The Problem With MAGA Cops

Countdown Journal: 39 Days To Go

We seem to have hit the throw-all-the-sh*t-against-the-wall phase of the campaign: Trump is promising $200 vouchers for seniors with imaginary money; there’s new Russiagate fan fiction; DOJ leaks; more electoral chaos; a looming SCOTUS pick; and a panicky Lindsey Graham, pleading with Fox viewers that “I’m being killed.”

There are also some eye-popping polls for those of you who are white-knuckling the campaign. The one that’s giving the White House the most heartburn today: a Fox New Poll showing Biden leading in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (!). But there are also enough other numbers to induce more Democratic bed-wetting in Florida and in Iowa.

And here is the headline in today’s Washington Post: “Trump’s escalating attacks on election prompt fears of a constitutional crisis.”

Happy Friday.

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 39 days until Election day, and then 78 days after that until the Inauguration.

I’ve written about this before, but as protests over police killings continue, it is worth revisiting the role that police unions play in all of this. As Jeff Jacoby wrote this summer, "the only way to 'reform' police unions is to abolish them altogether and end collective bargaining for public-safety employees.”

In the months since then, the police unions have done as much to damage the image of police-community relations as the most virulent critics. Even as police found themselves at the center of a political and cultural firestorm, the unions have gone full MAGA. The timing could not be worse.

In a year when police are struggling to regain their communities’ trust, one big city police union after another has embraced Trumpism. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest police union, lead the MAGA charge.

“Public safety will undoubtedly be a main focus for voters in this year’s election,” declared FOP President Patrick Yoes. “Look at what the national discourse has focused on for the last six months. President Trump has shown time after time that he supports our law enforcement officers and understands the issues our members face every day.”

His endorsement was echoed by even stronger rhetoric by union leaders in Chicago and New York. Via The NYT:

New York City’s largest police union had not endorsed a candidate for president in decades when its leader, Patrick J. Lynch, stepped to the lectern last month at President Trump’s golf club in New Jersey.

“Mr. President, we are fighting for our lives out there,” Mr. Lynch said, in the all-caps cadence familiar to any casual viewer of the New York nightly news. “We don’t want this to spread to the rest of the country. We need your strong voice across the country.”

The endorsement seemed to underline the growing gap between the police and the public in New York City.

Even as the Police Department has become more diverse and is now less than half white, the unions continue to be run mostly by white conservatives who live in the suburbs and increasingly echo the president’s views.

The demographic gap helps explain the political spectacle and cultural gulf on display in recent weeks as New York City police union leaders have stridently repeated the president’s mayhem messaging and attacked Black Lives Matter protests in scathing terms.

It’s the same story in Chicago, where the police union boss, John Catanzara, “is a vocal supporter of Trump's and was one of those on the White House lawn when the president accepted the Republican Party's nomination for reelection.”

As the Chicago Tribune noted, the MAGA-fication of the police union “further illustrates a division between law enforcement and protesters who for months have railed against police brutality and called for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.”

None of this is strictly new. Police unions have long been active in politics and have formed close ties with Republican politicians. This has been something of a paradox: Democrats are historically and reflexively supportive of public employee unions. But while Republicans have been skeptical and aggressive in their approach to other public employee unions (especially teachers' unions), they have carved out an exception for the police unions. When Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker successfully pushed through legislation to geld public employee unions, he famously exempted police unions, and like other Republicans, was rewarded with their political support.

But these are not normal times; and this doesn’t feel quite normal.

You don’t need to look at this from the point of view of the critics of the police. Look at it from the perspective of the Thin Blue Line itself. No Police Department can be successful without the trust and support of its own community. This is not just a public relations issue, it's a fundamental question of their ability to interact and cooperate with people in the neighborhoods they patrol.

Many in the African-American community already regard the police as an adversary: an occupying force to be resisted. Police are already a potent symbol in the culture wars. But the union endorsements mean that the police themselves are embracing that culture war role, by taking sides in a partisan political election.

In major cities across the country people in the streets are now confronted with police officers who were formally members of an organization that has embraced Donald Trump.

Of course, they have the right to do this. Under the First Amendment individual police officers and organizations to which they belong have a constitutional right to engage in politics. That’s not in question.

What is in question is whether this is a prudent or responsible move, and whether it’s time to abolish the police unions in order to save the institution of policing?

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This happened yesterday:


I love Cedarburg, Wisconsin, but… I have a modest suggestion for national reporters.

For some reason, all of them have been making a pilgrimage to this charming city in my backyard. (It really is one of my favorite towns.) The result has been some great reporting here and here and here. It turns out Cedarburg is pretty Trumpy.

But next time, you might want to visit some other Wisconsin suburbs, which have a very different story to tell. Perhaps you might consider visiting Bayside, Elm Grove, Whitefish Bay, Wauwatosa, or even my hometown of Mequon. Via Craig Gilbert:

The 10 communities that saw the sharpest drop in the GOP share of the vote from 2012 to 2016 constitute many of the state’s wealthiest places: Whitefish Bay (median household income of $103,000), Fox Point ($107,000) and River Hills ($176,000) in Milwaukee County; Bayside ($104,000) in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties; Elm Grove ($119,000), Lac La Belle ($166,000) and Chenequa ($153,000) in Waukesha County; and Maple Bluff ($129,000) in Dane County.

Some of these are blue communities that became much bluer with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. In Bayside, Obama won by 11 points, but Clinton won by 34.

Some are red places that became a lot less red. In Elm Grove, Romney won by 36 but Trump by 13.  In Mequon in Ozaukee County, Romney won by 31 points and Trump by 11. River Hills, Wisconsin’s wealthiest place, voted Democratic for the first time in at least 90 years.

And some are purple places that turned blue. In Milwaukee County, Romney lost Wauwatosa by 1 while Trump lost it by 22. Romney lost Whitefish Bay by 4, but Trump lost it by 33.

It’s worth noting that most of those communities were once solidly (as in overwhelmingly) Republican. Also:

Trump did worse than Romney in 15 of the 19 communities in Democratic Milwaukee County (he won just five of them: Greenfield, Greendale, Oak Creek, Franklin and Hales Corners). And he did worse than Romney in 33 of the 37 communities in Republican Waukesha County (even though he won them all).


So where are we at on September 25, 2010? Here’s 538’s forecast chart:


This is the video I needed yesterday:


This is the video I really didn’t need.


There are 39 days to go.

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Quick Hits

1. What is To Be Done?

Bill Kristol in the Bulwark:

(1) Ignore the voices of worldly complacency or pseudo-sophisticated reassurance. Yes, maybe it’s just talk. Maybe he won’t really try anything serious. Maybe he’s too incompetent to get away with it if he tried. Maybe the system would hold even if he did try.

Or maybe not. It all sure seems alarming. So maybe we should be alarmed. Better safe than sorry.

So everyone: Sound the alarm. Put the country, the media, the voters, state and local election officials, elected officials at all levels of government, and the individuals who matter in the federal government on notice. Suitably alarmed, they can act in appropriate ways to mitigate the danger.


2. Trump’s Russophilia Has Become Intelligence Policy

Eric Edelman and David J. Kramer write in today’s Bulwark:

Multiple reports suggest U.S. officials risk the wrath of President Trump whenever they discuss misbehavior by Russian President Vladimir Putin, including ongoing interference in the U.S. presidential election. The most recent example comes from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Wray was categorical about ongoing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. “We certainly have seen very active—very active—efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020,” Mr. Wray said, specifically “to both sow divisiveness and discord, and I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly, to primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden in what the Russians see as a kind of an anti-Russian establishment.”

Within hours of Wray’s sworn testimony, President Trump expressed his disapproval. “But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump tweeted.


3. Vaccine Victimhood

Brent Orrell in today’s Bulwark:

Trump’s real problem regarding the vaccine—as it is for so many other matters—is not a “deep state” of scientists who are committed to his defeat. It’s with the public, which, having watched his erratic management of the pandemic, registers massive doubt as to whether he can be trusted to act in their interest in the most important issue facing the country. Trump’s self-generated credibility gap on vaccines is just another in a series of too many promises made and too few kept. As always, he wants to make himself the victim but he isn’t. We are.


Cheap Shots

1. He’s Not Wrong.

2. Questions of Faith


3. UNFIT!!!!!

Lots of competition for the worst takes of the day.

As Harry Enten points out:


4. Flashbacks

Deep Thoughts

1. How to Win a Debate With a Bully

Peter Wehner, writing in the Atlantic:

The challenge for Biden isn’t simply that he’ll be facing a bully on the debate stage in Cleveland on Tuesday; it’s that he’ll be facing a man who is shameless and without conscience, a shatterer of norms and boundaries, a liar of epic proportions, a conspiracy-monger who inhabits an alternate reality. President Donald Trump operates outside any normal parameters.

If one is not used to dealing with someone like that, it can be utterly disorienting. Just ask the 2016 GOP primary field, or Hillary Clinton.