Far Left Sloganeering about Defunding the Police Cost Maya Wiley in the New York Primary

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It's over. Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD captain Eric Adams will be the Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City, and unless a political disaster of gargantuan proportions takes place, will easily defeat Republican Curtis Sliwa in November to become the next mayor of America's largest city.

Though he emerged as an early frontrunner in a crowded field, Adams's win was far from assured when the race began. The race had big names and big personalities, and Adams hardly started the election season as talk of the town. Maya Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and former advisor to Mayor DeBlasio, quickly became an early favorite of progressives. Mainstream progressives saw a rising star in Wiley, who, on top of her civil rights work, built up a reputation as a progressive without having to get on the Bernie Sanders bandwagon in 2016 and 2020.

Wiley had all the makings of an unabashed progressive champion who could make it all the way to the mayor's office in New York City.

Her bid had only two problems: her pronounced support for defunding the police, and the alt-left support that stand helped her get. Ultimately, that handicap proved to be her undoing.

With just three weeks to go for the pivotal race, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, socialist superstar endorsed Wiley, as did Rep. Jamaal Bowman, another alt-leftist who had unseated a Democratic incumbent for his seat in Congress, and Zephyr Teachout, a Bernie Sanders surrogate whom Sanders himself had to repudiate for callously charging his then-rival Joe Biden with corruption.

Although Wiley had received support from a wide spectrum of individuals and organizations, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and NYC's largest labor union, endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez, Bowman, and allied groups like Sanders-allied dark money organization Our Revolution appeared to tack to a particular point of ideological dogmatism among the alt-left: police funding.

At first, the Wiley campaign appeared to have gotten a boost in the polls from these high-profile endorsements, but that boost ended up being little more than a mirage.

A Change Research survey in Mid May had found Adams leading the pack at 19% (for first choice in New York's rank-choice voting system), while Wiley and Kathryn Garcia who, along with Adams, rounded out the top 3 for first-choice when votes were counted, each had the support of 7% of New Yorkers. To listen to the media, Wiley "surged" after the endorsement from big name leftists, but the numbers tell a different story.

Wiley, finishing at 21% in the first choice tally, gained an impressive 14 points between the mid-May poll and the election. But her top two rivals, who did not have the advantage (or perhaps, the burden) of alt-left celebrity support, made nearly equivalent gains. Garcia - who ran as a technocrat and impressively held Adams to a razor-thin margin after all rounds of rank-choice-voting were exhausted, finished the first-choice count with 19% of the vote, or having gained 12 points vis-a-vis the Change Research poll. Adams also gained 12 points, to finish the first-choice round at 31% compared to the May poll's 19%.

In other words, on the net, Wiley gained no statistically significant advantage from the support of far-left figures. 

But the part of her platform that earned her the support of the far left - she was the only top-tier candidate to have explicitly endorsed reducing the NYPD budget - may well have cost her enough votes to have been eliminated in the last round. Wiley's website is the only one of the top three that directly points to a NYPD budget cut. The rise of violent crime, including shootings, made policing and public safety a dominating topic in the mayoral debates, and there too Wiley stood alone among the top tier candidates with her calls to cut the NYPD operating budget by almost 20%.

Adams capitalized quickly on both Wiley's stand on the police budget and the support it earned her from the likes of Ocasio-Cortez.
“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Maya Wiley want to slash the police department budget and shrink the police force at a time when Black and brown babies are being shot in our streets, hate crimes are terrorizing Asian and Jewish communities, and innocent New Yorkers are being stabbed and shot on their way to work,” he said in a statement. “They are putting slogans and politics in front of public safety and would endanger the lives of New Yorkers.”
Politics and public policy is as much a matter of human behavior and emotions as it is of scientific precision. At a time when shootings are almost doubling year-over-year and overall violent crime is rising at a rate of over 20%, you are simply not going to convince people that less police means more safety. BIPOC communities, which are disproportionately victims of violent crimes and hate crimes, are simply not going to be convinced that fewer officers available to respond is somehow a good thing. You can have charts and graphs and academic lectures until you go blue in the mouth. It's just not going to happen. Voters are simply not going to go for the hammer-and-nail approach to defunding the police.

Progressives cannot fail to recognize this simple truth. 

A much better - and more popular - approach is better policing, not less. Better policing can mean removing police from certain situations but also adding officers in others. Both Garcia and Adams opposed defunding the police, and more than that, they both supported increasing the number of cops patrolling subways.

The call to defunding the police is a failure and also a political disaster for the progressive movement. We need to understand this, and quickly.

That's the message New York Democrats delivered in this primary and the one that should be heard loudly and clearly, even over the botched incompetence of the NYC Board of Elections.

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