The President has become fond of repeating the phrase “Law and order!” He says it during his appearances before the press, he issues it via Twitter, and he voiced it during the RNC. It is a key rationale presented for his re-election: he is the President who supports law and order.
There’s only one problem with it… it’s not true. And, while most of his critics point to his repeated alleged violations of the law to demonstrate that untruth, they’re missing the point. The notion that a serial lawbreaker can be relied upon to protect the law is ludicrous, but in the eyes of many of his supporters he has broken either no laws or (when they’re presented incontrovertible evidence) very few of them. The vast majority of his crimes are allegations, and his fans are used to casting shade at political opponents. There is an assumption the same is happening now, fueled by Democrats and the Deep State. A presumption of innocence on the part of Trump and his family allows Trump to perpetrate his con game on many Republicans.
Another angle is often missed, and it is one which may be useful in shaking free the minds of some who have invested less of their self-image in the success of Donald Trump. It is the simple fact that law and order is already working.
The President frames his argument as a lack of violence at protests, as part of a message of a return to a 1950s, Leave it to Beaver-esque culture. The problem is that, while that might represent order of a sort, it doesn’t represent the law. It represents oppression.
The law isn’t people acting within the confines of societal expectations; if everyone did so, law would be unnecessary. Law is a set of enforced boundaries on those expectations.
The law isn’t people protesting without throwing firebombs; the law is arresting those who do. In this way, the law is being followed in places around the country, even in areas where riots have consistently broken out.
The law has, absolutely, broken down on multiple occasions. Often, over the first few days of rioting, officers are overwhelmed and cannot – or will not – arrest the malefactors. In other instances, officers overstep their authority and commit crimes against citizens who they are supposed to protect.
Both of these are a failure of law. Both should be addressed. Each has a simple response.
On the first part, local police departments, when faced with riots, should have available emergency forces who have been properly trained and deputized for work in that area. This may take the form of police temporarily brought in from other localities or experienced citizens who have completed full police training and any supplemental courses needed to keep their skills and screening relevant… not scrounged-together and untrained militias, and not “nobody, you’re on your own.”
On the second part, review must be fast and transparent when abuses are alleged. Recognizing that there are many false and unproven allegations, those should be presented regularly to the public. When abuses are found, they need to be addressed harshly and immediately. With this combination, a measure of public trust can be restored among those who have lost it – seeing a large quantity of false accusations will forge an understanding in many of the difficulties faced by law enforcement, while seeing punishment meted out for violations will create faith that the organizations have minimized corruption.
These are simple solutions to known problems. But for the most part, law and order still exists, and it exists overwhelmingly even amidst the protests… which is why, when firebombs were recently used in Portland, there were more than fifty arrests after a riot was declared and people refused to leave. That was an indication of the system working. The only failure on display in Portland was the President’s inability to understand the meaning of his own simple message.