by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In response to riots, looting, violence, and iconoclasm in American cities, President Trump and other Republicans are counting on “Law and Order” to give them a big win in November. It worked for Nixon in 1968. Americans don’t want chaos; they want order.
True, and true. The instincts are right, but I don’t think it’s a winning message. It’s an old message for an era we’re not in. Worse, it’s a message that potentially squanders the advantage gained from the Democrats’ “Defund the Police” blunder.
Yes, we want the chaos to stop; and yes, it’s going to take determined action. Law and Order secures the John Wayne vote. But what about suburban moms, swing voters, and the undecided? Republicans need those votes, too.
Here’s a better message: “Make America Safe Again.”
Law and Order can be a reminder of what sparked the unrest in the first place: another instance of life-destroying brutality by a lawman. Americans don’t want racial inequality under the law, and might opt to endure some (remote) disorder as a necessary detour on the road to a more just society.
Law and Order implies good guys and bad guys. Sternness. Patriarchy. It emphasizes what divides us. “We,” righteous law-abiding Republicans, are going to impose order on “them,” the wicked lawbreakers. It also can be interpreted as: “Those white-supremacist Republicans are calling mostly peaceful protests ‘violent’ and using them to justify unjust and aggressive policing.” Or worse: “Trump supporters are pretending to be BLM protesters so they can incite violence and gain a fear-based win in November.”
Make America Safe Again answers concerns about unrest, and it expands beyond Law and Order to embrace the broader, shared concerns of the American people.