A few months back, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made it a point to start praising law enforcement officers at his stump speeches. He thanked them for their service, spoke about the importance of their jobs, and called on the rest of the country to support them.
Like much of the rhetoric that comes out of Trump’s mouth, the remarks were deemed politically incorrect by some — including those in the liberal media who believed his words demonstrated a callousness toward a number of events over the past couple of years involving young, black people dying at the hands of police officers.
Not surprisingly, the criticism didn’t deter Trump, who recently doubled-down on the narrative by branding of himself as “The Law and Order Candidate.” He used the phrase repeatedly in his convention speech last week.
This wasn’t just a smart political move (especially in the wake of the Dallas murders of five police officers earlier this month), but it’s one of the few positions Trump has taken in which observers have little reason to doubt its authenticity. Unlike numerous issues in the arenas of foreign policy, healthcare, individual rights, and social beliefs, Trump’s been pretty consistent in his support of law enforcement.
In a year in which the most admirable, profound leadership this country has witnessed has come from individuals like Dallas Police Chief, David Brown, the public has been growing less and less tolerant of the portrayal of law enforcement agencies as inherently racist and dismissive of black lives.
Ever since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Americans have been force-fed the media-fueled narrative that any police encounter, which results in the death of an unarmed, black person, is a travesty of justice and unequivocal evidence of institutional racism. Rather than judging each case on an individual basis, activists, news organizations, and politicians have been quick to lump them all together as proof of some epidemic of racially-motivated violence carried out by police officers.
Our justice system, however, has formed a different conclusion. In the vast majority of these cases, the involved police officers have been found innocent of the legal and societal charges levied against them. A number of the provocative stories surrounding these events even turned out to be utterly false, like the origin of the fabricated “hands up, don’t shoot” line.
Not all of these indictments of law enforcement officers have been unjust, of course, but enough of them have been discredited to reject the larger, cultural narrative that has been put forth by groups like Black Lives Matter.
Thus, public sentiment has changed. More and more Americans are becoming increasingly defensive and appreciative of law enforcement, and that solidarity has only strengthened in the wake of recent acts of anti-cop, retaliatory violence. The climate is much different than it was just a year (or even a few months) ago.
Donald Trump gets this, and he’s on the right side of this argument. The DNC and Hillary Clinton, however, don’t.
It’s been less than three weeks since the murder of five officers in Dallas, and the DNC, tonight, will be lending its national convention stage to the mother of Michael Brown — the young man who famously tried to kill police officer, Darren Wilson in Ferguson.
Lezley McSpadden will be speaking with “Mothers of the Movement.” The group is made up of, as ABC News’ Katie Kindelan put it, “mothers united in grief over losing their children to gun violence or excessive use of force by police.”
Democrats should find McSpadden’s participation in their convention troubling, but I haven’t seen any evidence that they do.
With all due respect to McSpadden (her grief is as real as that of any other parent whose child has left this earth before their time), her son was not a victim. What happened to him didn’t come as the result of senseless gun violence, or excessive police force. Her son physically assaulted a police officer — a police officer who did exactly what he was supposed to do under such circumstances. Brown only died because Wilson wasn’t going to let himself be killed.
There’s of course nothing wrong with McSpadden finding comfort in a support group of other mothers who are dealing with loss. If it helps her, that’s good. But the group is clearly being offered the DNC stage to put forth a political agenda. And unless McSpadden will use her moment in front of the microphone to denounce her son’s actions and deliver a message of unity with the police (which no one is expecting), the Democratic Party will have made the statement that it is openly sympathetic to the plight of would-be cop-killers.
Are members of the party really at ease with that perception?
It’s this kind of tone deafness that may end up explaining why this presidential election (once viewed as a likely slam-dunk victory for Clinton) will probably end up being a lot more competitive in its final days than most could have imagined.