Essay On Law And Order Politics

801 Words4 Pages
As the atmosphere inside and outside of Donald Trump’s rallies took a violent turn this weekend, the comparisons grew between Trump and two figures from an earlier era of tumult: President Richard Nixon, and George Wallace, the conservative populist politician whose 1968 campaign for president drew on cries for “law and order.” Trump’s language has clearly been harkening back to that tumultuous Vietnam War period, even using the same phrases. “There has to be some decorum,” he said in St. Louis on Friday. “There has to be some law and order in our country.” He has repeatedly referred to his campaign as speaking for the “silent majority,” echoing Nixon’s rallying cry to the white middle class. Trump’s deliberate choice of words have raised…show more content…
During that period, even as early as 1968, Nixon and other mainstream politicians sought to draw a distinction between crime and race, making a point of saying that toughness on crime was good for black communities. Vietnam protesters and unrest at college campuses gradually faded from the national agenda, but crime and its racial subtext stayed on. Concerns about crime played a prominent role in subsequent presidential campaigns, perhaps most famously and vividly with the 1988 “Willie Horton ad.” Law-and-order politics evolved away from cultural questions and toward a narrower conversation about crime and punishment. This conversation, research shows, has been characterized by avoidance of overt racial terminology but undergirded by an indelible linkage to race. Investigating the manner and timing of how crime became a political issue, the Yale political scientist Vesla Weaver theorizes that the tough-on-crime movement represents an effort by the losers of the civil rights struggle to redefine the policy debate. In the 1980s and 1990s, the politics of crime turned distinctly punitive and remained racially coded. Hillary Clinton’s reference to “superpredators” when talking about crime (which has come up repeatedly in the current campaign) was made in 1996. On the campaign trail and in office, Bill Clinton worked to shore up his “tough on crime” credentials. As the legal historian Ian Haney Lopez writes, “Clinton flew back to Arkansas to
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