Officer Andre Smith, right, takes a selfie with Donald Trump while he visited the Manchester Police Department in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 4. The national FOP union has endorsed Trump's WhIte House bid.(Getty Images via The Boston Globe)
Black Lives Matter helped propel Donald Trump’s unforeseen ascent to the White House. The public understood the threat to law and order posed by the movement’s calumniesabout the nation’s police—and so, uniquely in the presidential race, did Trump. Trump repeatedly promised to end what he rightly called the “false narrative” about the police that was leading to rising homicides and urban riots. During thefirst presidential debatewith Hillary Clinton in September 2016, Trumpcorrectlypointed out that “right now, our police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything.” In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July, Trump announced: “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.” He then articulated a foundational principle of civil society: “The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”
By contrast, Hillary Clinton embraced the Black Lives Matter movement. She regularly accused the nation’s cops of systemic, lethal racism. Last July, when the toll of officers murdered by Black Lives Matter-inspired assassins had reached five in that one month alone, Clinton told the NAACP that we need to “root out implicit [police] bias and stop the killings of African-Americans.” During a Democratic presidential primary debate in January 2016, Clinton was asked if it was “reality” that police officers see black lives as “cheap.” Sheanswered unhesitatingly: “Sadly, it’s reality.” At the Democratic National Convention, Clinton glorified as a martyr to racist police violence the mother of Michael Brown, whose justifiable killing by a Ferguson police officer ignited the Black Lives Matter movement. Support for Trump, then, represented a clear repudiation of Clinton’s (and President Barack Obama’s) dangerous validation of a movement built on hate-filled falsehoods about law enforcement.
A Gallup poll in October 2016 proved a harbinger of Trump’s victory. The percentage of respondents expressing a “great deal” of respect for the police had surged to its highest level since 1967—76 percent—in a sharp increase from the year before, when confidence in the police had fallen to a 22-year low. That rise occurred among all racial groups—nonwhites with a “great deal” of respect for the police increased from 53 percent in October 2015 to 67 percent in October 2016. What was responsible for the change in opinion? Rejection of the Black Lives Matter narrative that was killing cops and civilians alike. Gun murders of officers are up 59 percent this year, through November 8, compared with the same period last year. And black lives are being taken at record and near-record numbers in places like Chicago and Baltimore, as officers back off of proactive policing under the false accusation that they are racist for maintaining order in high-crime neighborhoods.
Though the country has presumably avoided the crippling federal policies that Hillary Clinton would have put in place regarding law enforcement and, as important, a continuation of destructive presidential rhetoric about racist cops, Black Lives Matter is not going to go quietly into the night. The movement may even grow more extreme, fueled by a university culture devoted to racial victimology. Hate-filled chants like the one recently uttered in Chicago—“CPD, KKK, How many kids did you kill today?”—will continue to plague city streets. But the absence of an echo chamber in the White House for such falsehoods may go far toward curbing the rising violence of the last two years.
When it comes to public safety, the ironies of this election have been many. Of the final two candidates for president, only Trump expressed concern about the growing homicide toll in black neighborhoods. He was promptly called a racist for doing so. Undeterred, in his victory speech early this morning, he again pledged to “fix our inner cities”—which means, first and foremost, honoring the desire of the millions of law-abiding residents of high-crime areas for assertive, and respectful, police protection.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops.