Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Self-Serving Distractions

Protesters march in Washington, D.C., July 8, 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
They’ll do anything to keep aggrieved voters from noticing which party has run America’s cities into the ground.

It is time for another round of Pin the Tail on Anybody but the Donkey.

After the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Fla., by an American Muslim of Afghan origin affiliated with the Islamic State, the editors of the New York Times argued that the fundamental problem was “hate” exemplified by . . . opponents of same-sex marriage. That was an interesting line of argument. Omar Mateen was not found with a natural-law treatise in his back pocket, and he wasn’t fresh from a Princeton seminar with Robert George. He never suggested that the Supreme Court had taken too broad a view of the 14th Amendment in Obergefell v. Hodges. He was a Muslim fanatic whose heroes throw homosexuals off of tall buildings and crucify Christians.

The morning after that massacre, the New York Daily News reported the enormity under the headline: “Thanks, NRA!” Mateen was a friend of the Islamic State, not a member of the National Rifle Association. He was a member of the same political party as Barack Obama, not a crusading Second Amendment activist of the right. He’d thrice been interviewed by the FBI for suspected ties to terrorism, but the FBI saw nothing actionable. Afterward, there was a great deal of talk about forbidding firearms purchases by people on terrorism “watch lists,” which would be a violation of due process and in any case beside the point: Mateen was on no such list. But it was somehow a black eye for the NRA, which had nothing to do with any of it.

When Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, President Clinton (weird thing, Millennials: Her husband used to be president! He was a lot of fun, but that’s a long story!) made an embarrassing and shameful effort to pin the crime on Rush Limbaugh, whom he blamed for cultivating what everybody called, for five minutes, a “climate of hate.” That phrase was revived for a minute when another sad lunatic in Arizona, who was obsessed with an implausible “infinite currency” conspiracy and the idea that NASA had been faking spaceflights — i.e., a fruitcake — shot Gabby Giffords. That one was Sarah Palin’s fault, you’ll recall: Palin’s graphic-design team had put crosshairs on the districts of Democrats “targeted” for electoral challenge. The president himself weighed in on the need for more civility. Everybody was all about civility for about two nanoseconds, and then it was time to blame the NRA for the Giffords shooting.

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When Detroit, which had one of the highest per-capita rates of municipal spending of any American city, finally spent itself into bankruptcy, Melissa Harris-Perry, then of MSNBC, blamed small-government Republicans. No Republican has been so much as downwind of real political power in Detroit since the Eisenhower years; the city has been governed almost exclusively by progressive Democrats since before this gray-bearded man was born. Perhaps the Republican Harris-Perry meant was Teddy Roosevelt. Who knows? Down the road, Flint, Mich., has been for years and years a Democratic monopoly, too, and when Flint’s municipal powers were, with the knowledge of Barack Obama’s EPA, literally poisoning their residents, that, too, was somehow the fault of a Republican, somewhere.

I’m surprised they didn’t blame the NRA.

#share#Black Lives Matter has attracted some truly reprehensible people, and it will, in the end, almost certainly end up being a net loss for the economic and political well-being of black Americans. But it is not based on a fiction. Not entirely. We can argue (and should argue) over the data regarding black Americans’ interactions with the police, but there really isn’t any arguing that a significant share of America’s radically bifurcated black population is in a pretty grim position vis-a-vis municipal services, of which the police are one high-profile example among many. Given the state of education, housing programs, economic development, and simple services such as trash-collection in many black communities, it doesn’t exactly beggar belief to consider that African Americans may be in many cases poorly served by the police, too.

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Pardon me for noticing, though: Who, exactly, is in charge of these cities and city agencies about which African Americans do have many legitimate complaints? Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago: Not exactly famous enclaves of conservative Republican political dominance. Because Dallas is in Texas, people sometimes forget that it is a city like any other American city, and Democrat-dominated. In Dallas, as in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Detroit, that Democrat domination is due in great part to a black Democratic voting bloc.

Eventually, someone is going to figure out that the black progressives protesting municipal arrangements in places such as Baltimore are protesting the municipal arrangements created by black progressives working for the interests of the Democratic party. Dallas’s racial politics aren’t as one-sided as Detroit’s, and neither are its party politics; it is Democratic, but not as lopsidedly Democratic as, say, Philadelphia. It even has had a Republican mayor (the office is technically nonpartisan) within living memory. No doubt somebody in Dallas already is trying to figure out a way to blame that mayor for the murder of those five police officers.

#related#America’s cities are mostly a mess. America’s cities are mostly run by Democrats. With a few exceptions (San Diego and Indianapolis, and, until recently, New York), Republicans haven’t had much of a chance, politically, in the large cities. What we’ve had since the middle 1960s was a grand experiment: What would progressives do if given political hegemony, with essentially no meaningful opposition, in America’s cities?

The protesters in Dallas know. The ones in Baltimore know even better. Barack Obama came into office promising an era of racial healing, and instead we’re back to something like the 1960s on a more modest (so far) scale: race riots and snipers. This isn’t the sunny uplands of history — it’s Newark.

Which is why Democrats would prefer to talk about the NRA, or the specter of “right-wing terrorism,” or anything else other than the reality on the ground.

— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent for National Review.

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