims) and “cashless bail”; Blue Lives Matter (but not the Capitol Police attacked by Trump supporters in the violent insurrection); Public Education (but banning books is okay); “personal freedom” (but not public health or reproductive freedom or LGBTQ rights). (Trumpism with or without the criminal cult leader.)
This was on view – they were probably testing the brand – at a rally on the Village Green in Great Neck, Long Island – not so long ago, a reliable bastion of progressives. Ostensibly the rally was to “Back the Blue,” but provided a soapbox for the panoply of Republican electeds who now control Nassau County much to the delight of MAGA incarnations (Loud Majority from Suffolk in the house!).
They used the phrase “Defund the Police” as a cudgel, as if any elected Democrat actually proposed eliminating policing instead of making needed reforms like funding social workers and better training to deal with mental health and domestic violence. If anything, Trump was the one who would have defunded police – in New York and “sanctuary cities” led by Democratic mayors he didn’t like.
But nowhere in this supposed vigil for the two murdered New York City police officers was there mention of the fact that they were killed after responding to a domestic violence incident by a man who never should have had possession of a gun, having nothing to do with “cashless bail.” Nor was there mention of the fact the state overhauled the controversial bail reform law in July 2020. (They seem not to mind it when someone has enough money to put up bail when accused of attempted murder, like the Long Island man who went on to join the January 6 Capitol insurrection.)
Poor Republicans. They won’t be able to use Roe v Wade (or even Supreme Court) to gin up a culture war (because their extreme anti-democratic activist justices on the Supreme Court seem to have taken care of that), but they are working like the devil to bring back gay marriage and LGBT rights, through the back door of banning books and public education.
One freedom-loving, liberty-loving woman at the rally told me she supports banning books because she saw videos of school meetings with “mothers seeing god-awful, borderline pornographic” books, and is against “forced vaccinations”, but, she added, what upsets her is “diversity, inclusion” in the curriculum.
Another woman said she formed Voices for Seniors to get justice for the 5,000 who died of COVID in nursing homes, including her father, yet backed Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman violating the state’s mask and vaccine mandates intended to protect New Yorkers from hospitalization and death.
George Santos, a Republican candidate for Congress (NY-3), who served as the emcee for the event, plugged his own campaign saying, “I’m running for the right reason - a strong advocate of victims.” He urges a show of respect “for victims of absolute chaos that has taken over New York...The men and women falling in service - 26 law enforcement attacked or murdered, all in name of racial justice, equity - what politicians use to excuse these atrocities.”
It is interesting, though, that in this stoked “crime,” “cashless bail” and Blue Lives Matter and victims list of grievances, there was no concern about gun crime (or, for that matter, the cost in suburban property taxes to fund school security and the loss of freedom of students confined in prison-like settings against a Parkland-style massacre).
Congressman Lee Zeldin, running to be New York State Governor, even mocked President Biden’s visit to New York City, where the President unveiled a host of initiatives aimed at addressing the epidemic of gun violence – after record numbers of gun deaths (and hate crimes) through the Trump years and into last year. Zeldin made no mention of the fact that police are killed with illegal guns, or for that matter, that too many unarmed people are killed by police because of the expectation that they are armed. Instead, he mocked Biden (a photo op!) for trying to stop ghost guns and offered no support for initiatives to stop the “iron pipeline” of illegal guns trafficked from the Red States where “pro-life” means forced childbirth but not sensible gun regulation.
In contrast, Biden, in a statement commemorating the Parkland school massacre (notably Congress has done nothing in the aftermath to rein in gun violence), outlined his comprehensive plan “to reduce gun crime that includes curbing the proliferation of “ghost” guns, cracking down on gun dealers who willfully violate the law, issuing model extreme risk protection order legislation for states, and promoting safe firearm storage, among other efforts. The Department of Justice is also helping more cities adopt smart law enforcement models like the one I recently saw in New York City, in which federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to share intelligence and remove shooters from our streets.”
Far from defunding police, Biden is asking Congress for $500 million to fund “proven strategies we know reduce violent crime — accountable community policing and community violence interventions” and increased funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals, while urging Congress to pass universal background checks, renewing the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers.
What is the wannabe governor Zeldin’s crime-fighting platform? “Repeal cashless bail in this state; give judges discretion to hold for being a flight risk, for violent crime; overhaul the parole board and remove any DA who refuses to enforce law... It’s up to all of us to do everything to remove from office anybody who doesn’t agree with us backing the blue.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel safer.
And then his pitch: “We need to do more than rally to insure November 8 2022 we are doing everything, all in, taking nothing for granted to fight and win the battle for the heart and soul of country. We must win the race for governor here because losing is not an option,” Zeldin declared. “Elect Republicans. Back the Blue. Get rid of cashless bail. For freedom. This is what it is all about – law enforcement. Our freedom, our liberty. We refuse to lose.”
Nassau County Republican party chair Joseph Cairo said, “Hopefully, Great Neck and the entire county will return to the way it used to be – peaceful.” (Reminder: Nassau County was ranked the “safest county of its size in the country” for the past two years (that is before Blakeman came to office and Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who spoke at the rally, has been the commissioner throughout this period when the Republicans assert violence has increased).
As for cashless bail, the New York ACLU struck back: “When New York lawmakers passed a bail reform law three years ago, it was an acknowledgment that no New Yorker should be put behind bars because they can’t afford to buy their freedom,” Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, NYCLU, stated in an email.”Now, these important reforms are under attack by powerful forces that want to ramp up mass incarceration and drag our state backwards.
“Since the reforms passed, thousands of legally-innocent people have been saved from violent and COVID-plagued jails like Rikers while they await trial, regardless of how much money they have. They’ve been able to keep their jobs, stay in school, and maintain their connections with their community and loved ones.
“A successful misinformation campaign against the reforms resulted in roll backs in 2020. And now, there is another push to make New York’s bail laws more draconian than they’ve ever been.
“There is no evidence that bail reform has contributed to an increase in crime.
“Backtracking on bail reform won’t make us safer. What we need are solutions we know actually prevent violence from happening in the first place, like community-based gun violence programs, violence interrupters, and restorative justice programs that are independent of law enforcement. We need holistic medical care for people with mental illness, including supportive housing on both a short-term and long-term basis. We need a robust network of afterschool programs for young people. We need re-entry programs with case management for people leaving jails and prisons. And we must fully fund services for survivors of violence so that they can heal.
“We can’t let this campaign of fear and deception win.”
In fact, it is Democrats who care about crime, victims and stopping the gun violence epidemic and want to do something about it.
Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre), just introduced legislation, S.7537/A.9094, to establish a statewide network of Crime Victim & Trauma Survivor Recovery Centers. The centers would provide comprehensive, evidenced-based, trauma-informed services free of charge, to help crime victims and their families recover from the lasting harm inflicted upon them, and break the cycle of violence by preventing repeat victimization.
Actually, the $10 million to fund these centers should come from mandatory liability insurance (like auto insurance) on gun owners and taxes on gun and ammo purchases. No reason for taxpayers to be doubly victimized.
Meanwhile, Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Julie Rodriguez convened the third national meeting of The White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC), a cohort of 16 jurisdictions committed to using American Rescue Plan funding or other public funding to scale and strengthen their CVI infrastructure. Investing in evidence-based community violence interventions (CVI) to reduce gun violence is a key pillar of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to gun crime. Mayors, law enforcement leaders, CVI experts, and representatives from more than a dozen philanthropic institutions participated in today’s meeting, along with the four lead training and technical assistance (TTA) providers—Cities United, Community Based Public Safety Collective, Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI), and the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform—and Hyphen, which anchors the initiative.
Announced in June 2021, the Collaborative is an 18-month initiative to enhance partnerships and coordination in each jurisdiction and to facilitate peer-to-peer learning around effective community-based public safety strategies. National experts and federal agencies are providing training and technical assistance (TTA) to help communities assess their existing public safety ecosystem, identify gaps, and build the capacity to expand programming that saves lives and provides needed services to communities impacted by gun violence.
To date, CVIC jurisdictions have committed more than $300 million of American Rescue Plan funds to invest in public safety and CVI strategies. Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Julie Rodriguez called upon CVIC participants – including mayors, law enforcement, community violence intervention leaders, and philanthropic supporters – to expediently deploy these dollars so community violence intervention programs and CVIC communities can expand their capacity ahead of the summer months, when gun crime historically increases.
So which party is focused on fighting crime and protecting victims?
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