Unless you’re one of the people who get virtually all of their news by watching CNN or MSNBC, you’re probably aware that the situation in Portland, Oregon has gone from bad to worse to total crapstorm over the past month or two. The police have lost control of various sections of the city, sometimes for weeks at a stretch. The “peaceful protests” that our MSM talking heads love to go on about regularly spin-off violent mobs who smash in storefronts, loot everything that’s not nailed down, and set fire to the rest. So the question before us today is whether or not we should allow this demented social experiment to run its full course and just see what happens.
That’s the proposal being put forth this week by Erick Erickson in a column with the rather unsubtle title of “Let Portland Burn.” The President has sent in federal troops to guard the federal buildings, but Erickson notes that this is the extent of his power. The federal government doesn’t technically have any policing power. And if Mayor Ted Wheeler and Governor Kate Brown will not step in to rescue the law-abiding residents and business owners of Portland, there isn’t much more that can be done. So with that in mind, he suggests that perhaps we should just let the city burn and allow the residents to sort out the debris (both physical and political) when it’s all over. On top of that, any attempt at federal intervention offers an excuse for the people of Portland to shift the blame and escape the consequences of their own decisions.
[T]he people of Portland have a history of outlandish displays of protest and behavior, including nudity. The place is so bizarre there’s been an entire television show parodying Portland.
By sending federal troops to Portland, OR, the President and federal government are allowing Portland not just escape from their own democratic choices, but also allowing them a scapegoat to take the blame.
Portland can blame President Trump instead of the residents of the city. They can blame Washington instead of their mayor.
At some point, we must allow people to live with their choices and make it easy for those who want to escape to actually move. If we allow Portland to fester as it wants, it will either figure out it must change, or live with its consequences.
Erickson’s proposal, while a bit blunter, is along the same lines as a conclusion I reached a while ago and have written about here. And it applies not only to Portland, but New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, and other large, predominantly blue major cities. Whether we’re seeing destruction stemming from civil unrest of just gang violence on an industrial scale, such lawlessness can be beaten back and kept under control. It’s been done before, with the startling transformation New York City underwent from the early 90s to the late 2000s being one of the best examples. It just requires leadership with the spine required to do what must be done and a populace willing to support them.
Sadly, neither of those factors is in place in most of our larger cities today and those who would seek to dismantle our lawful society have taken notice. And they’ve taken advantage. But the people of these cities continue to elect the same group of Democratic hand-wringers year after year no matter how badly conditions on the ground deteriorate. So does this mean that the rest of the nation and the federal government are out of options besides just waiting for the cities to implode?
There’s clearly an argument to be made in favor of such a conclusion, though it’s an ugly thought to contemplate. As Erickson suggests, there must surely come a point where the remaining sane people in Portland and these other cities will look around at the shootings, the rapes, the arson and the looting and come to the conclusion that something isn’t working. This relies on the old adage which holds that a liberal is just a conservative who hasn’t been mugged yet. We’ve already covered stories here about the scores of liberals in California who supported insufferable gun control laws for years and then were shocked (shocked, I say!) to discover how hard it was to quickly purchase a firearm when the riots approached their neighborhoods. Perhaps something similar will happen on a larger scale in Portland? It’s too soon to say.
In the meantime, the federal government isn’t throwing in the towel entirely. At least not yet. Ted Cruz just introduced a new bill in the Senate that would hold Mayors and Governors accountable for not enforcing the rule of law and maintaining order as they are constitutionally obligated to do. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
This is not the American way. Local leaders who allow rioters to destroy lives and businesses need to be held accountable. That’s why I’m introducing the Restitution for Economic losses Caused by Leaders who Allow Insurrection and Mayhem Act—Reclaim for short. The bill would hold state and local officials liable when they abdicate their legal duty to protect the public in cases where death, serious bodily harm or significant property damage have occurred.
Specifically, my bill would allow for treble damages, meaning a plaintiff could be awarded triple the amount of the damage done to his property. It would also establish a federal cause of action, which would empower victims of violence in autonomous zones to take legal action against senior local or state lawmakers who have tolerated or encouraged radicals to take over the area. Finally, when politicians refuse to defend innocent Americans, this bill would remove or limit federal funding under grant programs that supply important law-enforcement and crime-prevention programs for local governments.
It’s an interesting thought, but it doesn’t really impose any direct, individual punishment on the elected officials allowing this mayhem to fester. When victims of this violence sue the city or the state, it’s the taxpayers who foot the bill for the increased damage settlements, not the Mayor or the Governor. And cutting off grant funds that go to law enforcement just as the police are already being held back by their state or municipal elected executives only makes it harder for them to literally and figuratively put out the fires.
Or maybe that’s what Senator Cruz is angling for in the long run. Could he be echoing Erick Erickson in his own way and simply saying “let it burn?”