Erick Erickson / Jul. 24, 2020

Let the Cities Burn (or Not)

There is no police power in the federal Constitution. The police power is left to the states. To the extent the President can send federal officers into Portland, Oregon, and other cities, it should be to protect federal property.

There is no police power in the federal Constitution. The police power is left to the states. To the extent the President can send federal officers into Portland, Oregon, and other cities, it should be to protect federal property.

The President cannot save Portland from itself, and he should not. He cannot save the other cities either.

I want a mask mandate, but there is no federal police power for the President to impose it. It must come from governors, who have more expansive police powers than your average libertarian-leaning person would have you believe.

The President does not have the power to issue mask mandates, and he does not have the power to send law enforcement to police the streets of America.

The people of Portland have a history of outlandish behavior and displays of protest, including nudity. The place is so bizarre there’s been an entire television show parodying Portland.

By sending federal troops to Portland, the President is not only allowing Portland an escape from their own democratic choices but also providing them with a scapegoat to take the blame. Portland can blame President Donald Trump instead of its residents. They can blame Washington instead of their mayor.

In Portland, the accounts of what is happening diverge. The President and his supporters claim he is protecting federal property and rounding up rioters who have vandalized the property. The media and Democrats claim the presence of these troops is unsettling the city, provoking protestors and arresting more than just those who vandalize property.

Last week, the President and attorney general announced the President will send more federal authorities to cities like Chicago to help local law enforcement with out-of-control crime. This is part of the President’s “law and order” messaging that he has been tweeting regularly. Some will conclude the President is using federal employees to inflame tensions and then set those employees on protestors to try to bolster his claim of out-of-control cities.

Others, me included, would note these cities have been out of control whether the President campaigned on the issue or not. But, 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, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities to fester as they want, they will either figure out they must change or live with the consequences.

When people move out, the tax base collapses and crime goes up, the people will either change their behavior or be democratically marginalized in their voting power. If life goes on as normal, or more people move in to embrace what is happening, then they’ve chosen it, or the problems have been exaggerated by conservatives, as they claim. Let the market decide by letting the actions of a free people control their fate.

The President should withdraw from Oregon and not send supplemental help to these other cities. Instead, he can campaign on their descent to chaos at the hands of Democratic mayors.

A President sending in a police force to a city is a dangerous precedent that will be expanded upon by future presidents, even though they lack a general police power. A city allowed to choose its own fate is a positive precedent, from which we can all draw lessons.

Let Portland burn or not. Let the other cities descend into violence or not. But let the cities decide without intervention from Washington.

I should also note two more things. First, we should all be disturbed to see that the Department of Homeland Security has such a police force, when police power resides with states, not Washington. This is a bridge too far, and, frankly, these teams of troops, soldiers or police, in the gear they are wearing, does convey a military image, not a civilian police force image.

Second, we should note that despite all the bellyaching from all the Democrats about the situation, not a single Democratic leader has advanced a measure to defund these people or cut the budget of the Department of Homeland Security. They could, but they have not even tried.


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