What’s the proper response to Tiffany Caban’s apparent upset victory for Queens district attorney? Is it oy vey, a Jewish expression of surprise with a touch of woe? Or is it congratulations? Maybe both.
Yes, the 31-year-old public defender who never prosecuted a case appears to have pulled off a victory that has national repercussions.
First, she beat the state’s political bosses, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Queens County Democratic chairman and Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose candidate wasQueens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Second, her apparent win adds to the star power of freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose early endorsement of Caban was crucial to her success.
Third, her victory affirms the influence of a millennial class that seeks not just to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 but to offer radical solutions to a racially polarized criminal justice system.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, her victory will push the Democratic Party farther to the left, with an emphasis less on beating Trump than in introducing radical ideas.
And make no mistake, Caban’s ideas are radical. She wants to alter the perception of criminal justice as a punitive system. Rather, she wants to turn the DA’s office into a kind of social service agency.
She has said she would no longer prosecute such low-level offenses as some marijuana cases, fare evasion, trespassing, disorderly conduct and prostitution. She wants to eliminate cash bail. She also has stated she would withdraw from the District Attorneys Association of New York, which she says has “regressive, racist and classist ‘tough on crime’ mentalities.”
“She wants to change the youth culture of blacks and Hispanics so that peace and nonviolence are positive alternatives,” says a retired NYPD cop, who didn’t want to be identified to speak candidly about an election.
The question is, how will it all turn out? Will decriminalizing prostitution create an army of pimps and worse in Queens neighborhoods? Will those charged with felony crimes be released without bail and commit more crimes?
But that is down the road. More immediate and perilous to Democrats, will Caban’s success and the party’s leftward tilt allow an opening for Trump? If that’s the case, Democrats might be crying, Oy vey.