Order and Conflict

The police are the armed guardians of the social order. The blacks are the chief domestic victims of the social order. A conflict of interest exists, therefore, between the blacks and the police.

— Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1968)

This week’s featured posts are “This Week, Democratic Protest Outlasted Riot and Repression” and “How Should American Policing Change?“.

This week everybody was talking about police and protest

The two featured posts are my attempt to cover that. I did want to add a response to those conservatives (like Tom Cotton) who think the presence of rioters is a reason to unleash the military on protesters:

Whenever there’s another mass shooting, and suddenly 20 first-graders are dead at Sandy Hook, or 58 concert-goers in Las Vegas, or 49 night-clubbers in Orlando — you tell us that nothing can be done about the weapons of mass killing the perpetrators use. All those people who use similar guns legally and responsibly, you say, have Second Amendment rights. We can’t take their rights away just because a few criminals misuse them.

Now we see protesters by the hundreds of thousands across this country exercising their First Amendment rights legally and responsibly. But because a few criminals use those demonstrations as cover to destroy or steal property, you want the the military to take away the rights of the law-abiding majority, and perhaps to kill them if they won’t cooperate.

We liberals sympathize with the property owners in the same way that you sympathize with the survivors of mass shootings. But there is an enormous hypocrisy in your position. If no drastic steps can be taken to solve the far more deadly problem of mass shootings, then surely they can’t be taken now. We have a Constitution, and you can’t pick and choose when to apply it.

While we’re talking about Cotton, his screed prompted some soul-searching at the New York Times. How, the internal critics wondered, are The Times’ readers edified by hearing window-breakers and looters described as an “insurrection” that requires a federal military intervention overruling local officials? Or that protesters (the vast majority of whom are nonviolently exercising their constitutional rights) should meet “an overwhelming show of force” that includes combat troops?

The official answer is that The Times’ opinion pages should provide a window into the policy debate the country is having, and not just reflect the liberal worldview of The Times’ editors or typical readers. But while that answer seems to make sense at first glance, two responses (picked out by James Fallows) call it into question.

Times columnist Michelle Goldberg notes that The Times has in the past provided space to enemies of liberal democracy like Vladimir Putin and Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, but that neither of them was “given space in this newspaper to advocate attacks on Americans during moments of national extremis.” If The Times’ opinion pages are attempting to define “the boundaries of legitimate debate”, some points of view need to be kept outside the pale.

I could be wrong, but I don’t believe The Times would have published a defense of family separation by former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the height of that atrocity, or a piece by the senior Trump aide Stephen Miller about the necessity of curbing nonwhite immigration. In both cases, I’m pretty sure the liberal inclination to hear all sides would have smacked up against sheer moral abhorrence.

But Fallows’ second choice is even more insightful: David Roberts‘ charge that the NYT is promoting a false image of conservatism. The Times’ conservative voices — David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss — are “alienated from the animating force in US conservatism, which is Trumpism.” Publishing their words “might serve the purpose of challenging liberal thinking”, but they don’t expose Times readers to actual conservatism.

The signal feature of the 2016 election is that it settled the question of whether US conservatism — the actual movement, I mean, not the people in Washington think tanks who claim to be its spokespeople — is animated by a set of shared ideals and policies. It is not. …

[A]nyone who is devoted to the conservative intellectual tradition, anyone who thinks of themselves as a conservative through devotion to small government and traditional morality, has had to peel off. There is no way to pretend that Trump represents that tradition; he himself does not even try. So how many of these “true” conservatives did there turn out to be? Almost none!

What unites conservatives today, he says, are resentments, not ideas.

Not everyone involved is driven by tribal resentment, not every Trump voter indulges in misogyny or racism, but every member of the current conservative coalition has decided that those things are acceptable, or at the very least, not disqualifying — less important than lower taxes or immigration crackdowns.

Even if they do not share Trump’s ignorant, hateful impulses, even if they do not endorse his careening, incompetent governance, even if they do not countenance the grotesque corruption of his family and his administration, they support the coalition that enables those things. They are supporting a tribe with a strongman leader, not a set of ideas.

There’s no argument for that, nothing to plausibly fill an editorial page.

I think Trump’s total unfitness to be president requires Joe Biden to run a different kind of campaign. So many presidential roles are going unfilled that the country needs Biden to be a shadow president instead of a mere candidate. He does a pretty good job of that while discussing the George Floyd murder in this video.

I’d also like to see Biden start appointing a shadow government, so that his appointees could respond similarly when appropriate. Not just a vice president, but an attorney general, as well as secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury.

We’re in one of those weird moments where the big-corporation CEOs seem to be ahead of the conservative politicians who represent them.

I was fascinated to hear this CNBC interview with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. In particular the part where he stands broken-windows policing theory on its head.

There’s a philosophy that Rudy Giuliani made prominent about “broken-windows policing”. And what’s the whole premise of this? You walk into a neighborhood and you see a lot of broken windows; it just sends a signal that we are tolerant of crime. And the question I have is: Do we have policies within law enforcement that send a signal that we are tolerant of discrimination?

And a classic example is racial profiling. If I were to use those kinds of policies within AT&T, I would rightly be terminated, fired, and probably sued. But we allow, we actually have systems, we have procedures that allow for racial profiling. And what does that say? That says — just like broken windows — we have a tolerance for racial discrimination in law enforcement.

and the virus

This week the total stands at 112.6K deaths, up from 106K last week. That increase of 6.6K compares to last week’s 7K increase. So the number of new deaths is still headed downward, but seems to be leveling off.

The number of new cases has at best leveled off and might be increasing. As I’ve pointed out before, that’s a battle between two trends: the sinking number of cases in the states hit early, like New York, and a rising number in states that were initially spared, like Texas.

All of that discussion happens before we see any effect of the crowds gathered to protest George Floyd’s death. Incubation time of the virus is usually 1-2 weeks, and it often takes another week before a person notices symptoms, gets tested, and appears in the statistics.

An NYT editorial on reopening public schools does a better job summarizing the problems than suggesting solutions.

Trump’s demand that his acceptance speech take place in a packed arena has sunk the plan to hold the Republican Convention in Charlotte. As you can see above, North Carolina is one of the states where the number of cases is on the rise, so Democratic Governor Roy Cooper was not willing to approve a big, contagion-spreading event. Florida is the leading contender to get the dubious prize of a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute convention, but speculation that Trump will hold it at one of his own properties seems off-base. Jacksonville is the current favorite, and a decision is needed soon.

and the jobs report

Unemployment went down in May, when many experts were expecting it to go up. It’s still at 13.3%, or maybe 16.3%, depending on how you handle a tricky data problem.

People who are on temporary layoff are supposed to be classified as unemployed. For reasons that we’re not really sure a lot of those people were, in fact, classified as employed.

But the same mistake happened last month, so the drop in unemployment seems real, even if the level is unclear.

and a few Republicans edge away from Trump

A number of military leaders criticized Trump this week, some in very stark terms. His former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. … We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.

Former Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he agreed with Mattis, and then added:

I think we need to look harder at who we elect. I think we should start, all of us, regardless of what our views are in politics, I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter. What is their character like? What are their ethics? Are they willing, if they’re elected, to represent all of their constituents, not just the base, but all of their constituents?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell:

We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the president has drifted away from it. … I think he has been not an effective president. He lies all the time. He began lying the day of inauguration, when we got into an argument about the size of the crowd that was there. People are writing books about his favorite thing of lying. And I don’t think that’s in our interest.

Senator Romney will not support Trump’s re-election. Senator Murkowski described General Mattis’ statement as “true and honest and necessary and overdue”. But then she said she was “struggling” with whether to support Trump in the fall election. That’s the fundamental Republican problem right now. It seems bizarre to think it’s “overdue” for someone to say that Trump has “made a mockery of our Constitution”, and yet to have any struggle at all about opposing him. Murkowski seemed to be saying that she knows what to think, and that many of her Republican colleagues think the same thing, but that she and they are still trying to gin up the courage to say publicly what they think and then act on it.

When I saw General Mattis’ comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up.

I can’t imagine admitting to that level of cowardice. But even that — hinting that you have criticisms, but can’t bring yourself to act on them — is an act of relative courage among the current crop of GOP senators. Many of them seem to be edging up to a line, and then looking around to see if anyone else is crossing it.

In a PBS interview, Senator Thune of South Dakota hinted at criticism, but did not actually voice it: Peaceful protesters should be allowed to speak. The country needs a “healing voice” that is not coming from the White House. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said

there is a fundamental — a Constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop.

But he doesn’t go anywhere with that thinking.

Time is running out on them. If they let the election arrive without taking a clear stand, they might as well be gung-ho Trumpists. History won’t care that they had an inner voice of conscience, if they never listened to it. They are not dissidents; they are collaborators.

The American people seem to be shifting, even if GOP senators are not. A CNN poll out today has Trump’s approval rating dropping from 45% a month ago to 38% now. Biden’s lead over Trump is 14%, the highest it has ever been, up from 7% last month.

and you also might be interested in …

Rod Rosenstein testified at the show trial Lindsey Graham is running in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rosenstein took a middle position that I’m sure satisfied no one. He defended the Mueller investigation, and the reasons for launching it. But he repeated the Bill Barr lie that Mueller proved their was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

What Mueller actually said was that he could not prove there was a criminal conspiracy. One reason he couldn’t prove it was summarized in Part II of his report: Trump obstructed justice.

Rep. Steve King, the white supremacist congressman from Iowa, lost the Republican primary Tuesday. Come January, he’ll be out of Congress.

King’s loss might make you think the Republican Party is returning to sanity, but that would be a mistake. In Oregon, a QAnon conspiracy theorist won the Republican primary for the Senate, and will challenge Jeff Merkley in the fall. In a field of four candidates, Jo Rae Perkins got 49% of the vote.

After the George Floyd protests started, she was live on Facebook for an hour and a half, which Right Wing Watch edited down to less than two minutes. In it, she prays:

Lord, these people have no sense of morality, of what is right and what is wrong, Lord God. Not the ones that are causing this mayhem, Lord God, this Antifa, Father God. Shut down George Soros, Lord God. End his reign of terror, Lord God. We know that he is funding this. Lord, we say. “Strip that money, strip that money strip that money.” If there is a way, Father God, that President Trump’s administration can block him from being able to spend any more money, Lord God, then allow that to happen.

Of course, we have the usual right-wing-nut-job ravings about Antifa conspiracies funded by Soros’ dirty Jewish money. But even beyond that, there’s the pervasive hypocrisy about federal power. She spends a bunch of her 90 minutes talking about the principle of limited government and all the federal laws and projects she doesn’t believe the Constitution allows. But Trump taking away Soros’ money or tightly controlling how he can spend it — that would be the answer to a prayer.

A constitutional republic for me, tyranny for thee. And remember: This is not just some crazy woman I picked off of Facebook. This is the Republican candidate for one of Oregon’s two seats in the U. S. Senate.

Trump’s scaremongering about Antifa has real consequences. A family who tried to go camping in rural Washington ran into a town anticipating Antifa “infiltrators”. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

and let’s close with something remastered

If you find it hard to listen to Trump, try letting Sarah Cooper provide the visuals.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • nicknielsensc  On June 8, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    I’m convinced that Republican Senators all interred their spines with John McCain, with only two exceptions: #RichMitch, who never had a spine, only a shell, and Mitt Romney, the sole remaining elected conservative.

  • bugsbycarlin  On June 9, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Although I agree with the sentiment of the quote, Eldridge Cleaver is a difficult person to see at the top of the post, because he committed multiple acts of rape. It’s the same as how one might hesitate to quote, eg, Louis CK, Garrison Keillor, or Bill Cosby. Is there another quote that captures the same sentiment without the pain of character controversy?

    Thanks/sorry it’s a negative comment/love your blog and have for years!

    • weeklysift  On June 9, 2020 at 10:09 am

      I appreciate the difficulty. I highlighted the quote because it’s 52 years old. What we’re talking about this week is not at all new.

      • bugsbycarlin  On June 14, 2020 at 6:26 pm

        Thumbs up


  • By getpocket.com on July 2, 2020 at 6:34 am


    Order and Conflict | The Weekly Sift

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