The chaos in America’s cities today is, unfortunately, not new or unique. Many cities suffered riots in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — riots that left scars that have lasted. The difference: Democrats in 1968 wanted to restore order.
Robert F. Kennedy — who would himself be assassinated by a crazed Palestinian later that spring — wrote of riots:
A violent few cannot be permitted to threaten the well-being of the many, and the hopes of their fellows for progress. Those who lead others to burn and loot must feel the full force of the law. The full force of the law means just that: the swift apprehension and punishment of law breakers.
He added that enforcing the law “does not mean senseless and unnecessary killing by those who act in the name of government.” And he also described what the left calls “systemic racism” today — social problems that resulted from the legacy of slavery, “a condition that has been with us for 300 years, now worsened and intensified under the strains of modern life.”
But Kennedy, like other Democrats of an earlier generation, understood that disorder was the undoing of the inner city, that riots and violence would condemn the next generation of minority youth to poverty, poor education, dependence, and social misery.
Today’s Democrats treat governance as if it is somebody else’s job. In Chicago, successive mayors have failed to do anything to stop the murders of black youth on the city’s south and west sides. Instead, under pressure from Black Lives Matter activists, they have pulled the police back. They back more gun control laws, deflecting blame and hoping that somehow making some 300 million guns disappear nationwide will prove to be easier than keeping children in their own cities away from stray bullets.
The conference call that leaked last month between Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and aldermen in the city while the Black Lives Matter riots were raging revealed a leader incapable of listening to, let along responding to, desperate pleas of residents for help.
In Minneapolis, the Democrat-dominated city council voted to defund the police. The mayor, to his credit, opposes the idea, but he faces a veto-proof majority. The city council failed to explain what would replace the police force. In Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti is cutting $150 million from the police budget, the city council voted last week to approve a plan to replace armed police with unarmed “crisis response” teams for non-violent calls. Rather than fighting crime, L.A. will fight “systemic racism.”
The failure of schools in these cities — the real “systemic racism,” if such a thing exists — is not blamed on the teachers unions who oppose any progress, but is blamed on white flight to the suburbs two generations ago. The unions and Democrats claim that money is the problem, even though the decrepit schools of Baltimore rank third in the U.S. for per-capita spending. Rather than confront the unions, Democrats intend to annex the suburbs — and their tax base — to the cities. More failure will inevitably result.
Democrats have, in short, given up on local governance. That is partly the result of the emergence of cable news, which created a national audience that is more important to ambitious politicians than their local constituencies. It is also partly the result of anti-Trump hysteria, which has created an alternate reality for much of urban America, particularly its elites.
But Democrats’ neglect also results from a deep post-modernist cultural and intellectual shift that became apparent during the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama was never held accountable for anything. When a problem arose, he would claim to have learned about it from the media, express appropriate outrage, and that was that. He seemed to think running America was about making speeches — and why wouldn’t he? The media praised him at every step.
Or look at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She has delayed the passage of every single relief bill that President Trump and the Republicans proposed during the coronavirus. The results of those delays are real, and measurable: millions of jobs were lost as she dithered for more than two weeks on approving an extension of the Payment Protection Program (PPP), for example. But she barely faced questions from the media for the delays — and today she and her party are running around taking credit for the relief.
Watching a crazed mob tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus in Pelosi’s native Baltimore on July 4, it was impossible to believe an earlier generation of Democratic leaders would have allowed such destruction. (Pelosi’s own father, after all, dedicated a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.) In this case, the monument honored the contributions of immigrants, specifically the Italian-American community. Yet there were no police in sight.
When Democrats are in charge, they are not expected to do anything. Joe Biden represents the culmination of that idea: he is barely even running his own campaign.
Trump tweets — but he also works hard. To Democrats, governance is simply someone else’s problem.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.