How Ferguson made conservatives lose faith in the police

For a long time, there was a real hunger for someone to come in and take charge with tough-on-crime attitude — but there were also consequences. Surely, conservatives’ pro-police politics fueled the party’s continued loss of minority voters, some of whom likely saw law and order as a code term for abuse and discrimination. It also led to an interesting bit of cognitive dissonance, whereby the small government party was more than willing to trust the police. (Though this can be squared when one considers Burkean conservatism is about “ordered liberty,” and that one can have his liberty taken away both by the government and by violent mobs.)

But times change, and with it, political parties and ideologies evolve. In recent years, conservative opinion leaders have been more willing to question authority. They’re more skeptical of the police and the military, and don’t just accept everything these institutions do as being in service of their “protect and serve” purposes. And the way conservative opinion leaders have reacted to Ferguson illustrate this reordering.

Now, one might expect libertarian-leaning commentators like Friedersdorf and Radley Balko (author of Rise of the Warrior Cop), and politicians like Rand Paul, to stake out positions that diverge from traditional conservative thought. But that’s not the only shift we’re seeing. More notable is the fact that traditional conservative commentators seem to have adopted a more nuanced take these days — as opposed to the almost knee-jerk support of the police you might have expected a few years ago.