Ferguson, civil liberties, and the Tea Party

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, has highlighted for many the current state of local police enforcement procedures, particularly its militarization in both equipment and tactics. I’ve been amused by the attempt by people who hate what the Tea Party stands for to suggest that the Tea Party is hypocritical for not criticizing the Ferguson police as an example of big government out of control.

There are two problems with that attempt. First is the reality that there have been plenty of people criticizing Ferguson’s response from that point of view. I’m not saying those people would identify themselves as members of the Tea Party. Not that many people do. “Tea Party” has come to refer more to a general outlook on the relationship between government and the people than it does to an identifiable group, though there are some groups with that specific phrase included in their name (e.g., “Tea Party Patriots”). But the point is, they’ve been talking about police over-militarization for a long time as an aspect of governmental over-reach, so what’s going on in Ferguson isn’t a shock deserving histrionic reactions, it’s another in a long list of examples. But to those who hate the Tea Party, if it’s not hysterical, it’s not a serious response.

The second problem is that the people calling out the Tea Party to respond to Ferguson probably don’t encounter any writers, commentators, or pundits from that point of view, so how would they ever know when they did? I think of Mary Katherine Ham, writing at HotAir.com. Again, I don’t know if Ms. Ham or HotAir.com would self-identify as “Tea Party,” but they certainly advance principles and policies that fit the profile. In any case, I’m quite confident that people who hate the Tea Party are highly unlikely to encounter her writing, there or anywhere else she publishes. Yet they’ll still confidently claim that the Tea Party doesn’t care about big government when it looks like over-militarized police in a predominantly African-American suburb.

And even if they did read and understand the writings and comments and long-standing criticisms by, let’s say “conservatives” if not explicit “tea partiers,” I’m pretty sure they’d still say it doesn’t count unless people in tri-cornered hats with Gadsen flags are gathering in Ferguson itself. I don’t know if any tea partiers are feeling any pressure to be seen taking a stand against big government over-reach a la the Ferguson Police Department, but if they are, the attempt to placate their critics is a fool’s errand.

For a thorough exploration, see Noah Rothman’s compendium here. The bottom line: “The fact that some center-left commentators believe there is total silence on the right when it comes to issues relating to excessive police force and semi-military posture is a shocking admission of ignorance.”


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