The United States is again engulfed in protests/riots regarding the treatment of Blacks in the nation by authorities. We have seen this many times before, just a few years ago in Ferguson, before that in LA in the 90s, etc. In a previous piece I wrote that the best strategy for Trump would be to just ride out the storm, and I stand by that, but that is the best strategy for his own immediate survival in the short term. In the long term, however, the United States needs to find ideological answers to deflate the desire to riot the next time a tragedy happens at the hands of the Police.
Firstly, we must understand that, as George Bush II put it, if the American Presidency “were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier”. Despite the fact that the Mainstream Media presents world leaders as all being free willed and all powerful they are not. There are many seen and unseen bonds that keep Trump in check so we need to think of realistic (and constitutional) ways that Trump could diffuse the anger.
Secondly, the reason that everyone takes pride in Democracy, with its checks and balances but want their leaders to be all powerful problem solvers bringing in Utopia, is that human beings are irrational. No amount of crime statistics that Blacks kill vastly more Blacks than Whites, or anything about the fact that there are no legal mechanisms remaining that would enforce “systemic racism” make any difference. These mean nothing to various people who are fired up and feel with total assuredness in their very bones that Blacks in America are being victimized. Emotion trumps reason.
Thirdly, in many ways the Police and National Guard (or equivalent) of a given country serve as an internal army to keep the population under control. Making the Police hate you is a terrible decision for any leader to make. This is why states, especially ones that feel a lack of confidence in their control of the masses adore their Police forces showering them with privileges. Trump or any other leader cannot “pick the protestors” over the Police. That is a policy that is doomed to fail from the start.
Police in Uniform Have No Privacy Rights
Trump claims that he is for Liberty and Making America Great Again and the Constitution along with all the other Right-Wing talking points. So now would be a good time to take a small step and push an aspect of American Freedom that his guys and many protestors would agree on – the absolute and unquestioned right to film the Police.
It is stunning that after all these years, the average American who walks around all day with a camera on their cell phone, is really not very sure if he can film the Police. And the reaction of the thin blue line being filmed varies severely.
This is a light yet unresolved issue regarding the relationship between the Police and Citizenry. Trump could make himself seem noble to all by declaring boldly that all Americans can film the Police universally with no exceptions in all cases, and that if anyone is denied this right and is arrested he will pardon them.
Pardons are easy bureaucratically and have little repercussions, if Trump were to crack down on Police who slap phones out of people’s hands this would leave a bad taste in cop mouths across the country.
Obviously without 21st century technology’s accessibility it is unlikely that George Floyd’s throat being crushed would have been caught on camera. Trump taking on this “crusade” to make it clear that filming the Police is a right is extremely pro Liberty but at the same time it speaks to the desires of the protestors without particularly enraging the Police. In short this is a good safe option to try to sell Liberty/American ideas to the angry people who want revenge against authorities.
There are some other issues about Americans’ rights that seem to have become muddled or forgotten in terms of the Police. Trump using his pardoning powers to “save” victims of uniformed aggression would win points with Black Americans and yet not anger the boys in blue.
We Should be Arrested only by Peers/Neighbors
From a Black perspective, the Police seem to be White outsiders sent in to oppress them. Obviously, there are many Black officers across the USA but the perception is still very Black vs. White – again facts do not matter when it comes to public perception.
If Trump were to push for all Policemen to only work in a particular very constricted location where they live, this would do a lot to quell feelings of unfairness. It could be bad for corruption, but having to deal with “your own guys” is always a more pleasant proposition.
The government is supposed to reflect the people, so let the local police directly reflect the local population. This would be very bureaucratically difficult to implement, but it is a nice statement that could calm things down. If Trump were to push certain ally governors/mayors into action this could initiated, at least in some places in America, rather quickly.
Restore the 4th Amendment Now
If the initial push to make it clear that all Police can be filmed all the time as an American right goes over well, the next step would be to push for restoring the 4th Amendment to sacredness, especially in terms of warrants. Again the President should not act against the Police but make it clear to Black Americans that if someone is arrested without a warrant or their home is broken into by the Police, they will be freed (pardoned). This is America after all. As someone who was on the bad end of a warrantless search in the night, I would also appreciate it.
Questionable arrests and dubious reasons to enter property by the Police are a large part of why Black Americans are on fire with rage. If constitutional norms were still being maintained in America this issue would cool down. Again, making lots of Pardons on a whim will lead to some bad people not getting justice, but it certainly makes America more stable. If Black people are to feel as though they are of equal standing with Whites, then their homes have to become their “castles” that the authorities simply cannot enter at whim.
UBI Restores Dignity
There is a very solid belief in some circles and certainly in the words of the Blacks I grew up with that many welfare programs are a means of keeping “the Black man down”. Universal Basic Income is a much more respectable program that essentially gives everyone enough to get by, but if you want to live well then you’ll have to go out and work for it.
In some ways the Democrats have won over support from African America through handouts, but UBI is not a handout and actually makes the individuals who receive it responsible for the use of their $1000 a month. Essentially UBI replaces some form of Welfare dependence with a Welfare rooted in “personal responsibility” because you have to manage this money and are responsible for improving your own life. It is ideologically consistent with a Right Wing position and yet would be very placating to protestors right now. If anything can pull the socially conservative African America that I grew up in towards a politically conservative direction then it would surely be UBI. And the fact that everyone regardless of race would get the same amount is also a nice ideological cherry on top.
The Big Invitation to Americanness
If Trump really wants to go PR hardcore, he could engage “historic speech mode” and publicly acknowledge that Black Americans have had many of their promises from the government broken in the past and invite them en masse to believe in the American concepts of Liberty. Something along the lines of “Many of you were taken from Africa, forced to live through segregation, but now I invite you to be part of America on equal terms with everyone else”. Basically Trump could send a big loud signal, that if you believe in American ideas, speak English, and live in the United States then you are “our guy”. Generally no one asks what Blacks want, they usually have that dictated to them by Democrats who’ve never made skin to skin contact with anyone darker than they are. Even if it failed it would be worth trying to “invite” African America to voluntarily accept the principles of Liberty and the American way and other Right Wing buzzwords.
Trump has said from day one of his leadership that China is the biggest threat to America, and it was China who really took all the factory jobs away from the USA. But Trump has thus far forgotten to mention that it was the loss of these factory jobs that created the Ghettos we find across America. The Rust Belt with cities like Minneapolis would be a lot more prosperous and less racially tense if they were still brimming with middle class factory jobs for every race, creed and color. Right now, many don’t see it, but Trump’s battle to restore America’s industrial capacity could result in a sort of “unghettoing” if it were to happen.
Going further with a Republican message, Trump could unironically and loudly say, that he doesn’t want Black babies being aborted, he wants Black men to have the arms and rights behind them to defend their families, etc. And conversely he could make it clear that those, who want to abort Black babies and keep Black men helpless have big “D” next to their names. White Republicans seem to do a very good job nowadays of providing argumentation as to why the Dems are the enemies of Black people, the only problem is that they never tell this to the Black individuals themselves.
Trump is a master at trolling and being a “cool heel” but so far he has mostly used his powers on a White audience, if Trump were to frame the conflict in today’s America in terms of Pro-Liberty Patriots (of all races) vs. SJW Traitors (of all races) then this could finally be a turning point. Now would be a good time to transform the American “us vs. them” dynamic to something more winnable for the Republicans.
Again, it cannot be underestimated just how titanic the historical inertia behind Slavery and Segregation is. There is still a long time to go before these issues become “things of the past” but an invitation to join “Team America” would be much better than nothing. Americans who may look different but share the same heroes and ideology will probably be able to live together.
Little can be done but we must try
What is written above may seem overly optimistic, or possibly naive, but something must be attempted. The historical inertia of Slavery/Segregation, plus constant victimhood propaganda from the Left and the nearly total lack of good jobs in Black neighborhoods weighs very heavy on the shoulders African American. And abuse by the Police sure doesn’t help matters much.
I grew up in a majority Black neighborhood in majority Black Cleveland, and I can remember the hopelessness that would be thrown about in people’s conversations. Expressions like “A Black man can never get ahead in this world” and “they’ll never let a Black man…” were used daily. Success was understood to be “getting out” of the Ghetto to go live with Whites and that in one’s own neighborhood they’ll never find a happy life. Everything seemed hopeless, pointless or rigged for Blacks to lose and I doubt that this perception will radically change in the next few weeks.
African Americans have found themselves for generation upon generation completely dependent on the White U.S. Government for everything and yet consider that very same organization to be their enemy/oppressor.
Feeling completely dependent on and at the mercy of your enemy does not exactly fill one with good ole American optimism. A complete lack of understanding of this fact is why smiling Republicans in suits talking about “boot straps” seems totally alien to so many Black Americans. If you believe that you have lived generation upon generation at the mercy of those who despise you, then your 4th of July BBQ won’t have many fireworks.
Trump needs to convince Blacks that their enemy is not who they think he is. The battle isn’t racial anymore but something rooted in political views. This is a nearly impossible task but it is certainly worth trying. Trump reinvigorated and the Republican Party ideologically, transforming it from pro-business to populist (that is still pro-business). Now his next challenge needs to be successfully inviting Black America into this optimistic patriotic populist movement.