Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. That seems to be the message from the Republican party in advance of next week’s elections. Their sometimes overtly racist ads portray Republicans as tough on crime, and Democrats soft on crime. That has certainly been the case in the race between Senator Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes, and it seems to be working, according to the polls. Johnson’s ads suggest Barnes is no friend of the police and that crime is rampant. Indeed, violent crime did soar during the pandemic, but has since leveled off. What does it mean exactly to be tough on crime? That they don’t say. It certainly means more than saying you back the badge. Republican candidates point to the revolving door of criminals, but it is the judicial branch, not the executive branch that determines when a prisoner is set free. They have tried to suggest Governor Evers is part of the problem behind rising crime because his Parole Board releases prisoners, but the Parole Board is an independent agency. In Wisconsin, Republicans who control the Legislature won’t even meet to discuss gun control, as if there is no connection between guns and violence. Of the ten states with the highest homicide rates, eight are in deep-red states where gun controls are lax. Before we believe candidates who tell us they are tough on crime, we need to ask them just what that even means.