Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias highlights a polling trend we first noted in October: Just as the Black Lives Matter movement hit its stride last year, the American public—whites and non-whites alike—became far more supportive of law enforcement, with the share of Americans who say they have “a great deal” of respect for police officers shooting up from 64 to 76 percent.
Over the past few years, Black Lives Matter activists have prompted an unprecedented level of media and political scrutiny on questions related to police misconduct. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign very openly sounded these themes — first to rally people of color to her standard in the primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, and then on an ongoing basis in her losing general election campaign — in a way that was strikingly different from her husband’s “tough on crime” politics.
Under the circumstances, many people may not be aware that 2016 was also a year in which Gallup found a huge surge in pro-police sentiment among the mass public. […]
Combine this with the apparent rise in the rate of murder and violent crime (albeit still to levels that are lower than what we saw five or ten years ago) and it’s relatively easy to see why Donald Trump thinks emphasizing his disposition to support law enforcement officers is smart politics.
It’s worth considering the possibility that the BLM movement and the publicity it received just might have played a decisive role in tipping the 2016 presidential election to the law and order candidate—that, as Glenn Reynolds puts it, “this is how you get more Trump.”
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a policing problem in this country or that we don’t need to be constantly rethinking the way our social institutions (including the judicial and the educational systems) address the needs and problems of African Americans, especially though not only young men. But it does mean that today’s would-be Civil Rights heroes need to think a bit harder about how to build majority support for changes that would help. Martin Luther King was sometimes an angry man, and with just cause, but we owe his lasting impact on American life to his wisdom rather than to his rage.