Robert Reich: What’s The Opposite Of Republican ‘Law And Order?’ – OpEd
By Robert Reich
While MAGA Republicans in the House attack and investigate what they dub Biden’s “weaponized” federal government and blast Democratic mayors for being “soft on crime,” they are blatantly ignoring the crimes of their allies in plain sight.
After Rep. George Santos was arrested and charged with 13 federal crimes — seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making false statements to Congress — what did Speaker Kevin McCarthy do?
Nothing. In fact, he said he would not act to remove Santos.
After ProPublica investigations revealed that Justice Clarence Thomas had failed to disclose, as required by law, luxury gifts from a Republican megadonor — including expensive vacations, a rent-free house for Thomas’s mother, and tuition payments for a child Thomas was “raising like a son” — what did McCarthy do?
Nothing. He said he had no concerns, “not at all” about Thomas. House Republicans have made no move to push the Supreme Court toward a code of ethics.
What of the former guy’s innumerable transgressions?
After Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg brought charges against Trump, McCarthy attacked Bragg.
Since Trump was found by a jury to have sexually harassed and defamed E. Jean Carroll, McCarthy has said nothing. Nor has Florida governor Ron DeSantis commented, nor former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley or Senator Tim Scott, both of whom have launched a 2024 exploratory committees.
Meanwhile, most Republican lawmakers continue to deny that Trump sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election and instigate an insurrection.
An earlier generation of conservatives worried about what it saw as a breakdown in social norms in America. They feared the loss of “guardrails” that kept people in line. They fretted about “law and order.”
In a famous essay, political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George L. Kelling noted that a broken window in a poor community, left unattended, signals that no one cares if windows are broken there.
Because nobody is concerned enough to enforce the norm against breaking windows, the broken window becomes an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows.
As more windows shatter, other aspects of community life also start unraveling. The unspoken norm becomes: Do whatever you want here, because everyone else is doing it.
This earlier generation of conservatives found the moral breakdown to be mainly in poor and predominantly Black and Latino communities.
In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist, arranged to have an automobile without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable automobile on a street in Palo Alto, California.
The car in the Bronx was attacked by “vandals” within ten minutes of its “abandonment.”
The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo smashed part of it with a sledgehammer. Soon, passersby joined in. Within a few hours, the car had been destroyed.
Wilson and Kelling concluded that because of the nature of community life in the Bronx — its anonymity, the frequency with which cars are abandoned and things are stolen or broken, the past experience of “no one caring”— vandalism began much more quickly than it did in rich Palo Alto, where people had come to believe that private possessions are cared for and mischievous behavior is costly.
But once communal barriers — the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility — are lowered by actions that seem to signal that “no one cares,” lawbreaking can take root anywhere. Even at the highest reaches of America.
What we are witnessing today is a breakdown of norms at the top. In a former president who still has not been held accountable for his attempted coup. In a Republican speaker of the House who refuses to hold his allies accountable for violations of law. In a recently elected member of the House who has been arrested and charged with numerous federal crimes. In a Supreme Court justice who has accepted jaw-dropping gifts without reporting them as required by law.
They are breaking windows right and left. And in doing so, they are inviting more broken windows — implicitly telling America that it’s okay to do whatever you want to do, even if unethical, even if illegal — because people at the highest levels of responsibility in America are doing it.
As McCarthy and House Republicans focus their ire on their putative political enemies — seeking examples of lawbreaking and ethical breaches where there are none, while turning a blind eye to lawbreaking by their allies — they are normalizing lawbreaking across the land.
Unless this breakage is stopped and its perpetrators held accountable, every window in America — the rule of law itself — is vulnerable.