Liberals should stop and frisk Bill de Blasio

Over at The Nation, a debate is raging over whether students at Brown University acted inappropriately when they shouted down New York police chief Ray Kelly, preventing him from delivering an undoubtedly dull lecture about the power and glory of stopping and frisking brown people in New York City with no more probable cause then, “they’re brown and shifty eyed.”

Columnist Katha Pollitt is one who thinks the students Went Too Far. Her particularly patronizing entry in the debate, “Campus Leftists, Use Your Words,” begins by creating a false choice between heckling assholes like Ray Kelly and “informational picketing, holding a teach-in or other counter event, [and] campaigning for a speaker’s of one’s own.” One can do all of those things, actually, while still heckling assholes like Ray Kelly.

But Pollitt’s broader point is that “campus leftists” – children – didn’t win any converts by appearing to bully a poor police chief. It may have been emotionally satisfying, but radical tactics like those only suggest the left lacks for ideas. So what should have those college hot heads done? Vote Democrat and write letters to the editor and good wholesome stuff like that:

It’s fashionable on the left to mock liberalism as weak tea—and sometimes it is. But you know what is getting rid of stop-and-frisk? Liberalism. A major force in the campaign against stop-and-frisk was the NYCLU, which carries the banner of free speech for all. And Bill de Blasio, who just won the mayoral election by a landslide, has pledged to get rid of the policy and Ray Kelly too. Those victories were not won by a handful of student radicals who stepped in with last-minute theatrics. They were won by people who spent years building a legal case and mobilizing popular support for change.

This is wrong and I don’t just say that as a radical leftist who thinks liberalism is weak tea compared to my anarcho-espresso. It is factually wrong. Bill de Blasio, the next mayor of New York City, has not in fact “pledged to get rid of the policy” of stop-and-frisk. What he has pledged to do is rather different. And very liberal.

Under the heading, “Fighting for Meaningful Stop-and-Frisk Reform,” de Blasio’s campaign website informs us that he “has pushed for real reforms in stop-and-frisk” and called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg “to immediately end the overuse and abuse of this tactic.” So de Blasio isn’t looking to “get rid” of anything but, if we’re being cynical – and since we’re dealing with politicians we should be – the public anger over stop-and-frisk. His issue is that the tactic is being overused and abused, not that it’s being used at all. He also boasts that he backed an initiative “which significantly expanded the number of NYPD officers on the streets.” Anyone know what the NYPD’s been up to lately?

Like other successful politicians, de Blasio campaigned in such a way that supporters of all stripes could see what they wanted. If you don’t like stop-and-frisk, you maybe read his condemnations of its “abuse” as a condemnation of the program as a whole – and he took advantage of that, benefiting from a public sick of Mike Bloomberg the same way Barack Obama took advantage of a public sick of George Bush, his mere election seen as repudiation of what came before. By now, we really ought to know better; we ought to know we should wait for concrete action before celebrating a promise; we ought to know those promises, even as weak as they may be, are made to be broken.

Meanwhile, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that aren’t stuck inside being force-fed can expect partly cloudy skies and highs in the upper 80s over the next week, with a slight chance of rain.

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About Charles Davis

A writer and producer with whose work has aired on television and radio and been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Nation and The New Republic.
This entry was posted in Liberalism, Politicians Being Politicians and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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