Amid Lawlessness, Republicans Are Answering Leadership Call

7 mins read

We can probably all agree that “this is the most important election of our lifetime” is an exceedingly overused phrase in American politics. We can also probably all agree that this year, no matter which political party you belong to, it actually feels true. 

Voters in November will choose a president, which party controls Congress, governors, and thousands of state legislators, who in a majority of states will be largely responsible for redrawing the federal and state district maps that will govern voting for the next decade. 

This year is a battle for the soul of our nation. Everything is on the line – and while we don’t yet know how history will look back on the turbulent start to 2020, we do know that still-developing protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and several appalling police shootings of African Americans have transformed our upcoming elections from a routine decision between Republicans and Democrats into what Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan both  described as “a time for choosing.” This year, it’s a fight between leadership and lawlessness. 

While our country makes its way through a moment of deep self-reflection, the political left has hijacked rational, thoughtful discussions about racism in America for ludicrous proposals to “abolish the police.” Even the liberal media, with its reflexive reaction to help legitimize the Democrats’ agenda — rather than provide an objective examination of it – have struggled to explain progressive activists’ aspirations for a “police-free future.”  

Just a month ago, such radical ideas would have been laughed away. Today, they are receiving serious consideration in America’s largest – and in some of our most dangerous – cities. New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia have each already begun to roll back police funding. The Minneapolis City Council has voted to dismantle its department.   

Our country is broken, our people are hurting. Now more than ever Americans need leadership and action, not anarchy. Republicans at every level of government are stepping up and putting leadership ahead of lawlessness. 

President Trump has already taken swift action to create positive change within America’s police force. Under an executive order signed last week, the United States attorney general will allocate grants to “law enforcement agencies that meet high standards,” including use-of-force and de-escalation training. The order also “provides incentives for law enforcement agencies to use a nationwide database to track terminations, criminal convictions, and civil judgments against law enforcement officers for excessive use-of-force.” 

Republicans in Congress are also quickly driving legislation. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who last week faced disgusting, racist mockery from the left, introduced the JUSTICE Act, which carves out a clear path for meaningful police reform that includes more body cameras and strengthening reports about incidents and shootings where the police are involved.  

Senate Democrats, of course, couldn’t bear the idea of Republicans’ good-faith legislation – so, they’ve taken to smearing it instead of debating it. First, in appallingly racist fashion, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin labeled Scott’s bill as a “token approach.” Now, Senate Democrats are threatening to block the bill from even being considered.

But amid our nationalized politics, meaningful criminal justice reform will primarily occur in our state capitals and seats of local government. President Obama wrote shortly after protests began that “the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.” He’s absolutely right. Thankfully, Republicans in the states are already leading the way. 

Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed police reform legislation this month that bans most chokeholds by law enforcement, allows the state attorney general to investigate deaths caused by an officer, and prohibits an officer from being hired “if they have previously been convicted of a felony, fired for misconduct or quit to avoid being fired for misconduct.”     

Ohio Republican lawmakers, two of whom are former police officers, introduced a “15-point plan to improve law enforcement training, expand officer diversity and implement more disciplinary procedures.” In Michigan, Republican state Sen. Ruth Johnson has introduced bipartisan legislation that would require police officers who see another officer using excessive force to intervene. “The law enforcement agency would also be required to punish officers who fail to intervene,” she said. 

Strong, steady, compassionate leadership from Republicans across the country is helping to heal our nation – while liberal activists stoke the flames of fear and lawlessness. Many Democrats are forcing Americans to make a false choice: law and order or meaningful police reform. That’s preposterous. We can do both. We have to do both. And Republicans are proving we will get it done.  

Now is a time for soul-searching in America — and it’s happening in states all across the country. Let’s hope for the good of all Americans it continues. And that America remains strong, police and all.

Dave Abrams is the deputy executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

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