We ought to be thankful for the times, however rare they are, that reality still musters up the strength to hit policy makers hard enough to bring on a spell of good sense. It is what accounts, for instance, for President Obama never carrying out his foolish promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay, even while carrying out so many other foolish things during his administration.
It even happens now and then in Colorado, where in recent years public policy and reality have about as much to do with one another as rubber ducks and aircraft carriers.
To wit, the Denver City Council earlier this week soundly rejected, on an 11-1 vote (with one abstention) Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca’s ridiculous proposal to replace the Denver Police Department with some vague notion of a “Peace Force.” A proposal introduced, incidentally, in the midst of a citywide crime wave.
Details of the proposal were about hazy as the thought process that goes into formulating such ideas, but it appears to be on the order of calling, in the midst of an outbreak of wildfires in the state, for fire departments to be replaced with a Corps of yogic fire-walkers — if we could only understand the fire, you see, perhaps we could discover mutually constructive ways to come to terms with it, without resorting to such horridly violent means as fire breaks and water bombers.
It is tempting to write such nonsense off as a mere publicity stunt, but all indications are that Ms. CdeBaca is quite serious. She is an ideologue — in the classic sense described by Kenneth Minogue and Eric Voegelin rather than the colloquial — who believes she has discovered a grand secret; that society itself is a mass system of oppression, and everything in society is directed to sustaining that oppression. Thus, to CdeBaca and her ilk, crime, as we know it, is little more than a social construct, and attempts at controlling or correcting it are merely disguised efforts of fooling the masses into upholding the oppressive system. To her, and others in the same movement, no mere reform of the existing order, no matter how destructive, will be enough; as Voegelin said of Voltaire, “he takes the abuse for the essence.”
That explains sentences like this one, in response to some of her colleagues suggesting they have a conversation about her proposal: “The community has had an open, aggressive and clear conversation with us as they marched in the streets, protested, graffitied, broke windows and as they wrote 'Abolish the police' all over our streets, walls and buildings… that is a community conversation and it is reflective of how we diminish their voices if it is not on their terms.”
If that is a conversation, I’d hate to see what the ideological version of an argument looks like.
The Democratic Party as a whole is, gratefully, not there yet, though that seems to be the lamentable direction towards which it is edging. Several Denver Council members, while reasonably rejecting the absurd idea, nevertheless paid it lip service, suggesting that more work had yet to be done to help keep Denver police from policing.
Mayor Michael Hancock, to his credit — and, well, let’s face it, he probably just doesn’t want his legacy to look like a Mad Max movie — exhibited remarkable accuracy and clarity when he called CdeBaca’s proposal “reckless,” “corrosive,” and “ill-informed,” and tweeted, “So long as I am Mayor, we will not abolish the Denver Police Department.” But he, too, could not help but probe the revolutionary waters. He added, “we will not erode the capacity of our law enforcement and first responders to keep our communities, neighborhoods, schools and homes in Denver, safe,” and then quickly proceeded to list dozens of policies he enacted since 2011 that did just that.
We can be grateful that, for the time being, the mayor and City Council remain somewhat resistant to the idea of abandoning the city to the wolves. But at the same time, the sheer ludicrousness of the proposal they rejected should dampen any enthusiasm that one may have that the Denver City Council has seen the light and is ready and willing to start properly governing the city. And we should all find it disturbing — and very, very troubling for the future of our society — that a sitting lawmaker could characterize vandalism, arson, violence, and window-breaking as a “conversation” in the same breath as proposing the disestablishment of the police department, and not be confronting widespread calls for resignation.