The Justice Departments report on Ferguson Mo. did two things: First the report exonerated Officer Darrin Wilson and put the lie to the narrative that Michael Brown was an innocent victim, murdered by a racist cop, while he held his hands up and begged not to be shot. Secondly, the report shined a light on what happens when a government uses its military arm to collect the taxes it needs to survive. In order to press a narrative it needs to survive, the Left has chosen to embrace the latter finding and ignore the former. Those of us on the Right must not make the same mistake; both findings can be true and recognizing that truth only helps to bolster the Conservative cause.
Down playing the corruption in Ferguson robs Conservatives of an opportunity to talk about the impact of bloated government on minorities and the poor and how limited government policies can actually be of benefit to those communities. If Conservatives are serious about engagement with Black and Brown voters, this is a perfect opportunity to build trust in the veracity of that conviction.
Alas, I have been saying this for years. Today, I came across this commentary by Seth Mandel. Mandel is right on point.
A few highlights:
At the core of the report is the fact that the city uses its police force as a revenue-collection tool. This is not limited to Ferguson, of course. But it’s worth looking at Ferguson to see how easily the wheels come off when this is the operative strategy. “The City has budgeted for, and achieved, significant increases in revenue from municipal code enforcement over the last several years, and these increases are projected to continue,” the report tells us. The city sets a revenue target and tells the police to go get it.
The game is rigged. And conservatives have a real opportunity to talk about why. This is the community-policing version of the regulatory state. There is a tendency among the right to counter attempts to gain sympathy for criminals by saying something like, “well don’t break the law.” And I suppose that’s true as far as it goes. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer so easy not to break the law, in all sorts of respects. And the proliferation of ticky-tack charges makes it that much easier to run afoul of the law.
Again, racism is certainly a part of this too in many cases. But the government exacerbates the problem by encouraging the police to see law-abiding citizens as potential piñatas. When you pass a law you put the state’s monopoly on the use of force behind it. And when you add a significant price tag to such arrests policing becomes like a video game. And when you bring the arms of municipal government under the unified command of the police, you remove the potential for necessary oversight.
And there it is!
The Left routinely out maneuvers the Right on issues of race. Here, The Right has been gifted an opportunity to both dispel an ugly lie and demonstrate a commitment to understanding a new and valued constituency. Let’s not blow it!