Washington State’s Republican lawmakers say they are coming to the aid of totally beleaguered cops. They’re banging the drums, calling for a special session of the Legislature to “fix” recently adopted police reform laws.
They won’t get far with Governor Jay Inslee, but what they are really doing is looking for a campaign issue. Law-and-order is an oldie that the Republicans would like to deploy in seeking a comeback in next year’s midterm elections.
The message will be heavy on anecdotes, such as this statement from three Republican legislators from the 25th District: “Here in Puyallup yesterday, police deputies were forced to abandon their search for a murder suspect out of concern that a pursuit resulting in the use of force would be considered unlawful.”
The message in this Washington tracks with House Republicans in the “other” Washington. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy effused over National Police Week in May and argued that police in the United States are “under attack like never before,” adding: “Law enforcement is our essential line of defense in protecting civil society and they deserve Congress’ support.”
The support is, however, selective. A distinction need be made.
Republicans say they are out to restore powers to police in this Washington. But neither McCarthy nor Republican leaders in either Washington show any sympathy for the U.S. Capitol Police or D.C.‘s Metropolitan Police.
Four officers testified to the House last week on mob violence in Trump supporters’ January 6th insurrection. The same week, Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Louie Gohmert showed up at a D.C. detention center to visit rioters being held – unjustly they claim. They were not admitted.
Out here, Q13 Fox has been out front with the Puyallup story and liberal with its blame of the Legislature. On FNC, however, Laura Ingraham was likening testimony of D.C. police officer Michael Fanone to a “political performance.”
Mollie Hemingway was calling the officers’ testimony “theatrical.”
Tucker Carlson giggled and sneered at Aquilino Gonell for stating he “was more afraid” at U.S. Capitol insurrectionists than during his tour of duty in Iraq.
The Republican political strategy in this Washington is straightforward. Try to negatively define the Democrats’ legislative agenda and deploy fear to turn voters against the Evergreen State’s current governing political party.
As put by the 25th District legislators: “Law abiding citizens now have to wonder if they’re going to be the next victims of a perpetrator who got away.”
Such tactics should not be greeted with scoffing.
Republicans have been running on law-and-order since a notably lawless politician, Richard Nixon, won the presidency in 1968.
Republican candidates for Congress ran against calls for police reform and abolition in downballot races last year. Whether that made a difference in House races is disputed, but at least some Democratic strategists argue that it did.
The law-and-order theme can be as powerful as it is dishonest. Recall last year when Tucker Carlson, aided by his Seattle tick bird Jason Rantz, thundered about “the descent of our nation into chaos and craziness” with the Emerald City as Exhibit A. Fox ran a shot of a man dashing through the street with a car ablaze behind him. The shot was taken in Minneapolis a month earlier.
And this from the new Trump downfall book, “I Alone Can Fix It”: “On June 12, Fox’s home page featured an image of a man carrying an assault rifle in front of a Seattle storefront with shattered glass. But the picture had been digitally altered by splitting together multiple photographic images and putting the man with the rifle – a volunteer working security in fact – in front of the looted store.”
Concern about public safety are legitimate, as NPI’s recent Top Two survey of Seattle voters demonstrated. The Seattle area recently experienced a five-murder weekend. Our Superior Court judges have issued an urgent warning about the need for greater security around the King County Courthouse.
Yet, while the rash of shootings are clearly linked to a known cause – the proliferation of guns in our streets – Republicans dwell on such topics as provisions banning officers’ use of chokeholds and restraints on police chases. Chases are, after all, a staple of law enforcement in the movies, and an essential of sweep months in any city, especially LA, where all the TV stations own helicopters.
Democratic voters in New York have just nominated a mayoral candidate with a law enforcement background. Eric Adams is a former police captain who once raised hell about excessive use of force in communities of color.
Recently, in an appearance on the “The View,” he argued:
“We have to deal with this very real violence and not allow these conversations to become convoluted. Dealing with police misconduct is a separate conversation from dealing with violence in our streets. We can have both. We’re going to have a police department that’s respecting the public.”
The level-headed attitude of Adams contrasts with the behavior of Seattle City Council members last summer. The Council voted to cut the Seattle Police Department budget while undermining Chief Carmen Best, prompting her to tender her resignation. The Council’s actions are ripe for exploitation as Republicans talk law and order across much of the rest of Washington.
The Republicans have little else to run on.
Seattle bashing has bombed, repeatedly. Witness the ineffective TV spot featuring the Lenin statue in Fremont, which didn’t help Republicans four years ago in the 45th District. Governor Inslee has won wide backing for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, securing reelection by a bigger margin than in 2016.
Such critics as Representative Jim Walsh, who offensively wore a yellow star of David to protest pandemic restrictions, have behaved like public fools.
Washington remains an engine of economic growth despite warnings that protecting its workers will hurt the business climate. The Association of Washington Business has been warning that will happen for the past thirty years.
Still, learn a bit from history. George H.W. Bush and campaign manager Lee Atwater successfully attached the soft-on-crime label to Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. (It was actually Dukakis whose family had twice been the victims of violent crime.) The Republicans later used crime as a key issue in the 1994 election cycle. 1994 was the last time they won big legislative majorities here and a supermajority of seats in Washington’s congressional delegation.
The wise course: Listen to the we-need-both advice of Eric Adams. Practice intelligent advocacy. Back needed restraints on law enforcement and police use of force, but support community policing. Areas with high crime need solutions. Letting such problems fester is not a solution. People understandably want crimes like homicides, rapes, or burglaries investigated and prosecuted. At the same time, they want racism and corruption in our police departments addressed.
Oh yeah, one more vital point. Elected Democrats in Congress and in other states need to get off their duffs and get moving on gun safety legislation.
As Parkland, Florida massacre survivor David Hogg – the guy Marjorie Taylor Greene harassed at the U.S. Capitol – recently noted: “It’s been over six months and not one federal gun law has passed with a Democratic Senate, House and White House. Americans are being killed every single day.”