If you’ve been following the national debate about crime during this midterm election year, you’ve probably read one of the Democrats’ main efforts to deny responsibility for surging numbers of murders and other violent lawlessness in particular, and indeed to pin the blame on Republicans. That’s the finding that the vast majority of states in which the murder problem is worst have long been dominated politically by the GOP.
Trouble is, it’s a claim that’s as false as it’s easily demolished – for the simple reason that most U.S. states are pretty big and, above all, diverse political units, and that crime rates can vary dramatically among them. And that’s precisely what was accidentally overlooked or politically ignored by researchers at Third Way, “a national think tank that champions modern center-left ideas” along with the Democrats’ defenders throughout the Mainstream Media (see, e.g., here and here).
Specifically, when authors Kylie Murdock and Jim Kessler argued that “8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century,” what they didn’t mention is that in most of these states, the numbers are high mainly because of pervasive violence in cities with Democratic mayors.
For 2020, the year emphasized in the Third Way report, that case doesn’t hold for South Carolina, and it’s weak for Arkansas (although interestingly, Democratic-led Little Rock, the state’s capital and biggest city, accounted for 18.18 percent of Arkansas’ murders despite containing only 6.57 of its inhabitants). And there’s not enough detailed data for Alabama to make judgements either way. But according to the official data I’ve combed through from the U.S. Census (for population), the FBI (for numbers of state murders), and various state governments (for numbers of city murders), it emphatically does hold for:
>Mississippi. It sits atop Third Way’s list of murder leaders, but would surely be much further down if not for Jackson. Despite containing only 5.49 percent of Mississippi’s population in 2020, its Democratic-led capital city accounted for 61.32 percent of its murders.
>Louisana. The Bayou State is second on Third Way’s list, but murders in Democratic-run New Orleans represented 28.98 percent of its 2020 murders, even though the Crescent City’s population was only 6.73 percent of the 2020 state total. Moreover, Louisiana’s second-biggest city, state capital Baton Rouge, is also headed by a Democratic mayor, and suffered 14.35 percent of the state’s 2020 murders, despite accounting for just 4.76 percent of all Louisianans.
All told, these 43.33 percent of Louisiana’s murders in 2020 took place in these two Democratic cities, which only accounted for 11.50 percent of the state’s population.
>Kentucky. Ranking third on Third Way’s list, the Bluegrass State’s murder totals have obviously been boosted by Democratic Louisville. The city was home to 13.87 percent of Kentucky-ans in 2020, yet was responsible for 55.99 percent of its murders that year.
>Missouri. The fourth state on Third Way’s list is another state whose murder totals have been distorted by two Democratc-led cities. St. Louis and Kansas City combined represented 11.82 percent of all Missourians in 2020, but 58.73 percent of the state’s murders that year took place within their limits.
>Tennessee. The Volunteer State, tenth on Third Way’s list, also contains two Democratic-run cities with outsized murder totals. Memphis and Nashville held 20.05 percent of the state’s population in 2020, but were the sites of 60.48 percent of their murders that year.
It’s true that big city totals also account for disproportionate shares of murders in many Democratic-run states. For example, in 2020, New York City contained 42.95 percent of all New York State’s 2020 residents. But the City experienced 57.82 percent of the state’s murders that year. (The gap widens further when you add in Democratic-led Buffalo, the state’s second largest city.)
More extreme is the situation in Illinois, where in 2020 Chicago was home to 21.22 percent of the Illinois-ans, but was the scene of 74.78 percent of the state’s murders.
But the obvious conclusion here isn’t the one drawn by Third Way – that Republican states have at least as big a violent crime problem as Democratic states. The obvious conclusion is that the nation’s crime problem is heavily concentrated in big cities, which are run by Democrats whether they’re in Red states or Blue states.
With the midterm elections just a few weeks away, the good news here is that voters seem to understand this reality, as they’ve consistently been giving Republicans higher marks on handling the crime issue than Democrats (see, e.g., here and here for two recent examples). Can Democrats turn this situation around? Time of course is running short. But their chances will be especially dim if they keep trying to blame-shift rather than offering credible solutions to violent crime.