by Noah Rothman
August 14, 2014
The left is out in force making sure that everyone knows they don’t really listen to conservative or libertarian arguments, but are happy enough to summarize them inaccurately.
“I don’t see anybody from the libertarian or Republican movement who talk about small government and overstepping American citizens’ rights coming either on camera or social media to talk about this situation,” CNN contributor L.Z. Granderson said on Thursday.
“You want to appeal to minority voters, this is how you do it. You don’t just come to the aid of white people being under siege by the government,” he artlessly added.
(video at link)
Granderson is not alone.
The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman asserted on Wednesday that “there has been a near-total silence from prominent libertarians” on the situation unfolding in Ferguson. That supposed “silence” could have been construed by Waldman as prudence, seeing as the details of what happened are murky and the response to the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has been violent and emotionally charged.
These voices on the left do not seem to have much regard for the axiom that it is best to hold one’s tongue unless certain that which is said would improve the silence. Nevertheless, the assertion that GOP and libertarian voices have been conspicuously silent on this or past episodes of excessive force by an increasingly militarized police is just flat wrong.
Among right-of-center elected officials, several have spoken out:
“Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote on his Facebook on Thursday. “Civil liberties must be protected, but violence is not the answer.”
Together, we should all mourn the loss of life in Ferguson, Missouri and work to keep our communities safe and free. Police officers risk their lives every day to keep us safe, and any time a young man loses his life in a confrontation with law enforcement, it is tragic.
The famously libertarian congressman Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) expressed great dismay over the situation unfolding in Missouri:
Many were confused by Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) apparent silence on the situation in Ferguson. It turned out that he was penning a definitive article for Time in which he insisted that the police must be demilitarized.
“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement,” Paul wrote.
Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
But while conservative elected representatives must maintain some caution while commenting on the violence in Ferguson, the right-of-center commentariat enjoys a bit more freedom of expression and they have been making use of it.
It is shocking to learn today that so many on the left appear utterly unaware of the vigorous debate conservatives have been engaging in over the increasing militarization and heavy-handedness of the police. The conservative columnist S.E. Cupp has compiled a fairly comprehensive list of voices on the right who have sounded the alarm over police forces exceeding their authority.
“Historians looking back at this period in America’s development will consider it to be profoundly odd that at the exact moment when violent crime hit a 50-year low, the nation’s police departments began to gear up as if the country were expecting invasion — and, on occasion, to behave as if one were underway,” The National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke wrote in June.
“If cops continue to take a warlike us-versus-them approach to policing the population, they just might bring the left and right together,” Fox host John Stossel noted that same month. “Government is reckless, whether it is intruding into our lives with byzantine regulations that destroy a fledgling business or with a flash-bang grenade like the one that critically wounded a child in a recent SWAT raid in Janesville, Georgia.”
“So you combine the cops overstepping the Constitution and their bounds …. some of them just starting to go dark inside, and the militarization of our police force and you have a very bad combination,” Glenn Beck observed in February. “How does that end?”
Washington Post commentator Radley Balko’s best-selling book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, might be the definitive work on the subject of police militarization. Balko would hardly describe himself as left-leaning.
In Cupp’s amalgamation of links to right-of-center commentators expressing concern about the militarization of police, she could only link to Reason magazine’s tag “militarization of police.” Therein, nearly 30 full pages of articles on the subject go all the way back to 2006.
What the left may object to is the fact there is a robust debate on the right over this issue, and that conservatives and libertarians do not share a single monolithic opinion. On the right, there is no hive mind. There are a range of opinions on this matter, as there are on a variety of controversial political and social issues. On the left, however, there is no debate. The police in Ferguson are presumed both guilty and racist, and the only deliberation is over whether the officers accused of using undue force should have their names disclosed so as to satisfy the mob.
That is not healthy. That is not reflective of a sound party. What the left is demanding is Borg-like conformity from its members, and a general condemnation of those who do not display what is subjectively determined to be the appropriate level of enthusiasm while agreeing with them.
The fact that some center-left commentators believe there is total silence on the right when it comes to issues relating to excessive police force and semi-military posture is a shocking admission of ignorance. It is a display of obliviousness to claim that all on the right who are concerned about the erosion of Americans’ constitutional liberties have been inconsistent on the issue of police militarization.