Monday, the US House was the site of one of Washington’s rare instances of the fabled “shameless pander/blatant blame shift/embarrassing cultural appropriation,” the political equivalent of pulling off Rodney Dangerfield’s Triple Lindy high dive from “Back To School.” Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues donned African-inspired kente cloths, kneeled for nine minutes in memory of George Floyd, then introduced a hastily-written bill called the “Justice in Policing Act,” which they claim will “hold law enforcement accountable in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies.”
That’s all well and good, and I’d certainly be willing to hear any suggestions for improving police practices and efficiency, and reducing racism, conflict, and distrust. But pardon me if I can't quite keep a straight face while sniffing so much election-year pandering and insincere opportunism in the air.
The subtext of all this is to signal to black voters that they must once again turn out and line up to put Democrats in charge because only they will take action to correct all this perceived police racism and corruption. But as the linked story points out, all the worst such problems are in blue-state cities – Minneapolis, Baltimore, New York City, etc. - that have been run entirely by Democrats for decades. If these places are hotbeds of systemic racism, then guess who built the systems.
Also worth mentioning: while they try to blame President Trump as if racism were invented during the three years he’s been in office, we had violent race riots stemming from the deaths of black people during police confrontations in Ferguson and Baltimore while Obama and Biden were in office. Biden now joins in with the critics of police in denouncing a 1994 tough-on-crime bill that until recently, he was bragging about having co-authored. So his campaign pitch is that we must elect Democrats to fix the terrible problems that arose and festered for years under Democratic rule, including his own.
And what if we did give them that much power? From 2009 to 2011, we had a black Democrat President, a Vice-President who’s now running for President on the urgent need for police reform, and solid Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress. What did they do about any issues related to police reform or race relations? Nothing whatsoever. It took Donald Trump to finally press for and sign the prison sentencing reform bill, the First Step Act.
Monday’s spectacle was an entertaining piece of political theater at a time when real theaters were shut down, so we couldn’t see “The Lion King,” that other example of African culture being appropriated for a cartoonish spectacle. And it didn’t go unnoticed by some African-Americans…
But if black voters really think that these are the people they can trust to keep their neighborhoods safe and clean up corruption in the very places where they’ve already been in charge longer than the Millennial protesters have been alive, then another cartoon analogy is more appropriate:
Lucy making big promises that this time will be different, then yanking away the football and leaving Charlie Brown flat on his back for the umpteenth time.