Posts Tagged ‘law and order’

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

prisoner

The third of four posts on America’s scandalous prison industrial complex.

While private prison companies and profits are the primary driver of America’s scandalous incarceration rates, institutional racism and the collapse of America’s mental health system also make a major contribution.

Most crimes in the US are committed by white people. The most heinous crimes, such as serial killings, mass shootings and mortgage and foreclosure fraud are nearly always committed by Caucasians. Yet ethnic minorities, who comprise less than 35% of the general population (14.3% African America, 17% Hispanic) represent 58% of the prison population

A black man born in 1991 has a 29% chance of going to prison. One in 15 black children and one in 42 Latino children have a parent in prison

Institutional Racism in the Criminal Justice System

Reasons for the mass incarceration of ethnic minorities are multifaceted. Racially biased policing is the most obvious. Police randomly stop (and sometimes shoot) people of color for no other reason than their ethnicity. Once in custody, low income minority defendants have no choice but to rely on inexperienced, overworked and underpaid public defenders to represent them. Owing to time constraints and restricted investigation budgets, public defenders often pressure minority defendants who are “factually” innocent to cop a plea. This becomes especially worrying in cases where police have deliberately lied or fabricated evidence.

Disproportionate Sentencing

Once convicted, according to the Wall Street Journal, an African American offender will likely receive a harsher sentence than a white person committing a comparable crime. Nearly half of America’s prison population are doing time for non-violent offenses. This is largely due to racist war on drugs and tough-on-crime polices that force judges to impose minimum mandatory sentences and disallow non-custodial sentences, such as home detention and community service.

The main driver behind minimum mandatory sentencing and habitual offender (aka “three strikes”)* laws is race-based neoconservative fear mongering by corporate media and neoconservative politicians. Both deliberately portray ethnic minorities as inherently unstable, aggressive, violent and a threat to the social order.

In his 2003 documentary series The Power of Nightmares, Adam Curtis eloquently depicts how neoconservatives deliberately create myths about dark skinned Muslim fanatics to win votes and consolidate political power. The neocons’ racist law and order agenda is the domestic counterpart of their War on Terror. Convinced they are at imminent risk from African and Hispanic men, terrified white voters elect strong tough-on-crime candidates to lock them away for as long as possible.

*Typically three strikes laws require mandatory imprisonment without opportunity of parole for all violent offenders with two prior felony convictions.

To be continued with a final post discussing the wholesale warehousing of America’s mentally ill in prisons and jails.

photo credit: http://notothepic.tumblr.com/