NYC Voted. It Was About Crime

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Despite the advance of cultural wokeness, the Democratic Party’s progressive wing finds itself embattled on two fronts, each with the same opponent: skeptical voters.

In Congress, President Biden’s so-called infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan, is struggling to succeed as the warm-up act for progressivism’s star attraction—Senate Budget Chairman

Bernie Sanders’s

$6 trillion lollapalooza of spending for everything imaginable. Anticipating the worst, voters produced a 50-50 Senate. The American left’s utopia is on hold in Congress.

The second front is as far from utopia as one can imagine—the U.S.’s troubled urban centers of violence, homelessness and homicide.

On Tuesday, New York City’s voters went to the polls in the Democratic mayoral primary. In post-pandemic Gotham this vote was about just one thing: crime.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic closed down the world, New York’s annual tourist traffic numbered about 60 million, an incomprehensible crush of eager humanity. A big reason they kept coming is that over the two pro-police mayoral terms of

Rudy Giuliani

and

Mike Bloomberg,

New York became arguably the world’s safest major city. You could go anywhere. Today the city of 8.4 million is on edge.

Last week, as the candidates campaigned, city residents were absorbing the sight, caught on video, of a hooded gunman in the Bronx shooting at a guy on the sidewalk. The victim collapsed onto a 13-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother on their way—you can’t make this up—to buy candy in the afternoon. Their father was watching from his apartment window. The gunman fired his gun into the three piled atop one another. It’s a miracle that no one died and the kids weren’t wounded.

The recurrence in New York of nauseating incidents like this is surely the reason Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the most unapologetically anticrime candidate, finished first among 13 in Tuesday’s in-person voting, with more than 31%.

Maya Wiley,

a defund-the-police progressive, is in second place with 22%.

Mr. Adams won every borough except, of course, Manhattan. Because New York adopted the arcane system known as ranked-choice voting—another progressive innovation—the final winner may not be known for weeks. And yes, Ms. Wiley could become mayor, replacing

Bill de Blasio

as U-Haul employee of the year.

Progressive governance makes me think of “The Wizard of Oz” and

Judy Garland

singing about that place, “somewhere over the rainbow,” where “troubles melt like lemon drops.” Make no mistake: Progressives can win elections, so long as enough voters think they are living in a lemon-drop world. But once in office, progressives don’t seem to know how to run anything more serious than a street protest.

Two years ago, Chicagoans elected progressive

Lori Lightfoot

as their mayor. They’re still in civil-disorder hell. Over Father’s Day weekend, 65 people were shot and 10 killed. A woman living in Humboldt Park told the ABC affiliate: “I am scared. I am getting out of Chicago. It’s a wrap, I’m leaving.” At an event Thursday, Mayor Lightfoot declared “racism is a public-health crisis,” which continues “to rob residents of the opportunity to live and lead full, healthy and happy lives.”

Days earlier in Portland, Ore., the epicenter of American progressive misgovernance, the city’s entire police riot squad resigned after a grand jury indicted a member for assault during one of the city’s unending, violent protests.

In last week’s New York mayoral debate,

Andrew Yang

said people shouldn’t have to worry about being assaulted by a mentally ill homeless person—now common as well in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Needless to say, he spent the next day being told to apologize.

Apologize for what? Decades ago, progressives pushed the unprecedented social experiment known as deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill. Hospital beds were never replaced. Promised off-site care eroded. It is a massive policy failure, with many of these abandoned, mostly male patients destructively self-medicating on the street with alcohol and heroin. The chance of reversing this progressive experiment is about zero. They’ll let it rip.

Urban crime? The solution is more of the same failure: defund the police, deinstitutionalize prisons and pursue de minimis prosecution. Their promised replacements—psychologists and social workers—will never materialize. Today, urban neighborhoods are beset with the abandoned mentally ill and the unrestrained, conscienceless violence of young men in gangs.

For some 20 years, the New York City Police Department’s fix was hundreds of plainclothes cops trained to identify and arrest guys with guns before they started shooting. It worked, until the units were declared illegal or disbanded. The city lived in peace. No longer.

Waking up at last, President Biden gave a policy speech on crime Wednesday, essentially ordering various federal bureaucracies to do something about guns. He’s taking the battle to inanimate objects, not the people choosing to commit acts of violence.

We’ve run the experiment across America: Progressive governance is an oxymoron. Their politicians do not know how to govern. Their ideas, in our era, exist in an over-the-rainbow dream world with no relation to the pedestrian realities of governing, much less protecting life.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

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