AMAC Exclusive by: Daniel Roman
Parents and grandparents of young people may have heard them talking recently about one of the summer’s hottest new video game titles, “Bowser’s Fury.” Most Americans of a certain age would recognize the name as a reference to the villain of Nintendo’s Mario franchise, a fire-breathing cartoon turtle whose ultimate goal in life is to kidnap Princess Peach and destroy the Mushroom Kingdom. For the residents of Washington, D.C., however, the phrase “Bowser’s Fury” is apt to conjure a very different image. Fury is an emotion the city’s flailing mayor, Muriel Bowser, has certainly shown in excess over the past year—but now, she doesn’t seem able to muster any when it comes to the crime wave crushing the nation’s capital.
Last summer, Bowser was furious at President Trump for trying to crack down on violent rioters who looted pharmacies and retail outlets across the downtown area under the pretext of Black Lives Matter protests. Bowser was so mad at Trump for threatening to defend her city, in fact, that she renamed the street in front of the White House Black Lives Matter Plaza, painting the words in giant yellow letters across an entire city block outside the President’s window. Then, Bowser was also “disturbed” by the thought of Americans gathering outdoors to view Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall last summer. And she was very upset when President Trump decided to deliver his nomination acceptance speech the White House last August. It seemed that wherever Trump or Republicans tried to go in the nation’s capital, Mayor Bowser was there, breathing fire in the background.
Given the epidemic of crime that is now sweeping the city, DC residents of all races and walks of life would likely prefer if Mayor Bowser would direct some of that fury at criminals, who seem to be the only group not to incite the Mayor’s rage.
In the span of a few weeks, Washington has seen a triple shooting outside of the Nationals baseball stadium in the middle of a game, a six-year-old girl gunned down, a father killed by a stray bullet while returning home with his wife from one of the wealthiest areas of D.C. (Logan Circle), and a gun fight in the middle of an outdoor restaurant in what was, until a year ago, one of the hippest and most up-and-coming parts of the city.
Thankfully, although Bowser’s Fury has been inexplicably absent in addressing the crime wave, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has stepped in with some fury of its own to keep the city from descending into total anarchy. The aforementioned Logan Circle shooting also prompted D.C. Chief of Police Robert Contee to affirm that he was “mad as hell.” Contee, an African American, then pointedly stated that there is a criminal element in the city that doesn’t need “services,” but rather to be removed from the streets (a clear rebuke to the “Defund the Police” ideology of many white Logan Circle residents).
After the Nats Park debacle, the D.C. Police Union issued a tweet declaring “welcome to Washington, D.C. Where violent crime permeates everything,” while also tearing into elected officials “who won’t let us do our jobs.” The Union additionally slammed the D.C. City Council, one of the most liberal in the country, for passing anti-police policies. “This increase in crime can only be attributed to the D.C. Council’s implementation of several police reform bills and their chilling effect on professional and responsible policing,” Union President Gregg Pemberton said in a recent statement, calling on the Council to “stop maligning and disparaging law enforcement through rhetoric and misguided legislation.”
Unfortunately, Washington is not the only city dealing with a crime-wave – or the misguided rage of a deranged mayor. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has similarly been flailing in the face of a surge of shootings that have killed or maimed more than 2,000 people this year alone, putting 2021 on track to be Chicago’s deadliest year in a decade. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is slinking out of office universally reviled after overseeing an uptick in crime that all but erased the achievements of his predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and even the weathervane Michael Bloomberg. New York now faces a return to the days of David Dinkins.
Revealingly, warnings about New York’s crime are coming not just from right-wing talk radio, but also from de Blasio’s likely successor, Democratic nominee for mayor Eric Adams, a former cop. Adams has declared that the city, and presumably its Democratic incumbent mayor and council, “have normalized lawlessness.”
While Adams is the prohibitive favorite to be the next mayor in heavily Democratic NYC, his opponent is even stronger on public safety. Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, an organization of community safety patrols, won the Republican nomination, meaning the BLM/Defund the Police movement will be entirely locked out of the general election ballot – much to the fury of upscale white liberals who voted in droves for anti-police candidates, only to see an unusual coalition of Hispanics, Blacks, white working class voters, and, of all things, Orthodox Jews elect Adams. What Hillary Clinton would have termed “deplorables” of all races, religions, and backgrounds united to agree with Adams that “the prerequisite for prosperity is public safety.”
No such reform-minded prospects have arrived in Washington, D.C. In fact, a Republican has never served as mayor of D.C. since home rule began in 1975. No Republican has even gotten close since 1994, when the nomination of ex-con and drug trafficker Marion Barry allowed Republican Carol Schwartz to win 42% of the vote in the general election. No Republican candidate appeared on the ballot in 2018, with Bowser receiving 76% of the vote and a Green Party candidate another 9%. Unless a more reasonable Democrat comes along who is willing to challenge Bowser’s record of letting her city wither under a barrage of violent crime, it seems likely that Bowser’s misdirected fury will continue for the foreseeable future – much to the chagrin of terrified residents who just want to be able to enjoy a meal outside.
Other Democrats, however, cannot be so complacent. Joe Biden may joke with Tom Brady about challenges to the 2020 results, but Biden clearly was shaken by the closeness of the official numbers. In particular, Biden pollsters would be right to view with concern how Donald Trump made up for declines among more “woke” white voters with the best performance for a Republican in decades among African Americans and Hispanics, despite an intense BLM campaign designed to portray Trump as racist. Biden knows where the weak point in the Democratic coalition lies. The Democratic Party lost working class white voters over exactly the sort of quality-of-life issues such as policing long ago, and he seems to understand the risk of losing Hispanics and African American voters of a similar background the same way.
Whether Biden can do anything about rising crime in the face of a formidable woke lobbying machine in his party is another question entirely. Vice President Harris and her husband both held events in Chicago to promote vaccinations, but never addressed crime. Biden seems to alternate between denying the crime wave exists and shifting the blame from a crime problem to a gun problem, thereby justifying more gun control. That may keep him out of trouble with the far left, but it is not going to satisfy parents terrified of attending a baseball game or even dining in a restaurant in a leafy community.
For D.C. residents, they are for now likely to be stuck staring at the new Mario title they bought for their kids, wishing they could trade their Mayor Bowser for a formidable warrior who would not tolerate the destruction of their city. Even if a princess might go missing from time to time.
Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.