The right wing, led by the Republican presidential filed, aka the Inane Clown Posse, continues to spout all manner of ridiculous rhetoric about Obama leading a “war on cops.” They dishonestly claim that we’re seeing some huge backlash against the police, which they base purely on a few anecdotal incidents. So let’s bring some actual data to bear on this claim and see if it holds up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. First, here’s Scott Walker pushing this nonsense:
Over the last week, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of police officers being murdered on the job. Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth was killed Friday, gunned down while pumping gas for no apparent reason other than the uniform on his back. And just yesterday, in my neighboring state of Illinois, police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was assassinated by three men, who are still on the run.
This isn’t the America I grew up in or that I want my children to grow up in. When the very people responsible for keeping us safe are targeted because they are law enforcement officials, we have a serious problem.
In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.
No, what we’re actually seeing is far lower numbers of police officers killed but Republicans trying to pretend it’s gone up and using President Obama as a scapegoat. This is a powerful narrative to their authoritarian and largely racist base. But reality is quite the opposite. Here’s the America that Scott Walker grew up in, which is the same one I grew up in as we are the same age:
As you can see in the graph above, when Walker was growing up, there were nearly twice as many police shooting fatalities at this point in President Reagan’s second term. In fact, police shooting fatalities are down from last year and are also lower than at this point in Presidents Clinton and Bush’s second term in office.
Oh, and… are you sitting down? There were racial problems in this country before Obama arrived on the scene. For example, the Rodney King beating by police and subsequent Los Angeles riots in 1992—far and away the biggest race riot in the last fifty years—happened under Republican President George H.W. Bush and came after eleven-plus years of Reagan-Bush AKA The Walker Wonder Years.
Here are the numbers of police officer fatalities for the last four two-term presidents:
Bush 2: 405
And bear in mind that during Reagan’s term, the entire American population was more than 100 million fewer people than we have now, so per capita these numbers are even more lopsided. All that is going on here is that the Republicans are pandering to their base. Psych studies show that those who identify as conservative tend to be highly focused on stability, authority and in-group vs out-group morality. That’s why conservative politics is so universally concerned with being anti-minority and anti-immigrant. It’s also why the focus is always on looming and vastly exaggerated threats to our well-being. In short, fear is the primary motivator for the Republican base and so that is what they sell.