One of the critical functions of government is to "insure domestic tranquility". It is in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. It stands right there with justice and is actually listed ahead of defense, general welfare and liberty as reasons for the establishment of the bedrock principles of the United States of America.
Most historians trace the roots of this important governmental role to concern by the Founders on what they had witnessed in "Shays' Rebellion" that transpired shortly before they convened to draft the Constitution.
Shays' Rebellion involved men who took up arms to protest conditions in the country after the Revolutionary War. They tried to take justice into their own hands. The vehemence and violence that occurred had a profound impact on our Founders as they gathered shortly thereafter to draft the Constitution. Insuring "domestic tranquility" became a key reason for a strong national government.
Shays' Rebellion was also the catalyst to bring George Washington back into public service after his retirement as the leader of the Revolutionary Army. The Rebellion convinced him to return to public service and work for a strong federal constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. In fact, Washington had no patience in trying to influence or appease protestors who exercised violence. He wanted "a government by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured" to insure that such tumults would not be allowed to occur in the future.
Our Constitution that was created in the aftermath of that civil unrest was crafted to establish equal justice under the law and to protect individual liberties but it was equally concerned about abuses of power. The separation of powers between the three branches of government is the most obvious example of that but the Founders also made clear that citizens were not to take justice into their own hands.
As James Madison explained so well in speaking of the protection of our liberty,
"Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power."
This is useful perspective to have as we see what has unfolded in the events of the last week beginning with the death of an African American man, George Floyd, during his arrest by officers with the Minneapolis police.
Video of the incident is damning to the officers involved. Four officers involved were immediately dismissed from the police department. Criminal charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter have been filed against the police officer who pinned Floyd to the ground for over 8 minutes. Charges may be filed against the other three officers who stood by during all of this. However, our Constitution also guarantees them their day in court with due process of law.
It is entirely understandable that the local community would be outraged over the death of George Floyd. The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
However, those rights do not extend to smashing windows, spray painting storefronts, looting stores, overturning cars, throwing rocks and bricks at police, shutting down highways and setting neighborhoods on fire.
It is also not clear how events in Minneapolis, Minnesota translate to violence in New York City, Oakland, California, Chicago, Illinois, Dallas, Texas, Louisville, Kentucky and scores of other cities.
The narrative that is popular is that police violence against African Americans is rampant and unchecked. It is said that it has worsened since President Trump took office by his use of "racist rhetoric". We saw this in recent days when many called Trump racist by calling the looters and arsonists in Minneapolis "thugs". Never mind that some of those "thugs" were white ANTIFA members who have no other objective in all of this than to create more racial and civic discord.
What are the facts on police violence?
Here is data from a website "Mapping Police Violence" whose purpose is to highlight police violence. The people behind this site are not objective observers. They have a specific agenda. Nevertheless, their data does not support the narrative that police violence is on the rise.
This is a chart on total killings by police since 2013. It is essentially unchanged year to year. It did not matter whether Barack Obama or Donald Trump was President.
More telling for the narrative is this chart that shows police killings in decline in urban areas where we are seeing all of the violent protests.
The narrative is completely destroyed when we see the chart on police killings of Blacks in urban areas.
Police killings of Blacks in urban areas were down 30% between 2013 (when Obama was President) compared to 2019 (when Trump was President).
Police killings overall for Blacks (urban, suburban, rural) have also been trending down since 2013.
Police killings of unarmed Blacks have shown the biggest decrease clearly indicating that police generally are exercising much greater restraint due to concerns about the issue of police violence.
Deaths have dropped by almost two-thirds since 2015 for unarmed Blacks at the hands of the police.
The trend is also down for unarmed Whites but to a lesser degree than for Blacks.
We also hear the term "injustice" thrown around a lot regarding these protests. It is about unequal justice or social injustice or economic injustice.
However, the protests and violence are almost always taking place in cities that have been ruled by liberal Democrats for decades. If the police or government are responsible for "injustice" in these cities why do the people not "petition the government for a redress of their grievances"? In our system, the best way to do this is with their votes.
Minneapolis has not had a Republican mayor since 1973.
What about some of the other cities in which are seeing violence?
Chicago has not had a Republican mayor elected since 1927.
St. Louis has been electing Democrats as mayor since 1949.
Philadelphia has had a Democrat mayor since 1952.
Detroit last elected a Republican in 1957.
What is particularly sad is that most of the damage and violence thus far has been directed against people and property in their own neighborhoods. Who does this hurt the most?
All of this is coming right just as many business owners are trying to get back on their feet after the economic lockdown.
What do I think President Trump should do?
1. He should address the nation and state that he understands the frustrations involved in the police work in Minneapolis but state unequivocally that this violence will not be tolerated.
2. He should share the data and charts above to show that while more needs to be done, the facts are clear that acts of police violence has improved over the last several years.
3. He should make clear that he is expecting local and state governments to IMMEDIATELY do their jobs in protecting individuals and their property.
4. He should quote the preamble to the Constitution and state that it is the role of the federal government to insure domestic tranquility if state and local governments cannot do so and he will swiftly move federal law enforcement resources into cities which do not take responsibility for the safety of their citizens.
5. He should state that he will provide the full resources of the federal government to assist state and local governments to bring the full force of the law against anyone who committed violence against any person or property and who was involved in any looting.
6. He should state that the Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute anyone found to have crossed state lines to incite violence or anarchy to the fullest extent of federal law. Particular focus will be directed to ANTIFA which has a record of inciting violence and promoting insurrection and anarchy. ANTIFA is very clear in its goals that it is not interested in policy reform or peaceful debate. The organization is dedicated to direct militant confrontation with those that they disagree with and their past actions have made that clear. The time for tolerance of these thugs is well past due if the Constitution means anything.
It is also well past time that people are permitted to use discredited narratives and excuses about injustice to perpetrate injustice on others.
It is time to INSURE DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY like we mean it.