My guess is that the decrease in concern about crime has coincided with the GOP’s falling fortunes. If you think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is pretty fundamental (right after physiological needs.) But once the need for safety is met, you can begin worrying about other issues, such as self-actualization. To put it in modern political terms, gay marriage isn’t much of a concern to the straight guy who just wants to avoid being mugged on his way home.
Could the GOP be a victim of its own success? Sometimes winning a battle harms the victor by eliminating his raison d’être. Robert Heinlein’s maxim that civilizations get the morality they can afford may also apply to leniency toward criminals. It may be that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. The British people turned out Churchill after World War II, after all. Who needs tough law and order Republicans when the crime rate is down?
There is a political reordering going on right now, and as the GOP struggles to find its brand identity, the party will inevitably change and respond to market demands. It has always been a little interesting to me that the”anti-government” party was also the law and order party. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but they also aren’t natural allies.