NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

As police reform laws take effect, Republicans dust off their old fearmongering playbook

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.”

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