Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has made no secret of the fact that he’s interested in getting his old job back. He’s been on the campaign trail for a while now, making his pitch for another term in the big chair. But on Thursday night, during a debate with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, McCauliffe performed an about-face maneuver on an issue that may still be very near and dear to the hearts of some of his liberal base. He told the audience that, if elected, he wouldn’t be in favor of eliminating qualified immunity for police officers. This statement stands in direct conflict with promises that he had previously made during the primaries. So where did this sudden change of heart come from and will it wind up coming back to bite him in the general election? (Free Beacon)
Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe told voters Thursday night that he would not repeal qualified immunity. In April, McAuliffe pledged to “end” the policy.
During a Thursday night debate against his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe said that he “would not end” qualified immunity, a legal shield that protects police from most lawsuits while they’re on the job. The statement is a reversal from McAuliffe’s position during the Democratic primary, when his campaign said he would end qualified immunity as part of his plan to “increase police accountability.”
As the Free Beacon points out, back during the primary, McAuliffe stated his support for ending qualified immunity for police officers multiple times. One of his spokespeople explicitly stated the candidate’s support for such a move in April. The following month, McAuliffe said it himself during a primary debate.
This just seems like a risky move for McAuliffe no matter which way he goes from here. When he was only seeking the support of his own party during the primary he was more than happy to mouth the words of the defund the police movement. But now that he’s in a state-wide race, he’s reversing course. That won’t exactly bolster his support among his base since he’s shown that doesn’t feel he has to be consistent. At the same time, any persuadable moderates out there have no reason to believe that he’s willing to support the police since he’s on the record saying the exact opposite thing only months earlier.
This may have been a calculated move on the part of his advisors, however. While some types of crime were down slightly over the past two years, shootings and homicides rose significantly in Virginia. There were nearly 25% more murders in the state in 2020 than in the previous year. It’s the highest rate seen in two decades. These increases were notably prevalent in the more populous, northern part of the state where much of McCauliffe’s base is found. The trend follows a pattern we’ve been seeing in cities across the country.
People who are nervous or frightened by these rising crime rates are not going to be enthusiastic about politicians who talk about defunding or abolishing the police. While it hasn’t been quite as bad in Virginia as in other areas, police officers have been resigning at an 18% higher rate than in previous years and early retirements are up by 45%. Coming out and taking a stand against the police under these circumstances doesn’t sound like a formula for success in November.
Voters are a lot less interested in hearing about “police accountability” than they are in seeing more gang bangers behind bars. I’m guessing that McAuliffe has been in this game long enough to realize that. But his opponent isn’t about to let the public forget about his previous promises.