The Stupidity of the American Voter
Prior to murdering two NYPD officers in Brooklyn last Saturday, Ismaaiyl Brinsley took to Instagram to publicly proclaim his motive: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours……. Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #Shootthepolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown.” By this point in the day, Brinsley had already been quite busy, threatening suicide in front of an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before shooting her in the stomach and fleeing back to New York on a Bolt Bus. Given the circumstances, perhaps hitting a ‘v’ instead of a ‘c’ when spelling the name ‘Eric’ is excusable; writing ‘Gardner’ rather than ‘Garner’, however, speaks to ignorance. Two innocent men —Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — are dead today, two families are fatherless, because a thug with a gun decided he needed to avenge a man whose last name he couldn’t even properly identify.
Conservatives had great fun last month mocking Dr. Jonathan Gruber, the buffoonish MIT professor caught openly bragging about deceiving the American public during the passage of Obamacare. To ensure the inclusion of controversial provisions, admitted Gruber, the law’s authors had used “tortured language” that large portions of the voting public would not comprehend. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter,” he infamously intoned. As much as the right derided the good doctor, and expressed outrage at his insults, there is more than a kernel of truth in what he was asserting: there are, in fact, vast swaths of the populace that know almost nothing about current events and even less about American history. Bill O’Reilly exposes them in a regular segment on his show called “Watters’ World”, in which his producer, Jesse Watters, conducts man-on-the-street style interviews with individuals who cannot name the sitting vice-president. Rush Limbaugh even has a name for them: “low-information voters.”
To be sure, ignorance in this country cuts across all dividing lines, and traverses both sides of the ideological spectrum. However, over the last month, our TV screens have been flooded with daily images of liberal low-information voters overrunning the streets of New York City, Ferguson, Cleveland and other cities across the U.S. Joined by the legions of stupidity residing on Twitter and other social media vehicles, they have made the claim that there is a nationwide epidemic of police murdering black men for purely racist reasons. They are united by a reactionary and superficial take on the news of the day, bolstered by a complete disregard for any fact or statistic that doesn’t support their assumptions.
There is, of course, the most vile cross-section of this group: the portion that either participates in, or endorses, violence. This includes the aforementioned Brinsley, and the people who celebrated the deaths of Lin and Ramos by tweeting, “There’s no justice in the USA. Except when cops get shot in the head.” or chanting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon.” It is also includes the arsonists and looters who cared so much about blacks in Ferguson that they vandalized 37 buildings and caused approximately $4.6 million dollars in damage to the city’s mostly black-owned business during a series of November riots.
Then there are the rabid supporters of Michael Brown. Many in this group reject the actions of Brinsley, but continue to praise Brown as a martyr. They march through the street chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” in reference to a gesture of surrender originally attributed to Brown, but subsequently refuted by multiple eyewitnesses (many of them African-American). This group ignores the ugly truth behind Brown’s death: had he been successful in wresting away Officer Darren Wilson’s gun, he likely would have been every bit the cop killer that Brinsley was. Having robbed a convenience store, assaulted its owner, punched a police officer, reached for his weapon and angrily charged him (again, attested to by multiple eyewitnesses), Michael Brown should have been a cautionary tale to black youths as to how not to behave. This low-information crowd has instead made him a hero.
The supporters of Michael Brown march alongside the supporters of Eric Garner, shouting that “Black Lives Matter.” Their target is the police, specifically the white police, who — supposedly — don’t believe that black lives do matter, and have shown this callousness by — supposedly — systematically murdering innocent black men across the nation. Black people chant that their lives matter. Guilty whites, ravaged by the burden of white privilege, chant that black lives matter. And all of them ignore the fact that every statistic shows that black deaths at the hands of cops (white or otherwise) are insignificant when compared to overall black fatalities:
In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S.—almost all killed by black civilians—resulting in a death risk in inner cities that is ten times higher for blacks than for whites. None of those killings triggered mass protests; they are deemed normal and beneath notice. The police, by contrast, according to published reports, kill roughly 200 blacks a year, most of them armed and dangerous, out of about 40 million police-civilian contacts a year.
These individuals refuse to acknowledge the truth: the people who need to be reminded that “black lives matter” are not the cops who go into urban war zones with the specific goal of protecting black lives, but other blacks. Such logic falls on deaf ears.
Despite the fact that the number of murders in New York City has gone from over 2,200 in 1990 to just 333 last year, a miracle that can be directly attributed to the NYPD, the negative effects of proactive policing have become a central issue. A vocal minority, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, has created a crisis out of an initiative that has saved thousands of black lives, and made black cities throughout New York safer. Sharpton almost singlehandedly has undone the very stop, question and frisk policies that prevented crimes from occurring and has sent the city back on the path to the failed reactionary policing of the 80s and 90s. Like-minded leftists have echoed his refrains. The media has given his self-serving protests credence, and magnified his fallacious claims; all problems in the black community are attributed to outside forces: whites, the rich, the police.
The low-information voter has absorbed this message wholeheartedly. Struggling blacks have found targets for their frustration. Activist whites have reinforced these notions and decried any attempts to blame the black community for any role in its own failings. Even New York’s mayor sides against his police force.
These individuals take to the streets, angry and unwilling to hear the other side. They target cops — both literally and figuratively — with an aimless message absent any concrete solutions. Their presence in the streets has given them power — these are potential voters that politicians will attempt to court. Those politicians will eventually accede to their demands, will continue to give the likes of Sharpton more power while taking it away from the police who have made New York, and cities nationwide, safer.
Cops will be more reticent, fearful of scandal, or worse. The true criminals will be emboldened.
And the ones who will suffer the most are the ones who have screamed the loudest these last few months for change.
Call it the stupidity of the American voter.