THIS IS AN US PROBLEM

It is human nature for groups of people to see themselves as right and other groups as wrong. This is especially true when the groups are defined in opposition to each other, as with political parties. Republicans are bad, Democrats are good.

When it comes to the problems with policing in this country, Democrats seem fundamentally unable to conceive of themselves as a big part of the problem. At best there is an argument about the Republicans being worse – which is true, and is almost universally true – that is used to deflect criticism. It is necessary to face up to the reality that many of the places with the worst problems with police violence are, and have been, controlled by Democrats at the local level for a long time. If you look at protesters and don't understand why they burn property rather than channel their anger into voting, the very obvious answer is that there is no imaginary future in which voting for Joe Biden and whoever they just elected Mayor will actually solve the problem. Republicans offer pure authoritarianism – they actively *encourage* police to be brutal – while Democrats have done nothing to stop them, or in many cases abetted them.

In my lifetime Chicago has elected one Democratic mayor after another, backed by a lockstep Democratic county board and city council and a veto-proof Democratic state legislature in many cases. All that has happened with the Chicago PD is that it has gotten worse. Much the same can be said for Minneapolis, St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles, and other places with notoriously bad police departments.

For decades Democrats have offered solutions that simply do not work. Training sessions that are ignored. Rules and regulations that are not followed. Oversight boards that do little more than rubber-stamp police. Always something technocratic, always something that sounds like a waste of time and money the moment it hits people's ears. People have been getting Oversight Boards and Investigations and Committees for as long as anyone can remember, and it has done nothing. With regularity, another person's name becomes a hashtag and a horrible video.

So when you watch senseless rioting and think "Well VOTE, silly!" is an answer, consider what the ostensibly liberal party has achieved on this issue and imagine how hollow that has to sound to the people most directly affected by police brutality. Ferguson and Freddy Gray happened under Barack Obama and Eric Holder. So did the rapid, expensive militarization of American police. Obama called looters "thugs" too. Democratic mayors around the country today are smart enough not to say that, but their criticisms lean far more heavily on protesters than on police. The truth is they are terrified of their own police forces, and they are terrified of the most reliable voters – old white people – who adore law enforcement to an extent that is pathological.

No one, from Joe Biden to the Senate to the local mayor, is coming out and saying the obvious here: the problem is that American police are totally out of control, operating under their own rules and effectively independently of any meaningful control. The courts coddle them. Prosecutors coddle them. The public coddles them. Legislatures coddle them. Local politicans coddle them. Democrats are not The Good Guys here, and it is idiotic to expect voters to flock to Joe Biden, a lifelong proponent of tougher policing and tougher criminal justice, in response to these events. No one has been The Good Guys. That is the problem. The party that is supposed to care about police brutality has gone all-in on the kinds of Management tactics that look like action but accomplish nothing (town hall meetings, "community engagement", training, fake "oversight") and even now, that seems to be the extent of what they can offer.

This problem is too big and too serious to fix with some spackle and paint. Nothing is left but to defund law enforcement until they begin to rein in their excesses, to end practices like qualified immunity that let them act with impunity. If defunding them does not work, these departments must be disbanded and rebuilt from the ground up. It has been done. It can be done. What's totally absent is the will to do it.

If the best Joe Biden can do is tell people he wants to set up an oversight board and to train police to shoot people in the leg rather than in the heart, you cannot continue to be surprised that Democrats fail to get people to come out for them on election day. The thing about politics that they seem to have forgotten is that you don't get people to vote for you by screaming at them that they have to, especially when you have promised them things again and again that you have not delivered. You have to offer them something that is appealing to them and then actually deliver on the promise.

Forming a committee or "having a conversation" is what your boss does when he wants the employees to feel like problems are being addressed while nothing actually changes. Four decades is plenty of time for everyone to figure out that nothing that goes into the Suggestion Box or is said at Town Hall Meetings is actually taken seriously.

Democrats have exhausted the number of times they can tell people, vote for us now and we will deliver for you later. Deliver, and cynical non-voters will come back. And most of all, stop framing police violence as an issue where We are good and virtuous while the GOP is evil. The second half of that statement is true, but if you believe the first is then your mindset is part of the problem.

15 thoughts on “THIS IS AN US PROBLEM”

  • The retread “solutions” of the past are each worthy of implementation in their own way. That said, none of them directly address the flatulent elephant in the room: widespread systemic, structural racism in the police departments of American cities.

    It’s not nearly enough that almost every major American city already has an African-American police chief, and that many already have majority of-color police forces, in addition to many African-American mayors, and majority of-color city governance.

    Next? At the very least in all African-American neighborhoods, and then in American cities as a whole, the entire police force should be comprised of African-Americans. Non-blacks can be bought out and waited out, with all new hires in policy compliance.

    Constitutional objections are surmountable, with good and decent and sophisticated Americans in support. Affirmative action in higher education and government and Oscar nominations still predominates, and the unique and dire circumstances now attending race and policing arguably establish a compelling state interest to discriminate on the basis of race which should pass muster even under strict-scrutiny judicial review.

    The past cases our Ed specifically cites demonstrate the need for a new paradigm, one which transcends the facts in order to arrive at the equity-informed truth. Does it matter that all the Freddie Gray cops were acquitted? No. That the Obama (Social) Justice Department was forced to admit that “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” was a toxic fable, and that Officer Wilson was but one of Michael Brown’s crime victims that day? Of course not.

    Credentialed victim-group spokespersons, like Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity, simply know systemic racism when they see it, and that’s so whether or not there is actual evidence to the untrained eye that George Floyd was the victim not just of criminal police brutality, but britaluty animated by racial animus as well. The ravening mob—in this instance—is wise and good. The paradigm shift is all-black police forces in America.

  • Not to nitpick, Ed, but twenty of the thirty years I've lived in New York City has been under Republican rule, eight under an insane fascist and twelve under a marginally interested autocrat.

    As much as I am in favor of unions, the bigger problem here is the PBA. Pat Lynch (sort of an irony in the name) is the single most evil man in New York, and probably one of the ten most in the country. And yet the cops keep reelecting him.

  • Sad and true. Thank you for stating it so clearly. Inky Stinky – as usual – Pathetic and delusional. Kiss my brown ass.

  • Leo Artunian says:

    " The thing about politics that they seem to have forgotten is that you don't get people to vote for you by screaming at them that they have to, especially when you have promised them things again and again that you have not delivered." And yet that approach seems to work pretty well for Republicans.

  • Papermache–

    Along with some Dave Chappelle "Reparations Day" payout money, "kiss my brown ass" is indeed the raison d'etre of many ignorant, ingrate mouthbreathers on the streets. Pathetic and delusional, indeed.

  • so the civil war has been restarted, apparently. Just like Weimar Germany, here we go!!!
    Trump proves the system is collapsing. in front of us. Watching the Press complain about being shot at is schadenfreude. That's what happens when you become part of the lie. or any game. watch out when your paymaster no longer needs you anymore. Trump proves the media shot its' own self this time around.
    and where is the Press when it comes to Julian Assange, who is dying in prison, as the last photos show.

    the culling has begun. watching Chauvin purposely put his hands into his pockets to "help" kill George was the most astounding thing i saw in a long time. and forced me to be a witness to the killing of a prone defenseless creature. like Killer Mike said, "in the jaws of a lion." to be an unwilling witness. absolute horror. talk about wordless horror!

    and now the Right and the Population will turn into/devolve into a Us vs. Them. the perfect endgame.

    first they stole the Government, Thank you Citizens United. thanks ACLU!

    the whole idea was to show Government as the best money could buy. Every person in Congress becomes wealthy after serving "us for the main course." Money, the best Government Private money
    could buy. the Republican's master plan, the Powell Memo, has been enforced upon us.

    We pay the bills they take the money.
    that's how it works.

    and preventing us from complaining. of course being white we haven't a clue, but we will. Later, much later at the right time, we will "get a better Idea" of what blacks go through. they did the same things in Weimar Germany. Divide and Conquer. Works every time. They will let us know later. when the time is right. after all we all have I Phones which show where we are.

    First they came for the Bolsheviks, then they came for …..! pick your choice of groups to target.

    in America, the Blacks are a "warning" to the rest. the Palestinians in America. Nobody gives a damn about Palestinians or Blacks. There has to be a "Focus Group" to show the rest of us what happens if you dare protest!

    Gosh, the later acts in the script only lead one way, unless we can find a way out.
    too many guns and black and white anger/fear make us easy prey for that lion that ate that zebra in Minneapolis.

  • I'm sure this will be considered a controversial opinion, but I think the looting is an inevitable consequence of the failure of capitalism.

  • One root of the problem seems to be the transition of capitalism being practiced by gifted surfers of the masses to their entitled spawn that expects continued wealth as their birthright. Sadly, I expect few of them to overcome this disability, like humans at lower income levels, only a small percentage achieve high levels of competence.
    Why do I think it's relevant? The system is being distorted by vast amounts of money, for the purpose of making life easier for the controllers of vast amounts of money, in willful ignorance of the economy of the 99%, whose well being is, in the long term, inseparable from theirs. The emotional need of a despicable underclass, so they can feel their privilege more keenly suggests a need for counseling.

  • Ray Gergen says:

    Excellent piece!

    That needed saying, loud and clear for all the "resisters" to hear and understand.

    Thank you, sir!

  • Or…
    Instead of bitching about the problem, you could become cops yourselves. Balance out those mouth breathing authoritarians from your high school who aspire to being cops.

    Obviously the bar is incredibly low if these oafs can make it. So it will be a snatch for everyone here. Besides, the inner city forces would relish having people of your caliber. It would help dilute those kkk elements within your local PD.
    People who will have clear heads and minds in all situations. Never get rattled. Be able to get the community to sit down and have potlucks because “Thar’s a new sheriff in town.” Everyone here seems to have it well figured out on how to make policing just case of getting naughty people to not do bad things that cause the hurty wurties. So a bit of kum-by-ya oughta do the trick.

    Be the change you want to see…

    But that would require doing real work on your part.

  • Everyone here seems to have it well figured out on how to make policing just case of getting naughty people to not do bad things that cause the hurty wurties.

    Simple: anyone who decides, "I wanna be a cop" should be euthanized immediately. We put down dogs who can't stop biting people, we should do the same with humans.

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