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The 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate Is A(nother) Lying Authoritarian

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) recently published an op-ed in the New York Times.

Basically, Cotton's argument is:

  1. Riots = bad.
  2. Protests that are "peaceful and law-abiding" aren't quite as bad...
  3. ...but really, they didn't send me to Washington to make such persnickety distinctions.
  4. We should conduct military assaults on Americans the same way I did against insurgents in Afghanistan's Laghman Province.
  5. Because... [here he's fuzzy; he just likes "calling in the miltary."]

These are just a few of Cotton's lies, half-truths and dissembling.

  • The link supposedly to evidence of de Blasio's abnegation of responsibility actually shows the protesters standing up to looting and destruction, and details further, rampant police misconduct. You're not helping yourself by linking to this one, Cotton.
  • He cites instances — all horrible — of violence toward cops. But he neglects to contrast those to the many, many more instances of violence *from* cops toward peaceful protestors and journalists. Again, his cherry picking does his argument no favors.
  • He claims that elites "have excused an orgy of violence" by citing a comment from Chris Cuomo that it was not the responsibility of protestors to remain "polite and peaceful." Cotton makes a huge leap to assume that Cuomo's sanction for loud and rowdy protest extends to an "orgy of violence." Unless Cotton's real concern, like any pearl clutcher, is just violence done to decorum.
  • And EVEN THO Cotton himself calls equating rioters and looters with peaceful, law-abiding protesters a "revolting moral equivalence" — and says a majority who seek to protest peacefully should not be confused with "bands of miscreants" — he later cites a stat from a Morning Consult poll that "58 percent of registered voters, including nearly half of Democrats and 37 percent of African-Americans, would support cities’ calling in the military to 'address protests and demonstrations' that are in 'response to the death of George Floyd.' Yet declines to note that 57% of registered voters *support* the protest in general — including 40% of self-identified Republicans.
  • ...and only a third of registered voters are opposed to the protesters themselves. Other findings from that same poll:
    • 49% of voters think "Most of the current protesters are peaceful and want to bring about meaningful social reform, even though some are trying to incite violence or destroy property." (42% think more of the protesters are looking to incite violence or destroy property.)
    • 79% of voters (and 80% of Republicans and 79% of self-identified conservatives) think it is important for the police to address racial inequality in the U.S.
    • 81% of African-Americans think it's important for the general public to address racial inequality. That's nearly comparable to the 79% of Republicans and conservatives who think so. (And even less than the 83% of voters overall.)
    • And on the particular question he cites, it's actually "calling in the U.S. military to supplement city police forces." Perhaps a minor distinction, but possibly an important one.

      The fault lies in the wording of the question, which made no distinction between "protests and demonstrations" and "looting and destruction." (The latter weren't even an option for comparison, for one thing.)

Suppose the U.S. government (read: Trump and his sycophants) — taking a lead from a Republican senator on the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence — decide to implement Cotton's proposal. What then constitutes an illegal or unpeaceable assembly worthy of military action and assault? Is it staying out after curfew? Is it shouting at police officers? Is it taking video or pictures of the police breaking the law and deploying excessive force?

For that matter, why are police worrying about obviously nonviolent demonstrations, turning out in force and more frequently escalating verbal situations into physical violence themselves, rather than patrolling less crowded areas that seem to be where the looting and destruction take place? It's been cited that police shouldn't risk their lives just to protect someone else's property, in contrast to the sacrifice that might be necessary to protect a life. Then why would property destruction warrant a military attack for that same situation?

Property damage and stealing may be a serious issue — in fact, I think they usually are, especially for the owners of that property, as do many shop owners and others of every race and ethnicity — but if life and death isn't at stake, then neither should enforcement against or punishment for looting and destruction be meted out with those stakes.

As an aside

More of the people (16%) in this Morning Consult poll are either cops themselves, have a household member who is, or know a police officer in their extended family or friends, than are involved or know people involved in the protests (11%). But worth noting that 18% of the people supporting the protest and the protestors are cops or cop-adjacent (versus 14% of that demographic that opposes the protest and the 15% that opposes the protestors).

And even among those who outright "oppose the police," 14% are police themselves or police-adjacent. In fact, slightly more police officers themselves say they support the protest and protesters (n=38 and 34, respectively) than say they support the police (n=31). And non-cop/cop-adjacent people are more likely to say they oppose the protests and protesters than are the cops and their friends and families. I.e., chickenhawks gonna chickhawk.

As another aside

That same Morning Consult poll Cotton cites asks: If the election were held today [it was conducted May 31-June 1], for whom would you vote?

  • Registered voters: Biden 51% vs Trump 39% (unsure 10%)
  • Democrats: Biden 92% vs Trump 5% (unsure 3%)
  • Independents: Biden 43% vs 34% Trump (unsure 23%)
  • Republicans: Biden 8% vs Trump 84% (unsure 8%)

That to me looks like an "enthusiasm gap." If even 100% of the "don't know/no opinions" broke for Trump, Biden would still win the (ahem) popular vote.