John Fetterman is “dangerously liberal on crime,” intones a menacing male voice over a montage of police lights, guns and crime scene tape. A deadly serious female narrator cuts right to the chase: “Violent crime surging…John Fetterman’s answer? Let criminals out of prison.” “John Fetterman wants to free murderers,” has a “soft-on-crime agenda” even as “violent crime” is “plaguing the state of Pennsylvania,” and by the way, on crime? Fetterman is “crazier than you think,” and not only that — he wants to defund the police, and has worked to “undermine” them at “every level.”
In the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Pat Toomey, the alleged crime epidemic consuming America was, if not the top issue for Dr. Oz, second only to Fetterman’s stroke. And we can now confidently say: It didn’t work. Not only did Fetterman win by a comfortable five-plus point margin, he dominated, running ahead of Biden’s 2020 results in every single county. You know those New York Times maps with the red and blue arrows showing partisan voting trends since the last election? Pennsylvania’s looks like a lovely garden of hydrangeas reaching toward the sun.
Dr. Oz, of course, comes across as a guy who looks down on people who wipe their own asses, so maybe this race isn’t the one to use as a stand-in for the 2022 elections writ large. Except that across the United States, the story was the same. Republicans played up fears of rising crime at every turn, mainstream media outlets declared crime a major Democratic weakness and pollsters warned that crime could be the determining issue of 2022. And yet, in an environment where Democrats contended with not only claims that they wanted to let serial killers camp out in your kids’ treehouse, but also were saddled with an unpopular president, a crappy economy and the general continued degradation of American life…they basically won.
Adams, working closely with reactionary local media outlets, engineered a crime panic out of whole cloth.
As of this writing, Democrats will at least hold the Senate, and might expand their majority, and Republicans will likely wind up with a margin in the House of four seats or less, a tremendous letdown from the “red wave” we were promised. From deep in the heart of Texas to the rural Maine hinterlands, in Arizona, California, Washington, throughout the South, Democrats flipped Republican seats or held on to seats previously deemed the GOP’s to lose. The crime propaganda, the relentless lies about defunding police and a murder epidemic, fell flat. As Jerry Ianelli and Nick Wing noted in The Appeal, just 11% of voters called crime their top issue in exit polls, and high-profile criminal justice reformers notched big wins in mightily fought contests.
But there was one fly in the Democrats’ punchbowl, one odd man out, one raisin in the chocolate chip cookie: New York. Our state now has the distinction of joining Florida and Iowa as places where the red wave did materialize and is the only blue state where Democrats suffered significant losses. Yes, incumbent Kathy Hochul held on to the governor’s seat, but by only a slightly larger margin than Fetterman enjoyed in a swing state, and her Trump-backed opponent Lee Zeldin boasted the best performance by a New York Republican since Pataki. Far from a beautiful hydrangea garden, our Times map looks like someone stuck bloody severed limbs in every New York County from Kings to Franklin.
The damage was worst on Long Island, where all four Congressional districts went red, including two previously held by Democrats. Further upstate, Sean Patrick Maloney engineered his own destruction by forcing a Black progressive out of the race after the redistricting fiasco, then lost. Meanwhile in Hudson Valley, the newly redrawn 19th District — rated as a toss-up by most pundits — also fell to the GOP after being held by a Democrat, and it looks like Republicans will also hold the highly competitive 22nd District in the Syracuse area. Let’s not even speak of fascist fearmonger Nicole Malliotakis, who wiped the floor with Max Rose on Staten Island. In sum, it looks like Republicans used New York to increase their House margin by at least four seats.
A guy on Twitter told me his daughter is scared to leave her Williamsburg (lol) apartment in the daytime.
And it wasn’t just the House. New York Democrats said goodbye to two New York Assembly seats in Brooklyn, in the Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach areas, places where Zeldin ran strong, and Republicans are also poised to increase their State Senate caucus by two.
So what happened? Why did New York buck the national trend and become a rare bright spot for Republicans this election?
Two words: Eric Adams.
I’ve written before about how Adams, working closely with reactionary local media outlets, engineered a crime panic out of whole cloth. Chances are, if you lived in a New York media market, you heard our Mayor shrieking that crime in New York City had never been worse, that disorder ruled the streets and the nightly subway ride now resembled a walk to the gallows.
All of this — all of it — was a lie manufactured by Adams and his allies for political gain and amplified by cynical media chasing clicks and ratings. But it worked. In polls, New Yorkers ranked crime as a far more important issue than other voters did. To quote Politico: “It failed to animate voters in places like Pennsylvania and California, but crime proved a winning strategy in New York — where the city media market’s massive reach means Gotham’s crime is the state’s crime.”
Republicans took notice. Lee Zeldin effused praise for the mayor, declaring he couldn’t wait to work with Adams on crime issues and running an ad highlighting Adams’ attacks on Hochul over bail reform. State Senate GOP leader Rob Ortt called Adams an ally, and Fox News highlighted Adams’ hysterical press conferences on New York’s ostensible violent descent.
As a result, Republicans cleaned house here, even as they flopped in red and purple states where crime rates are far higher than New York’s.
None of this is controversial or a reach — this is the data. As local Dem operative Dana Houle noted, any Democrat unfortunate enough to be in New York City’s media market (which includes New Jersey and Westchester) did worse than Biden did in 2020, while Democrats outside of it did better. If you were unfortunate enough to see Adams on the local news, ducking under the yellow tape at whatever crime scene he could find and rambling on about New York’s return to the “bad old days,” you were more likely to vote Republican. Like a tick bite, Adams is the bright red center from which further ruby rings emanated. And New York’s oddball status hasn’t gone unnoticed in the upper echelons of the Democratic party — even Nancy Pelosi is annoyed that New York appears to have given Republicans the edge in the House.
Adams previously self-described himself as a “conservative Republican,” only to become a Democrat when he wanted to run for office.
I’m from Long Island. Growing up there, trips to the “the city” were common. By the time I was 13, my parents would allow me to go to Manhattan alone on the LIRR. When I left for NYU in 2002, nobody warned me to stay safe or batted an eye when they heard where I lived. New York City was still the “miracle,” the place that turned it all around, the safest big city in the United States and one of the safest in the world.
Crime rates are lower now than they were back then. And yet, on Long Island, the discourse about the city has changed. Now people tell me they would “never set foot” here, that they heard from a friend of a neighbor of a cousin that the homeless march down the streets like a zombie army, that riding the subway is the same as signing a death warrant. A guy on Twitter told me his daughter is scared to leave her Williamsburg (lol) apartment in the daytime. There is none of the affection there once was. There is only fear.
This is what Eric Adams has done.
As usual, Adams is in a tailspin, one day defending his crime propaganda and the next blaming the media for creating a “perception” of rising crime. He’s been on this kick for a while, unsure whether to blame the media, who he hates, or keep adding bricks to the fear factory that got him elected. In his rush to find somebody else to blame for the chaos he caused, he — and irredeemable scumbag Jay Jacobs, New York Democratic party chair — have latched onto progressives, of course, even though any honest accounting of this election would credit the Working Families Party for staunching the bleeding caused by Adams’ near-fatal jabs.
Can we now, after this embarrassing mess, speak honestly about Eric Adams? Is it finally time to admit what progressives have been yelling for over a year — that Adams is a toxic, unstable, reactionary force who will drag down anyone foolish enough to enter his orbit? Moderates might be sympathetic to Adams’ politics — but is continuing to legitimize him worth the damage he has done to the party? For all his drama, his partying, his talk of buried crystals and energy and starfucking… Can we finally cut Eric Adams loose?
Adams — who previously self-described “conservative Republican,” only to become a Democrat when he wanted to run for office — has now achieved what he so desperately desires. He is a national figure, a kingmaker, a man who has almost singlehandedly determined which party governs the House of Representatives for the next two years. The only problem is, he handed it to the Republicans.