Tiffany Cabán: Oy Veh? Or Congratulations?

July 1, 2019

What is NYPD Confidential's response to Tiffany Cabán’s tsunami-like victory for Queens District Attorney? Is it “Oy veh,” a Jewish sigh of surprise and woe? Or is it congratulations? Maybe both.

Yes, the 31-year-old “Queer Latina,” as she calls herself, has done it. The Legal Aide attorney who never prosecuted a case appears to have pulled off a victory with national repercussions.

First, she beat the state’s political bosses, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Queens County Democratic chairman and U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, whose candidate, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, also never prosecuted a case.

Second, her victory adds to the star power of freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose early endorsement of Cabán was crucial to her success.

Third, her victory — albeit with a low voter turnout of only 10 per cent in a borough of 2.3 million people — will tilt the Democratic leadership further leftward.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Cabán’s victory affirms the influence of a millennial class that seeks not merely to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 but to offer radical solutions, beginning with our racially polarized criminal justice system.

And, make no mistake, Cabán’s ideas are radical. One of her goals is to alter the perception of criminal justice as a punitive system and turn the district attorney’s office into a kind of social service agency.

She has stated that she would no longer prosecute turnstyle jumping, trespassing, disorderly conduct, drug possession, welfare fraud and prostitution. She supports the elimination of cash bail. She has also stated she would withdraw from the District Attorneys Association of New York, whose members she says have “regressive, racist and classist ‘tough on crime’ mentalities.”

Says a retired NYPD cop who has worked with her, “She wants to change the youth culture of blacks and Hispanics so that peace and non-violence are positive alternatives. The media has created a narrative of animals, wilding, packs of roving killers. But there are people who are doing other things. That’s who the Tiffany Cabáns of the world reach out to and identify with.”

Then there is the New York Times, the embodiment of the political mainstream but now listing leftward. The paper endorsed Cabán, its rationale explained in a signed op-ed by Mara Gay, who appears to be the editorial page’s go-to person on the criminal justice front.

Acknowledging the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, Gay attributes the millennials’ “political consciousness” to “the consequences of the brutal reaction to that era: decades of over-policing that criminalized blacks and Latinos.”

She and her millennials didn’t live through that crack era when 2,000 annual homicides were commonplace; when scenes of black teenagers smashing store windows in midtown Manhattan were not uncommon; when a distracted mayor and an absent police commissioner allowed a riot in Crown Heights to continue for three days, leading to the fatal stabbing of a Jew by a black mob.

That’s when Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton appeared with their “broken widows” and “zero tolerance” policies that most New Yorkers felt was necessary to stop the violence.

Police being police, the NYPD then went overboard to keep crime low. During the 12 years of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s rule, police stopped/ frisked/ questioned up to four million young blacks and Hispanics, 98 per cent of whom had committed no crime. Ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, Stop and Frisk, as it was known, was cut back, and guess what? Crime continued to fall.

Now with the city experiencing its lowest crime rates since the 1950s, those harsh police policies are disparaged as having decimated black and Hispanic families by sending hundreds of thousands of young black and Hispanic males to prison for minor crimes.

The question is, how will it all turn out? Will decriminalizing prostitution create an army of pimps and worse in Queens neighborhoods? Will violent felons released with no bail commit more violent crimes?

A society faced with anarchy or repression will always choose repression. But that is down the road. Closer to home, will Cabán’s victory and the Democratic party’s leftward tilt allow an opening for the re-election of Donald Trump?

If that occurs, Democrats will be sighing, “Oy veh.”