[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through VDARE.com]
Our nation’s Constitution is getting something of a stress test up in the Northwest, especially in the city of Portland. Anarchist rioters have been assaulting the federal courthouse there, along with of course some vandalizing and looting of private property on the side.
(No, I don’t mean to imply that these rioters are inspired by the writings of Peter Kropotkin, Michael Bakunin, and Max Stirner. I’d be very surprised to learn that any of them are inspired by anything more erudite than Marvel Comics and Teen Vogue. We need some way to refer to them collectively, though, and a fully-informative descriptor like “Soros-funded alliance of Occupy, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and opportunistic black looters” just isn’t snappy enough.)
The constitutional issue here: the proper role of federal law-enforcement in local disturbances. It’s been an issue at some level or other since the very beginnings of the Republic, since the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.
A fundamental principle at play here: localism, also known as the principle of subsidiarity, which says that public issues should be managed and decided at the lowest level able and willing to decide them. You don’t want bureaucrats in Washington, DC telling you whether or not you can build a treehouse in your back yard.
Over against that is the body of our fundamental rights and duties as citizens of a common nation. If my town decides that it’s OK for me to practice human sacrifice in my back yard, higher authorities will have something to say about it, and it’s right that they should.
So what if turbulence well above the window-breaking variety goes on night after night for weeks? And what if the local levels of law enforcement—municipal and state—can’t control it?
Ideally what you’d want to happen then is, those authorities would call on the feds to take over. The feds would come in and restore order, and life would get back to normal.
But what if the local elected officials don’t want to do that? What if, for one reason or another—cold political calculation, perhaps, or a much warmer belief that the guy in charge of the feds is Literally Hitler—what if the Mayor and the Governor prefer the turbulence to just go on, even when rioters are assaulting federal facilities?
A sidebar issue here: the democratic legitimacy of those officials. There are high levels of apathy in municipal voting. I have previously noted the case of New York City, which twice elected Bill De Blasio, a crazy communist, as mayor, on turnouts of thirteen percent and eighteen percent.
Portlanders seem not to be that apathetic. The current mayor, a chap named Ted Wheeler, was elected in 2016. He got 55 percent of the votes in a total turnout just short of two hundred thousand. I can’t find a figure for that turnout as a percentage of the total voter roll; but Portland’s population is 650 thousand, so on the usual rule of thumb that two-thirds are registered voters, only about half of Portlanders turned out to vote, not much more than half of them voting for Wheeler.
So Portlanders are not as dumb as New Yorkers; but if only half of them bother to vote in mayoral elections, it’s tempting for the rest of us to sit back and say: “This current mayhem is what you folk didn’t bother to vote for. Enjoy!”
Except of course that federal facilities belong to the rest of us, not just to Portlanders. If they are being vandalized and assaulted, the rest of us have something to say about it.
If Portland’s mayor, and his state’s governor, don’t like what we have to say, we have further recourse. We can send in federal officers to defend our property and arrest those who are assaulting it,
Or my suggestion: let’s cease all other federal activity in Portland and/or Oregon and stop all federal funding there other than for enforcement of federal laws.
Starve them out!
Back The Blue Footnote:
ME: I’ve mixed with cops a fair amount. I don’t know how it is country-wide, but in New York, going into the police force, you’re basically going in for twenty years. You go to Police Academy, you come out, you do twenty years, you retire on a very handsome pension; and then you can start a new career, or you can start a handy little business. It’s a pretty good life, and—no offense to anyone—but a lot of guys just don’t want to jeopardize that.
MICHELLE: Yes, that’s a plain fact. There are pension collectors; and, you know, if their staunchest supporters are bloodied in front of them, eh.…
ME: I back the Blue, but with a slightly cold, realistic eye …
Of course, some people did take offense. “We’re putting our lives on the line for you civilians, and you think it’s just about the darn pension?…” et cetera, et cetera.
Well, we don’t always make ourselves clear when speaking impromptu, so let me just say again: I do back the Blue, and am not such a fool as to think we can enjoy peace and safety without a well-trained, well-funded, properly-remunerated police force.
Thanks to all of them for what they do.
And Michelle’s credentials on this are way more impressive than mine. That was a Back the Blue rally in Denver on Sunday where Michelle got roughed up, and it was one of many, many that she’s attended and spoken at through the years. She’s aggrieved that Denver police had been told to stand down and let the anarchists run wild, and she’s entitled to be aggrieved on that point.
I’m sorry, though, that I didn’t mention, and didn’t give Michelle the chance to mention, that one Denver police lieutenant ignored the stand-down order and kept his guys in place, saving the rally from much worse mayhem[Denver police union head: ‘Stand-down’ order was in effect when pro-cop rally attacked, by Bradford Betz, Fox News, July 22, 2020].
Michelle has already, elsewhere, expressed her thanks and appreciation to that lieutenant, and I’m glad to add my thanks to hers. Thank you, officer!
But the point I was making is still a true one. Yes, police work can be dangerous, even fatal, and any officer at any time can find himself called to an act of selfless heroism. With very rare exceptions, cops answer that call.
There is no contradiction in noting, however, that policing is a really good job if you have the temperament for it.
Again, I can’t speak for the whole country; but where I live in the outer-outer suburbs of New York city, cops retire in the prime of life with gold-plated pensions and benefits. I know by first-hand reports that when my county police headquarters advertises a new round of entrance exams for the local force, the line of applicants goes nine times round the block.
By all means let’s Back The Blue. Let’s also honestly acknowledge, however, that when shyster politicians and their willing stooges in the police command bureaucracy tell rank-and-file officers to stand down to let anarchists run wild, and those rank-and-file officers do stand down, there is more than just blind obedience in play.
All this and a Woke military too.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.