This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Our government gets involved in a lot of things they shouldn’t, but keeping people safe and reducing crime seems to be near the top of everybody’s list of legitimate government functions. Everyone wants to live in a society that is safe and prosperous. I think Republicans and Democrats can agree on that much.
But like so many other things, even if our parties agree on the end, we have very different means. Over the past two years Democrats in Montpelier and Washington have taken the approach that they can reduce crime by making fewer things a crime! And while we used to worry about Activist Judges, today there is a pandemic of Activist State’s Attorneys, not only in Burlington, but across the country that literally aren’t even trying to enforce basic laws that have been existence for 1000s of years.
A few months ago L.L. Bean left downtown Burlington because basic property crime was getting uncontrollably expensive. You can’t operate a business in a location where you are getting systematically robbed multiple times. Businesses would call the police, but it seemed like the thieves who are practically on a first-name basis with some of the stores would be back on the streets sometimes hours after an arrest. And Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George is part of a nationwide group of DAs who are proud of how they use their prosecutorial discretion to NOT put criminals in jail. It seems like if they just get rid of criminal charges, they think they can get rid of crime.
Democrats also are undermining law enforcement at the police level too. Everyone has watched as Democrat-controlled cities work to defund the police. Even here in Burlington the police department has suffered greatly at the hands of the Progressive City Council. In addition to having their budget cut, the City Council is creating an environment that will neither increase the salary of a police chief, nor will they approve one of only 2 qualified people who applied to the job. It seems as if they just get rid of police – they think they can get rid of crime.
Democrats are also working at the public policy level to eliminate long standing laws. When there are problems with immigration laws being broken, they want to just eliminate the law. When there are problems with too many people stealing, they change the law so it only counts as stealing if it’s over a certain amount. Now the legislature is considering decriminalizing prostitution first in Burlington, and perhaps even the entire state! It seems as if they just get rid of the LAWS – they think that can just get rid of crime.
While removing the Law, the police and the prosecution might get rid of “crime” in a very technical sense, there is one thing that strategy can NOT do: Make the Public Safe!
Democrats are tearing down laws, tearing down police, tearing down prosecutions – but what are they building in its place? Are they making life easier for businesses by making it easier to steal from them? Are they making it safer for downtown employees to walk to their cars at night because they have eliminated a police shift? Are they making people behave better by not passing laws requiring people to respect the rights of others?
Even longtime liberals like Bill Maher are standing up to the Left to tell them that they have gone completely insane. “My politics haven’t changed… THEY have changed,” he said in his interview with Ben Shapiro. This presents a huge opportunity for Republicans to bring our state back from the brink of insanity by appealing to people who used to vote Democrat – but have suddenly realized they are just too far out on a limb for them to continue earning their support.
Republicans can’t end crime either. One of the big differences is that Democrats live in imaginary Utopias and just decide that because they want something to be true – them deem it as being true. Conservatives are a little more frustrating because we live in the real world. Yes, there are problems with things like mandatory minimums on sentencing guidelines. Yes, there are problems with police misconduct, and yes there are plenty of poorly written laws that criminalize behavior that does not infringe on the rights of other. But Republican realize that we have to hold both reality – and our ideals in tension if we are going to make life better for everyone.
I think this November voters are more willing to see how Republicans handle things differently than they’ve ever been before. It presents our best opportunity yet — let’s make the most of it.