The tensions surrounding the epidemic of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and the grassroots response to it are reaching a tipping point in our nation, and the issue is becoming yet another pawn in the Republican Party’s efforts to smear President Obama and sully the legitimate need to reassess the use of violence by law enforcement. As the right-wing echo chamber paints the Black Lives Matter movement as a “hate group” and part of a larger movement against the white superiority complex, their rhetoric is reaching dangerous and shockingly offensive levels.
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz told supporters at a Milford, New Hampshire town hall meeting that somehow the president was to blame for the recent attacks on law enforcement, because he is “vilifying” the police:
“They’re feeling the assault from the president, from the top on down as we see, whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all.”
He went on to accuse Obama of “silence” on the police officers’ deaths and claims it is a “manifestation of the divisiveness, the partisanship and of the hostility to law enforcement that has characterized the entire Obama administration.” It is a particularly vile and baseless racially-tinged attack designed to undermine the credibility of the Oval Office.
President Obama was absolutely not silent when the police officers were killed. He personally called the recently slain Deputy Goforth’s widow and the White House released a statement condemning the violence:
“On behalf of the American people, I offered Mrs. Goforth my condolences, and told her that Michelle and I would keep her and her family in our prayers. I also promised that I would continue to highlight the uncommon bravery that police officers show in our communities every single day. They put their lives on the line for our safety. Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable — an affront to civilized society….So we must offer [Mrs. Goforth] our comfort — and continue to stand up for the safety of police officers wherever they serve.”
President Obama has never condoned violence against the police, yet the right continues to blame him every time an officer loses their lives. Cruz looked at his supporters at the town hall meeting and lied to their faces when he said the president has been silent.
Not only that, but according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, in the six years President Obama has been in office, 807 officers have lost their lives- fewer officers than both Reagan or Bush. By the six-year mark in President “Tough On Crime” Reagan that Republicans idolize so much, 1,129 police officers were killed in the line of duty. President Bush’s numbers weren’t much better, by the six-year mark in his presidency 1,034 law enforcement officers had their lives cut short. While a wide variety of factors go into this data, it appears that police officers have been safer under President Obama than they were under either of the last two-term Republican Presidents, debunking Ted Cruz’s absurd allegations.
Furthermore, Cruz’s mention of Baltimore and Ferguson were low blows meant to rile his racist fan base up. The “riots” in Baltimore and Ferguson were a direct result of years of systematic discrimination and economic repression against the African-American community. In Baltimore, six police officers were charged with murder after Freddie Gray died in their custody. The only reason the charges were announced so swiftly is because the people of Baltimore stood up and demanded answers. They weren’t advocating violence against the police, they were asking the police to stop inflicting violence on their community.
It is President Obama’s job to speak for all Americans and he has never, ever advocated any sort of violence — especially not violence against police officers. As a matter of fact, the president condemned the rioters (the few that there were) in Baltimore, calling them “counterproductive” but he also blasted the media for ignoring the problem until the city was burning.
Ted Cruz’s desperate attempts to hold on to a shred of relevancy are clearly behind these horrifically offensive slanders. The GOP does absolutely nothing to recognize the real problems facing this country and only exploits false narratives with race-baiting propaganda meant to outrage their ignorant and racist base. It is incredibly disgusting that Cruz used these officers’ deaths for political gain and he should be ashamed of himself. The Democratic Party does not exploit the deaths of public servants to score political points, but clearly Republican muckraking knows no bounds.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.