Conservatives should stand up for the criminal justice movement

It has always been a curious phenomenon that progressives, not conservatives, were the most vocal skeptics of law enforcement.

To some extent, staunch conservative Republicans feigning law enforcement are likely motivated by the absurd reductionist policies of our hyperpartisan era. As progressives on the far left demand that we fund or remove the police, it’s no surprise that Republicans are over-correcting by promising blind support for the boys (and girls) in blue.

During the GOP Governors Debate last week, for example, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee bragged about increasing police funding by $ 10 million, as if just paying more money for law enforcement was the answer to our current criminal woes. Of course, to be fair to Lee, crime in North Las Vegas has actually gone down, which is worth bragging about, given the news of the waves of violent crime across the country. However, as with education spending, how this money is allocated is worth more discussion than just inflating budgets.

Las Vegas City Councilor Michelle Fiore has taken the rhetoric to predictable excess, suggesting that “funding the police” should be met with some kind of armed resistance. Indeed, while others pulled up before such a theatrical hottie, just about everyone on stage was still sure to meet the needs of the pro-police constituency of Republican primary voters. Many have even proverbially shot Sheriff Joe Lombardo (who was not present) for being too progressive or gentle in his approach to policing.

The lack of support for criminal justice reforms in a Republican primary, however, is not surprising. Nonetheless, this particular blind spot among “conservative” Republicans is remarkable for the simple fact that most criminal justice reforms dovetail well with an overall desire to limit government largesse.

It has always been curious to see, for example, the number of Conservatives who place a “Blue Lives Matter” bumper sticker right next to stickers daring the government to “come and get” their guns – as if it doesn’t. It had never occurred to them that the same “blue Lives” would be responsible for knocking on their door and confiscating their AR-15s. Likewise, while the conservative movement enjoys near-unanimous opposition to mask mandates, economic shutdowns and vaccine requirements, it seems little concerned that such overzealous regulatory restrictions on our personal lives will fail. are only made possible by an authorized law enforcement apparatus.

This does not mean that the Conservatives should start pushing for law enforcement to stop their role of actually enforcing the laws. However, it is not scandalous to expect those who oppose government overreach to be more critical than they are of the government agencies actually charged with enforcing such outreach. excessive.

After all, if one thinks that government should be limited in its ability to tax and regulate citizens, surely it should also be limited in its ability to send armed agents to private homes … or violate civil liberties. with impunity.

Like most things in politics, however, there is a lot of hypocrisy to be done and it is not just conservatives who suffer from ideological blind spots. While progressives speak poetically about the injustices of drug control, for example, they have been more than willing to control gun ownership in ways that generate similar injustices among marginalized communities. Likewise, the Democratic Party – which has long been embraced by criminal justice activists – has its own long history of bowing to those who demand that we be “tough on crime.”

President Joe Biden, for example, drafted many ‘crackdown on crime’ policies throughout his tenure, and Kamala Harris once laughed as he threatened parents with jail time for letting their children miss. school. And let’s not forget that Nevada Senate Democratic Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro has repeatedly killed progressive justice reforms during her time in the legislature, much to the frustration of progressive activists in the legislature. within his own party.

It is easy to see that such ideological inconsistencies are numerous in the two great American political tribes. Unfortunately, like other special government interests, the law enforcement community has been very successful in using such inconsistencies to kill or mitigate much needed changes in US policing.

Despite this, support for reforms has grown in recent years, especially at the political right level. The left’s favorite bogeymen, Charles and David Koch, have spent considerable resources partnering with left-wing political funders, such as George Soros, to advance criminal justice legislation. US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has joined an (unsuccessful) effort to end qualified immunity, and Republican Senator Rand Paul sponsored the “Justice for Breonna Taylor” bill to end to raids without a hit. A handful of local Nevada Republicans even voted in favor of many Democrat-sponsored justice reforms in the last legislative session.

And yet, no one expects Sheriff Joe Lombardo to show up on a campaign scene and announce plans to limit the tools or immunities available to police officers – and no seasoned political observer would expect that. that criminal justice reform be a major campaign platform among GOP candidates looking to throw red meat at primary voters. Sadly, many of those primary voters for the Red Team have historically been reluctant to consider police reforms, if not downright hostile to the idea.

This is a strange position for so-called Conservatives, given their natural tendency to downgrade the size, scope and duties of government in almost every other respect. Reducing the ability of the police to abuse their power, by reducing the extent of the power bestowed upon them, should be one of the few issues where the left and right overlap on a political Venn diagram.

Unfortunately, that’s probably part of the problem: Much of modern politics is not about broad consensus, but partisan theater – a political need to capitalize on differences rather than finding areas of consensus. When it comes to criminal justice, this has left us with an ineffective and hypocritical Democratic Party that lends lip service to the most extreme proposals, and a Republican Party that is more than willing to willfully violate its supposed vision of limited government. and responsible.

And it’s a pretty hostile environment for those of us who care more about political results than elections.

Michael Schaus is a Las Vegas, Nevada-based communications and branding consultant and founder of Schaus Creative LLC, an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their stories and drive change. He is the former director of communications for the Nevada Policy Research Institute and has over a decade of public affairs commentary experience as a columnist, political comedian and radio host. Follow him on or on Twitter at @schausmichael.

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