It is not an accident that the rise in crime rates in the United States is being discussed more and more at a time of increasing demands for regulating the right to bear arms. It is also not a coincidence that light is being shed on this issue in the current American context of a rise in white supremacist groups and growing demands to confront this form of racism.
There has been virtually no increase in crime rates compared to the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency. Yet, under his administration, the issue was not raised as frequently. And crime rates are not, by the way, limited to the rise in mass murders discussed in last week’s article. Instead, they also include crimes of all kinds such as theft, murder, attacks on property, and so on.
Before the focus turned to crime rates, public opinion polls concluded that crime was not one of the issues that a majority of Americans consider a priority, rather, one of many important issues. But the results of those polls inevitably changes after the media turn crime into a “major” issue.
The focus on the issue of crime at this particular time is not a coincidence either. Historical precedent explains the causes and objectives of such an emphasis. At the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the movement’s leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., were seen as outlaws that should be punished by a group of white elites. Hence, in his 1972 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon coined the term “law and order,’ a coded expression that was understood by white people to carry implicit racist connotations.
In the late 1960s, immediately after its most important legislative achievements, the civil rights movement’s gains rolled back, reaching their lowest level with Ronald Reagan’s election in the 1980s. But the era of Reagan and George H.W. Bush also carried an electoral dimension that was aimed at Democrats who were accused of tolerating crime, an accusation that Bush used in his 1988 presidential campaign’s racist rhetoric which helped him win the election. Hence, in his 1992 campaign against Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton pledged to fight crime. At the time, the issue was not a priority for Americans, until the election campaign and the media made it one. Subsequently, under Clinton’s administration, one of the worst anti-crime laws was passed, which greatly contributed to perpetuating the injustice of the criminal justice system toward Black people in particular.
Today, history has repeated itself! Racist connotations are unmistakable, as was the case in the 1960s. The goal today is to generate protest by Black people againstst police racism and the unfairness of the criminal justice system. The Republican Party’s goals are the same as they were in the 1980s. In addition, the high rates of indiscriminate killing, which require regulating the right to bear arms, have mobilized the same decision-makers to stop any attempts to pass gun control. In other words, the goal today is to create a general atmosphere that is hostile regulating the right to bear arms and reform the criminal and judicial systems.
The high crime rates narrative was first introduced by right-leaning factions linked to the Republican Party, and later echoed by the major media. There is evidence that confirms this analysis. Those who speak about high crime rates today are the same ones who explicitly or implicitly say that the use of weapons and violence on the day of the Capitol attack was not a crime that should have been prosecuted! And their leader, Trump, was the first president since Nixon to publicly use the term “law and order,” which has racist connotations in the American context.