Domestic Policy, Government

Abolish the Police, not the Policeman

Theodore Roosevelt as New York City Police Commissioner

If the police power is used oppressively, or improperly, let us by all means put a stop to the practice and punish those responsible for it; but let us remember that a brute will be just as much of a brute whether he is inefficient or efficient. Either abolish the police, or keep them at the highest point of efficiency.

The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (1917.) Scribner’s Mem. Ed. XXI, pg.73; Nat. Ed. XIX, pg. 63

After the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, I am republishing this article from 2020 on how Theodore Roosevelt might have approached the modern policing crisis. Unfortunately, the lessons still ring true even after a year.

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, this blunt observation of Theodore Roosevelt is particularly timely and provocative. As police commissioner of New York City, TR knew the difficulty of preserving the legitimacy of a police force in an ethnically diverse city.  Police corruption, whether in the form of bribery or brutishness, sapped that legitimacy and needed to be swiftly and certainly punished.  He also knew that such corruption often arose from systemic failures in society that were foisted on the average police officer to solve.  Whether the slogan is Roosevelt’s or today’s “defund the police” chant, any sustainable police reform movement must address these past policy failures.

The Militarization of Police Departments

After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government decided that every metropolitan police department needed to be prepared to deal with a terrorist attack. This ended a successful era of neighborhood policing based on increasing the number of police officers walking a beat or otherwise regularly connecting with city residents. Instead, cities stocked up on military-style equipment, which had the effect of separating the police from the public and glorified the use of force over early intervention. Hollywood then further glorified it through television shows like “SWAT” and a host of police buddy movies.  This resulted in a culture that ruled by fear instead of respect.  It is past time to reverse course and reinvent the policeman as a community problem solver and give him or her the necessary support and resources.  To do so, though, we must face another reality.

The Reduction in City Police Forces

The calls to abolish or reduce police forces are gratingly ironic in light of Bureau of Justice Statistics showing that two-thirds of the 50 major police departments reduced the number of officers per capita over the last two decades.  Smaller police forces were cheaper because of the lower personnel cost, as opposed to riot gear and other equipment that do not demand employee benefits. We cannot implement neighborhood policing without more policeman, which requires more funding, and soon.

It is equally ironic that the relevant model may be the “surge” in military force that temporarily pacified Afghanistan and Iraq.  The federal government should fund a similar surge in the number of city police over the next ten years subject to strict rules to insure it results in more and better-trained officers on the beat. Cities would then be expected to pick up the funding for this increase afterwards.  Accepting the higher federal and local taxes necessary to achieve this more humane and sustainable form of policing would be the most concrete way to show our commitment to remedying past police abuse of poor minority communities.  However, even this change will be insufficient if we neglect another crisis in law enforcement.

The Expansion of Criminal Law

Roosevelt’s police force was plagued by bribery caused by the attempt to enforce Sunday blue laws that were deeply unpopular among poor immigrants and which he personally opposed. Today’s police officers are asked to not only keep order, but also enforce a myriad of new financial and economic rules.  George Floyd was being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, which is a federal, not local, crime.  Eric Garner of New York died while being arrested for failing to pay the state cigarette tax. If the police become identified with laws that have little legitimacy in their communities, they will inevitably face resistance and a lack of cooperation in enforcing other laws.  Many cities already refuse to assist in enforcing the federal immigration laws in order to encourage illegal immigrants to cooperate with police in preventing violent crime. 

The accretion of federal, state and local criminal laws over the years has placed all of law enforcement in an increasingly untenable position. All levels of government should conduct a thorough review of their criminal codes with the goal of either repealing minor criminal statutes, converting them to civil violations or developing new enforcement methods.  Local police could then return to enforcing laws that preserve neighborhoods rather than disrupt them.

Conclusion

For most of this year, our nation has been concentrating on breathing freely by avoiding the coronavirus.  Both the yearning to reopen and the George Floyd protests show that breathing freely is not enough for Americans. We must also be able to breathe free. Resisting arrest is never excusable, but resistance will occur more frequently if Americans believe they are not free.  Blaming the police without examining the policy failures that affect all of us regardless of color will only sow the seeds of more resistance and a less efficient police force.

2020 Election, General, Politics

Whither American Nationalism Now?

As we move on after the wreckage of the Trump administration, this call to courage from Theodore Roosevelt is both sobering and hopeful.  Nationalists made a mistake in putting their hopes in Donald Trump.  He damaged the nationalist brand, but not irreparably. The occasional successes of the last four years point the way to repairing the damage and rebuilding it on a positive policy platform. 

First, we have to accept the reality of the damage. True American nationalism seeks to build a common American identity across cultural and other boundaries. Instead, Donald Trump associated it an ugly white ethnic nationalism that fed identity politics, rather than fighting it.  A movement to create a progressive conservatism that strengthened America and the middle class instead enacted a major tax cut that benefited globalist corporations without requiring any corresponding investment in the nation. (see this previous post). Worse, it ended, not with a celebration of American culture and symbols, but with a sickening attack on the Capitol building, one of the citadels of American freedom itself.

However, there are unmistakable signs of success amidst these failures. The blue wave anticipated by Democrats never really materialized.  As this article illustrates, Trump’s nationalist trade and immigration policies were popular not only with white voters, but also minority voters. The shift towards a realist foreign policy and the withdrawals from Afghanistan and the Middle East caused heartburn among mainstream neocons and liberal hegemonists, but fulfilled Trump’s major foreign policy promises. All of this forced candidate Biden to talk about buying American, creating good jobs and getting tough on China. Thus, while Trump’s rhetoric often failed to meet the reality, there were still solid accomplishments.

American nationalists now need to hold President Biden and Vice-President Harris accountable for results that matches their rhetoric. Biden’s Democratic Party is still led by a Senate majority leader that represents Wall Street and a Vice President and Speaker of the House from the headquarters of Silicon Valley and Big Tech. Their goal of union-wage level jobs is commendable, but will be worthless if companies shift production to China and elsewhere overseas as they did during the Obama Administration. Calls for unity are nice, but are hypocritical if they result in a new woke identity politics that essentially is a left-wing echo of Trump’s ethnic nationalism.

In order to recover from this setback, American nationalists need to highlight our common concerns by building coalitions across party and other boundaries. If Biden pursues policies that really create secure good-paying jobs that strengthen America, we should cheer for and support such policies.  We also should remember the old maxim that all politics is local and start to build grass-roots organizations at the city, county and local level. Finally, we should avoid social issues so long as tolerance is observed on both sides.  

TR’s life was a study in indomitable courage against seemingly insurmountable odds, whether political, intellectual or military.  He experienced numerous failures as well as historic successes. As fellow American nationalists, we are called to pick ourselves up and continue the fight for a strong America and the American Dream for all.    

Foreign Policy, History and Future of Nationalism

The History and Future of Nationalism

I am insisting on nationalism against internationalism.

Theodore Roosevelt in a letter to Sen. Albert Beveridge

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the globalist’s worst nightmare. Nations are scrambling to protect their own citizens first by ensuring that medical supplies and other essential items stay within their borders rather than be traded to the highest international bidder.  It should never have been this surprising.  Even the apostle of globalization Thomas Friedman foresaw this in his paean to globalization “The World is Flat”, when he identified a pandemic as one of the dangers that could halt the phenomenon he praised so effusively.

In fact, the pandemic is actually a stress test revealing the endurance of nationalism as the true basis of international relations.  Rather than inevitably leading to war, a nationalist-based foreign policy can create as stable a world as globalism while also preserving its diversity of cultures. But how do we get there?  This post will begin a series on the history and background of nationalism and the models it provides to achieve the common goal of peaceful international relations.

Origins of Modern Nationalism

Nationalism is hardly a recent phenomenon.  Next to the family, nations are the oldest form of human community.  They arose out of the need to band together for safety and maximize efficiency by encouraging specialized skills.  Nationalism could take the form of nomadic tribal loyalty or simply a commitment to one’s neighbors in a local village or city-state. Eventually, the ties between the members became based on a shared perception of a common ethnicity or culture, enabling them to easily identify in and out groups.  National rivalry and conflict inevitably resulted from these distinctions and has defined much of human history.

Read against this reality, it is easy to dismiss globalism as simply the modern elite’s commitment to hope over experience.  In fact, Western globalism has deep roots and can be traced back to the Roman Empire and the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church. The Romans knit numerous nationalities into a unitary state based on the rule of law that continued in some form for almost two millennia. To Europeans, the Roman world became synonymous with peace and unity. It’s pull on the Western psyche is illustrated by the fact that, after the fall of the original empire in 476 AD, the first successful king of Europe Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD and a Holy Roman Empire lived in central Europe until the 17th century.  Meanwhile, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire survived and often dominated the Middle East until it’s fall in 1453. 

After the fall of Rome in the fifth century, the most successful globalist institution in the Western world was the Roman Catholic Church.  In the medieval world, it held not only religious power, but claimed territory and temporal power over rulers.  Its theology taught that all Christendom was to be united in peace under the twin pillars of Empire and Church, though the Church was to be predominant.  In fact, this peaceful unity was rarely, if ever, achieved,  The emperor’s power declined until he became only a titular ruler over the dukes and kings of what later became Germany and Austria.  In an historically accurate gibe, it was said that he became neither holy, nor Roman, nor an emperor.  The Church’s power also was increasingly challenged by medieval and Renaissance rulers.  Despite all this, the idea of a unified religious and secular Christendom survived in local and international law.

The dream of any such unity came crashing down during the 17th Century, when the Holy Roman Empire itself was racked by a brutal religious war between Catholic and Protestant rulers. Known as the Thirty Years War, it remained the deadliest war in European history until World War I. While fought officially by kings and dukes, it was really a religious war fought in the name of Catholicism and the various Protestant denominations adopted by local rulers.  In other words, it was essentially a war between two sets of globalist, transnational institutions.

The exhausted warring powers finally ended the conflict in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, which created the modern system of international law and relations.  Since globalism caused the war, the treaty established the nation-state as the bulwark for keeping the peace.  The treaty vested religious and secular power in sovereign states and officially ended the Catholic Church’s claim of transnational authority.  States were defined as those entities that had effective governments that ruled within territorial boundaries.  While Europe was no stranger to war in later years, the Westphalian system avoided the indiscriminate killing of the Thirty Years War for over two centuries afterwards. 

The French Revolution and resulting Napoleonic Wars brought back memories of the dangers of globalism to Europe. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the victorious powers in that war re-established the old system of nation-states, which managed to keep the peace until the beginning of the twentieth century.  The horrors of the two world wars then caused national leaders to question the nation-state as a peace-keeping model and revived globalism as a potential solution. The failures of this solution will be the subject of the next post.