Law and order (politics)

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In modern politics, "law and order" is an ideological approach focusing on harsher enforcement and penalties as ways to reduce crime.

militarisation of police and contributing to mass incarceration in the United States.[2][3]

Despite the widespread popularity of "law and order" ideas and approaches between the 1960s to the 1980s exemplified by presidential candidates including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan running successfully on a "tough-on-crime" platform, statistics on crime showed a significant increase of crime throughout the 1970s and 1980s instead, and crime rates only began declining from the 1990s onwards. To differing extents, crime has also been a prominent issue in Canadian, British, Australian, South African, French, German, and New Zealand politics.

Political issue in the United States

Both the concept and the exact phrase "law and order" became a powerful political theme in the United States during the late 1960s. The first prominent American politician to use the term in this era was Alabama governor George Wallace, who used the phrase as a political slogan and racial dog whistle in his 1968 presidential campaign.[4] Other leading proponents were two Republicans, the governor of California Ronald Reagan and presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Nixon used the term to appeal to various demographic groups, including working-class white ethnics in northern cities. Nixon attempted to discredit the Democratic Party in the eyes of these voters, blaming it for being soft on crime and rioters.[5]

Previously, other politicians had used the term "law and order", although their use of the term was much less systematic and frequent than that of Wallace, Nixon, or Reagan. Political demand for "law and order" has been made much earlier before, by John Adams in the 1780s and 1790s.[6] It was a political slogan in Kentucky around 1900 after the assassination of Governor William Goebel.[7] The term was once used by Barry Goldwater in his run for president in 1964.[8]

Michael Flamm[full citation needed] argues that liberals were unable to craft a compelling message for anxious voters. Instead, they either ignored the crime crisis, claimed that law and order was a racist ruse, or maintained that social programs would solve the "root causes" of civil disorder, which by 1968 seemed increasingly unlikely and contributed to a loss of faith in the ability of the government to do what it was sworn to do—protect personal security and private property. Conservatives rejected the liberal notions. In 1966, House GOP leader Gerald Ford said "How long are we going to abdicate law and order in favor of a soft social theory that the man who heaves a brick through your window or tosses a firebomb into your car is simply the misunderstood and underprivileged product of a broken home?".


Civil Rights Movement had contributed to racial unrest and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society had rewarded rather than punished the perpetrators of violence. Conservatives demanded that the national government should promote respect for law and order and contempt for those who violated it, regardless of cause. In January 1965, Johnson himself called for a "war on crime",[9] and with congressional approval of the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965 and Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
directed federal funding to local police.

The number of prisoners tripled from 500,000 in 1980 to 1.5 million in 1994. Conservatives at the state level built many more prisons and convicts served much longer terms, with less parole.[10] The paradigm asserts that prisoners serving longer sentences would be much older upon release, thus reducing the probability of subsequent offences.[citation needed]


Although the Civil Rights Act of July 2, 1964 forbade all discrimination on the basis of race, in 1965 police brutality towards a black man during a traffic stop resulted in a major riot among the black community in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, the government's response to which is considered by many to have been a failure.[11] Indeed, every summer from 1964 through 1970 was a "long hot summer", though 1967 is particularly called that since 159 riots occurred that year.[12][13][14][15] Additionally, after the April 4, 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, a new wave of riots broke out in over 100 cities, with nights of violence against police and looting and burning of local white-owned businesses. The inner neighborhoods of many major cities, such as Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark and New York, were burned out. National Guard and Army troops were called out. At one point machine gun units were stationed on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington to prevent rioters from burning it down.


In the post war period, there was a dramatic rise in violent street crime, including drug-related murders, as well as armed robberies, rapes and violent assaults.

1968 U.S. presidential election. Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, then the governor of Maryland, often used the expression; Agnew and Nixon won and were reelected in 1972.[5]

Notorious crimes by released murderers that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s are often credited with influencing politics regarding the concept of "law and order".[17] Most notably, the release of the murderer Willie Horton who committed a rape and a rampage of severe violence when he was released is generally credited with favoring the election of President George H. W. Bush over the man who released him, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. Whatever the cause, Bush beat Dukakis by a margin of both popular and electoral college votes that has not been surpassed since 1988. The release of the murderer Reginald McFadden, who went on a serial murder and rape spree,[18] by the acting governor of Pennsylvania, Mark Singel, may have been a contributing factor in the 1994 election of Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, in which Ridge defeated Singel by a margin of 45% to 39%.


Advocates of stricter policies toward crime and those accused of crime have won many victories since the issue became important. Highlights include stringent laws dealing with the sale and use of illicit drugs. For example, the

Civil rights groups have steadfastly opposed the trend toward harsher measures generally. The law-and-order issue caused a deep rift within the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and 1970s, and this rift was seen by many political scientists as a major contributing factor in Ronald Reagan's two successful presidential runs in 1980 and 1984. In both elections, millions of registered Democrats voted for Reagan, and they collectively became known as "Reagan Democrats". Many of these voters eventually changed their party registration and became Republicans, especially in the South.[5]

Although violent crimes are the primary focus of law-and-order advocates, quality-of-life crimes are sometimes also included under the law-and-order umbrella, particularly in local elections. A tough stance on this matter greatly helped

Politico Magazine reported that the rhetoric was at odds with the crime rates being at 50-year lows in the country.[21]

International issue

"Law and order" has been a political rallying call in the United Kingdom, particularly under



Critics of law-and-order politics commonly point to actual and potential abuses of judicial and police powers, including

In 2009, Pennsylvania juvenile court judges

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a role model of tougher sentencing campaigners for his hardline corrections policies, was investigated by the FBI – starting in 2009 – for alleged abuses of power and intimidation of dissenting officials, among other controversies.[30][31] A United States Supreme Court ruling in 2011, Brown v. Plata, ordered the State of California to cut its inmate population, citing prison overcrowding to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[32]

Jeremy Mayer, at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, has argued that the term is used as a way to emphasize racial backlash in politics without appearing racist.

2021 United States Capitol attack, criticism from columnists and outlets mounted on Republican politicians seen as "abandoning" or otherwise being hypocritical of being known as the "law and order party."[37][38][39][40][41]

Order without law

In a limited number of cases, it can be argued that order can be maintained without law.

social norms call for the cattle owner to pay for the damaged crops, the disputes are settled without law. According to Ellickson, not only is the law not necessary to maintain order in this case, but it is more efficient for social norms to govern the settling of disputes.[42]

See also


  1. .
  2. ^ Lepore, Jill. "The Invention of the Police". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on July 17, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  3. OCLC 984643598
  4. ^ "From Wallace to Trump, the Evolution of "Law and Order"". March 13, 2016. Archived from the original on June 3, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Michael W. Flamm, Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s (2005).
  6. from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  7. ^ Tribune Almanac and Political Register: 1901. 1901. pp. 92–93. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  8. ISSN 0028-792X
    . Retrieved May 28, 2024.
  9. ^ "Why We Should Reconsider the War on Crime". Time. Archived from the original on March 9, 2021. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  10. ^ FBI, Uniform Crime Reports (2009)
  11. ^ "A 1965 failure that still haunts America". CNN. January 19, 2015. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  12. ^ Ann K. Johnson, Urban Ghetto Riots, 1965-1968 (1996)
  13. ^ Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (2007)
  14. ^ Robert M. Fogelson, Violence as Protest: A Study of Riots and Ghettos (1971)
  15. ^ National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Report on Civil Disorders (1968), the famous the Kerner Commission Report
  16. ^ FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Violent crimes included murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Source: Table Ec1-10 - Estimated crimes known to police, by type of offense: 1960-1997, in Susan Carter, ed. Historical Statistics of the United States Millennial Edition Online (2009)
  17. ^ MacDonald, John A. (October 15, 1994). "Specter Of Willy Horton Hovers Over Pennsylvania Race". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  18. from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  19. ^ Anthony M. Platt, "Crime Rave", Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine, June 1995, Vol. 47#2 pp 35-46
  20. ^ Amanda Marcotte (March 3, 2017). "Trump's racist hypocrisy: Sessions scandal exposes double standard behind dog-whistle calls for "law and order"". Archived from the original on May 31, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  21. Politico Magazine. Archived
    from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  22. .
  23. (PDF) from the original on March 5, 2021. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Engel, Matthew (October 7, 2009). "Whatever happened to Laura Norder?". Financial Times. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  25. ^ "Rudy Giuliani on Crime". Archived from the original on July 31, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  26. ^ "Giuliani and Violence in Pre-9/11 New York". May 25, 2011. Archived from the original on October 29, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  27. ^ "Trial Puts Giuliani, NYPD on Defensive". March 30, 1999. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  28. ^ "Americas | US judges admit taking kickbacks". BBC News. February 13, 2009. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  29. Reuters. February 22, 2009. Archived
    from the original on April 18, 2009. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  30. ^ Wingett, Yvonne (May 22, 2009). "Sources: FBI asking questions on Arpaio". Archived from the original on February 25, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  31. ^ Wingett, Yvonne (March 5, 2010). "FBI expands Joe Arpaio probe to Maricopa County Attorney". Archived from the original on February 25, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  32. ^ Liptak, Adam (May 23, 2011). "Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  33. from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  34. ^ Schwartzapfel, Beth (October 7, 2020). "What Trump Really Means When He Tweets "LAW & ORDER!!!"". The Marshall Project. Archived from the original on August 4, 2021. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  35. ^ Smith, Erica D. (July 26, 2020). "Column: They're fed up with the 'tyranny' of face masks. But Portland? That's about 'law and order'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021. Whether they know it or not, many people are parroting Trump. Badly lagging in the polls and trailing Joe Biden as the election nears, the president has been desperate to create a distraction from his administration's abysmal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. So he has doubled down on selling himself as the "law and order" commander in chief, arguing that a crackdown of the sort that's happening in Portland is needed in "out of control" Democrat-led cities — at any cost.
  36. ^ Sarat, Austin (September 8, 2020). "Trump's law-and-order campaign relies on a historic American tradition of racist and anti-immigrant politics". The Conversation. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  37. ^ Bort, Ryan (June 16, 2021). "Here Are the Excuses Republicans Are Giving for Voting Against Honoring Capitol Police Officers". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 17, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021. Voting against honoring the police officers who responded to the riot that resulted in five deaths, including that of an officer, is hard to understand, especially from members of the party that prides itself on upholding law and order and backing the blue.
  38. ^ Plott, Elaina (January 16, 2021). "Trump's 'Law and Order': One More Deceptive Tactic Is Exposed". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 16, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021. But this month, it was a largely white mob trawling the Capitol grounds with Trump banners and zip ties, and killing a police officer. And yet the president did not preside over a tear-gas-fogged show of force, as he had during a protest for racial justice before the White House last summer. Instead, he praised these supporters on the evening of the riot — "you're very special," he assured them, "we love you" — before trotting out the "law and order" comment the next day under pressure from advisers.If Mr. Trump spent much of his presidency casting the G.O.P. as the party of law and order, he is concluding it by clarifying just who, in his view — and in his base's view — the law was designed to order. It's the Black Lives Matter protesters who are confronted and arrested by the police in Mr. Trump's law-and-order America; the white mob, on the other hand, can expect officers who pause for selfies.
  39. ^ Rubin, Jennifer (June 28, 2021). "Opinion: The GOP should be held accountable for deserting law and order". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 2, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  40. ^ "Editorial: The Republican Party's 'law and order' mantra has lost all credibility". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 20, 2021. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  41. ^ Bierschbach, Briana (January 9, 2021). "Republicans' law-and-order message tarnished by U.S. Capitol breach". The Star Tribune. Archived from the original on February 25, 2022. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  42. OCLC 22888941

Further reading