Of course, Kennedy isn’t stupid—although he tries to sound as if he is. He knows perfectly well that the term “crackhead,” which came to use during the 1980s crack epidemic and the early War on Drugs, led to the incarceration and vilification of millions of Black Americans, as The Associated Press reported.
According to Salon, during an interview on Fox News, Kennedy ticked off a list of ways to decrease crime in his state. He called for more cops on the streets, higher salaries in our “woke environment,” better support by “woke” leaders for law enforcement, and for citizens to “avail themselves of the Second Amendment” and arm themselves.
As for adding more police, Kennedy is all in. The number of cops under New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is under 1,000, but it has never been double that—the number Kennedy called for in his Fox interview.
Kennedy’s ad is something straight out of the Republican playbook used most famously by President George H. W. Bush. When Bush campaigned in 1988, an ad he ran against his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis meant to convey Dukakis as soft on crime featured convicted murderer Willie Horton.
Bush alleged Dukakis was a politician who supported furloughs for prisoners or weekend pass allowances—specifically, the kind of pass that allowed Horton to kidnap a couple, then stab the man and rape his girlfriend. The ad set the tone for the “tough on crime” era, per The Takeaway.
As the midterm elections fast approach, it isn’t just Kennedy who went out to blow the whistle. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has pulled out all the stops. Running against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Black Democrat, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Johnson ran an ad calling Barnes “different” and “dangerous” and sent out a mailer with a deeply more chocolate-looking Barnes, just to make sure voters got the point.
The Inquirer additionally reports that the GOP has additionally jumped in on the Pennsylvania race, implying that John Fetterman’s tattoos, which mark his time as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, as possibly gang-affiliated.
As for the reality of crime in Louisiana, locals in New Orleans claimed the police force has failed to step up. One example took place in late July, when a woman made a call to New Orleans Police as she witnessed a rape in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
The Washington Post reports that a woman called 911 and explained that she was seeing a young woman being raped on the street. A New Orleans deputy constable was suspended in August for lack of his lack of response. But the woman alleged that she saw two more New Orleans Police officers drive past the scene, and both failed to assist her.
Silas Lee, a Democratic pollster in New Orleans, told NOLA.com that Kennedy “wants people to think he can be the person they can count on to ensure public safety,” but when it comes to maligning the “defund the police” movement, Kennedy fails to understand its meaning entirely.
“It actually means funding alternative services such as mental health programs or job training that will reduce crime. […] The research I’ve done nationwide shows that whites and Blacks support funding the police but want alternative sources.”
In a statement sent to NOLA.com from Luke Mixon, one of Kennedy’s Democratic rivals, he says, “We have to address violent crime. […] We do that by funding our police departments. Sen. Kennedy voted against $350 billion in funding for local police departments. To paraphrase Sen. Kennedy, watch what people do, not just their embarrassing one-liners.”
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.