Police in Chicago say there were fewer murders in the Second City last year than in any year since 1965, and there were 30 percent fewer shooting victims than in 2012. There were probably fewer gun-related deaths than there were right-wing rants about how Chicago is hell on earth because of liberalism and gun control.
Conservatives have long heaped ire on Chicago. Sure, it's America's centrally located lifeblood-pumping muscle, arguably more of a gateway between eastern and western ways of life than St. Louis, more in touch with the "Heartland" than any other metropolis of its size. But to much of America, Chicago is like the twin tumors of New York and San Francisco, only more malignant: the liberal union-thug-machine and ethnic heterotopia that forced a South Side law professor named Barack Obama down America's throats and now is run by nine-fingered Democratic gangster Rahm Emanuel. It's also, as one right wing pundit put it, "the proving ground for gun-grabbers' anti-2nd Amendment zeal."
A search of "Chicago" on Breitbart.com yields 12,400 results like these: "Obama's Gun Control Not Working Out in Chicago"; "440+ School Age Children Shot in Gun-Controlled Chicago"; "Threat of Executive Order on Guns: Chicago Thuggery"; "Murder in Chicago: Obama, Emanuel Target Guns, Not Crime"; "Al Sharpton's Chicago Town Hall Erupts into Revolt." (Because, you see, it's important that you know there are black people in Chicago, and they get angry.)
"I would like to know where the absence of outrage is from the left: many Sandy Hooks take place every month in Chicago, the progressive model for gun control," right-wing shock-jock Dana Loesch complained. "If gun control worked, Chicago would be Mayberry!" shouted a conservative activist in an August video that went moderately viral on Hot Air and Fox Nation and the National Review (which also has obsessed about "Chicago, Guns, and Obama"). And so on with the Blaze, Glenn Beck's internet fever swamp, and Red State, and the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. And, of course, Drudge's beloved "CHICAGOLAND".
Chicago—the multiculti, left-leaning metropolis that's long been branded as ground zero for gun control, is a festering live-action Bruegel painting of poverty, entitlement and crime: The repeated, fervent utterance of this thesis is now a perquisite to obtaining your American Conservative Deputy badge and shiny dog whistle.
Chicago has a crime problem. Dense urban polities generally do. And dense urban polities generally do lean blue, politically speaking. This, to the right wing of the right wing, is a self-contained syllogistic proof: Democrats and lefty policies cause crime problems. Yes, it's logically fallacious. But when you can scare whitey with anecdotes and statistics—500 murders!—logic seems quaint. Bludgeons are easier to wield than scalpels.
The problem is that the statistics aren't a compelling bludgeon. Even at the height of the gun-murder hysteria about Chicago at the end of 2012, FBI stats showed the city actually had a lower per-capita murder rate than 12 other cities, among them Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Cleveland, Kansas City, and St. Louis—denizens of red or purple states, none of which are renowned for gun-banning.
And then there was 2013. Chicago saw 415 murders, according to the city's police department. That's 88 fewer than in the previous year. That's fewer than there have been since L.B.J. was president and Malcolm X got shot. That's a far cry from the recent high points in the city's kill tally, the early '90s and the post-9/11 recessions, as this ThinkProgress chart shows:
What changed? Better policing, probably. A better economy. And the pushing of violent crime outside of Chicago's borders, to depressed neighboring towns like Gary—where homicides jumped nearly 30 percent in 2013, and where many of Chicago's illicit guns come from.
But no conservatives are jumping up and down about Gary, perhaps because it's in Indiana, a red state where everybody and their kissing cousin can get a permit to carry handguns around. Perhaps because we haven't been trained to think of Indiana as a dense, buzzing, minority-filled progressive locale.
This, at the end, is what Chicago-shaming is about. Not statistics, and certainly not the fates of mostly-minority victims who undergird those numbers. It is not about hating what Chicago does, or what it actually is, but what it stands for in the minds of smarmy pundits who, if they've been there, never set foot outside Wrigley Field or the Loop. It is about Hussein Obama and Rahm and Sharpton and unions. It is a racially charged, bile-induced pearl of fiction wrapped around a solitary, ancient grit of fact.
The conservative wisdom on Chicago is the wisdom of an old redneck with a gun, a temper, and no capacity for contemplation or empathy. And like an old redneck, eventually, it will die a natural death, or shoot itself in the face cleaning its guns.