Merry Christmas, Hopelessly Split GOP! NY Times Somehow Spins Crime Issue as Republican Problem

December 25th, 2014 7:06 PM

A Christmas Day article in the New York Times by Jonathan Martin and Ashley Parker left no doubt which party they would leave a lump of coal for: "Law and Order Issues, Once G.O.P.'s Strength, Now Divide the Party."

As usual, the paper impressively managed to spin a given current controversy into a problem solely for the Republican side of the political aisle -- as if crime has not long been a losing election issue for the Democrats -- portraying the GOP's crime concerns as merely knee-jerk, stiff-necked appeals to white fear:

Since the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, generations of Republicans from Richard M. Nixon to the first George Bush deftly capitalized on the anxiety of white voters over crime and urban unrest, winning elections with appeals for law and order and unbending support of the police.

But in recent years, with crime plummeting and the party struggling among minority voters, some Republicans have turned away from the tough talk and embraced efforts to reduce the number of black men in prison and overhaul the criminal justice system.

Now the violence and protests after two grand juries declined to prosecute white police officers who killed black men, as well as the killings of two New York City police officers, have angered some of the party’s most ardent defenders of the police. Republicans find themselves debating how to maintain their traditional embrace of law enforcement while not alienating minority voters or ignoring systemic criminal justice issues.

The divisions have spilled out on television in recent days. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York declared on Fox News that the protests were leading to violence and that “all lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”

Representative Peter T. King of New York said his fellow Republicans cannot be timid about criticizing activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton, who Mr. King said used racially charged terms to portray the killings of African-Americans by the police in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island.


What makes this moment more complex for Republicans, however, is that Mr. Sharpton is not the only one who has criticized police mistreatment of minorities and the broader justice system: Leading Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, governors and Christian conservatives, have been rethinking issues ranging from the militarization of the police to sentencing guidelines.


The question now is whether the racially tinged unrest, occurring at the outset of a highly competitive presidential nominating contest, will resurrect old resentments and stymie Republican efforts to reach out to African-Americans and grapple with the justice system issues.

After years of instinctively siding with the police -- with Ronald Reagan railing against “arson and murder in Watts” in his 1966 campaign for governor and Mr. Bush using Willie Horton’s furlough to defeat Michael S. Dukakis -- Republicans are now more divided when it comes to crime and law enforcement. This is in part because of raw politics: The country is increasingly diverse, and the party can no longer win presidential elections without making inroads among minority voters.

But there are also deeper tensions between the Republicans’ traditional tough-on-crime approach and a rising skepticism about government power among conservatives and libertarians in the party. Few prominent figures sided with the authorities in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, for example, and Mr. Paul notably spoke out about the treatment of young blacks by the police.

The Times somehow managed to make the rioting in Ferguson and the murder of two police officers in Brooklyn a dilemma not for the race-obsessed radical left, but conservatives, using a libertarian spokesman to make part of the case:

But the violence and destruction in Ferguson last month after the grand jury decision and the killing of two police officers in Brooklyn over the weekend by a black man who had posted “#shootthepolice” on an Instagram account complicate the reaction. The conservative brain, particularly among Republican elites, may find itself in conflict with the conservative gut, at least that of the party rank and file.

“This is an obviously deranged guy who shot his girlfriend and then shot the cops,” said David Boaz, the executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, arguing that conservatives who blame protesters for the killings are akin to those who blame right-wing radio for the shooting of the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Not mentioned: The Times was among those that irresponsibly blamed the right for the Giffords shooting.

The Times furthered the hostile anti-Republican tone, while giving the racially inflammatory Al Sharpton his usual pass:

Already, some hard-line Republicans are seizing the moment and attacking Mr. Paul, who was been the most outspoken in his party about the need for racial outreach and changes to policing and sentencing, and even met with Mr. Sharpton last month.