Saturday, May 07, 2022

Knowing Which Way The Wind Blows

Conservatives deserve to gloat. In 1986-1987 "What a Country!" ran on American television featuring, among others, Yakov Smirnoff, who had become an American citizen two months earlier after having emigrated from what was then the Ukrainian area of the USSR.

It has been 35 years since "what a country" became a thing for Smirnoff but the phrase still rings true, in an ironic sort of way.  You'll remember those heady days nearly two years ago when we read

half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. That was a single day in more than a month of protests that still continue to today.

Four recent polls — including one released this week by Civis Analytics, a data science firm that works with businesses and Democratic campaigns — suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks.

These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.

“I’ve never seen self-reports of protest participation that high for a specific issue over such a short period,” said Neal Caren, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies social movements in the United States.

While it’s possible that more people said they protested than actually did, even if only half told the truth, the surveys suggest more than seven million people participated in recent demonstrations.

The turnout was extraordinary and at times it seemed as if there were even more individuals demonstrating for a movement which, it was assumed, would have more of a lasting impact than did the one-year run of "What a Country."  Surely, this would be more than a "thing" when

“The geographic spread of protest is a really important characteristic and helps signal the depth and breadth of a movement’s support,” said Kenneth Andrews, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

One of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter. While the group isn’t necessarily directing each protest, it provides materials, guidance and a framework for new activists, Professor Woodly said. Those activists are taking to social media to quickly share protest details to a wide audience.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but there’s been a big shift in public opinion about the movement as well as broader support for recent protests. A deluge of public support from organizations like the N.F.L. and NASCAR for Black Lives Matter may have also encouraged supporters who typically would sit on the sidelines to get involved.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, but there’s been a big shift in public opinion about the movement as well as broader support for recent protests.

Well, that didn't last long.  Fox News and, to a lesser extent, other news outlets repeatedly ran video of violence which occurred at the racial justice protests that summer and autumn.  

Not all such acts were committed by individuals supportive of the black lives. No matter. The axiom "a picture is worth a thousand words" is not valid because of their questionable validity. Instead, pictures create an immediate and often lasting effect upon voters unaware of the manipulative impact they are typically intended to generate. A combustible mixture is created when added to two things: a) the couple (literally) of prominent Democrats (Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib) who have advocated an actual defunding of police; and b) the prominent, centrist Democrats (such as Jim Clyburn) who have denounced other Democrats for allegedly wanting to defund the police.

Thus, notwithstanding the previous and ongoing effort of Black Lives Matter, the movement that began in earnest and was- or appeared- spectacularly popular two years ago currently is far less now. Therefore, it shouldn't be shocking that now

In an effort to address rising crime rates, 19 mostly moderate House Democrats are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote soon on bipartisan legislation that would increase funding for police departments across the country.

“As national crime rates increase, including homicides, car jackings, and assaults, now is the time to support local law enforcement through passage of bipartisan, bicameral commonsense legislation,” the Democrats wrote Friday in a letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., that was first shared with NBC News.

The letter is the latest sign that Democrats, fighting to preserve their fragile majority this fall, are concerned about rising crime and the “defund the police” messaging from progressives that contributed to the party’s loss of 13 House seats in the 2020 election.

Two vulnerable moderate Democrats — Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Cindy Axne of Iowa — spearheaded the letter, which was also addressed to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

The "Invest to Protect Act of 2022" is not some crazy-ass or fascist right-wing legislation.  But these are Democrats, not Republicans, and if any of them publicly opposed the racial justice protests of 2020, he or she did so very quietly. Some agreed and some disagreed at that time with the protests, which a few probably still believe were beneficial.

Nonetheless, their goal is to be re-elected and, in competitive districts, they are unlikely to be successful unless they have their pulse on the sentiments of their constituents.  They realize that sentiment is not to de-fund the police, but to jack up their funding.

God is in the details, and whether increased funding for police departments is wise lies substantially with how the money is spent. Surely, however, the millions of people in the streets in the summer and fall of 2020 were not pushing to expand the role of law enforcement in the lives of black Americans, or any Americans.

But what a country!  Notwithstanding the popularity of the protests as they were occurring and the optimism that there would be improved monitoring of law enforcement agencies and their actions, voters have become apoplectic about an increase in violent crime. With encouragement from media,  Democratic (!) politicians are reassuring them that they will fortify police budgets.  Of course, no liberal or centrist will admit that the movement about which they were so giddy less than two years ago has largely failed.

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