Law And Order And Age

By

Leonard Zwelling

         Both of my sons get incessant joy teasing me about my addiction to Law and Order, the NBC TV show now in syndication on Sundance, Ion, and BBC America. Neither of my kids can understand how I watch the same episodes over and over again. It’s the predictable rhythm of great dialogue and great actors in a police procedural that never strays far from the station house or the courtroom. Like any addiction it satisfies an urge. The urge is for resolution even if not for justice because the good guys don’t always win. I think an addiction to Law and Order is a function of age. I believe it is those who watched it originally who watch it now and those people would be my age, over 70.

         Law and order in its more generic sense is making a comeback thanks to the riots in the streets of Seattle, Portland, Washington, DC and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Again, for us old people, it’s a rerun. We saw this in the 1960s especially in Los Angeles and Detroit. In 1968 Richard Nixon rode this issue to the White House after Lyndon Johnson decided not to run and Hubert Humphrey could not define his campaign rapidly enough. America saw rioting in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention and wanted no more of that. Nixon promised law and order and extraction from Vietnam. I guess those were Nixon’s “border wall and Mexico will pay for it” promises.

         In the case of Nixon, his law and order rhetoric became a joke when he was caught breaking the law himself in the Watergate scandal. He said “he was not a crook.” But he was, and was forced to resign the presidency because of it.

         Now we have Donald Trump running as a law and order candidate in the wake of the riots following the George Floyd killing and the activity of Black Lives Matter. Whether the rioters are antifa radicals or white supremacists, Americans, weary from the coronavirus pandemic, want the government to take control of the cities and end the violence. But is Trump himself above the law?

         That depends on whether or not you believe the president is above the law as Mr. Nixon did (“if the president does it, it is not illegal”). Mr. Trump clearly does not think the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution applies to him. Many people with whom he has surrounded himself are in jail or under indictment. It is likely that he has violated the Hatch Act by using the White House for a political convention and, of course, there are those pesky tax returns and what they might reveal. Many believe that Mr. Trump is fighting so hard to stay in office so that he does not have to face the District Attorney for the Southern District of New York over illegal financial transactions.

         It is indeed quite amusing that Mr. Trump paints himself as a law and order candidate despite the fact that he will probably wind up being a felon before all is said and done. I suspect someone will pardon him somehow as Gerry Ford pardoned Nixon, but Mr. Trump has undoubtedly broken the law, endangered the U.S. intelligence network and weakened our standing with our allies. You would think that would be enough to have him defeated. Why isn’t it?

         First, up until six months ago, the country’s economy was humming and the stock market is still doing pretty well.

         Second, despite what all the liberals think, this is still a right of center country and the Electoral College map favors Republicans. It is likely that Mr. Biden will have to win the popular vote by 5 million to claim victory.

         Third, Mr. Biden is alarmingly elderly. He clearly is not as sharp as he was when he debated Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan. His speech is hesitant and I do not think it has anything to do with his prior stuttering. Mr. Biden strikes me as someone whose sell by date was last week. His acceptance speech was good, but since then he seems to be struggling to find his message and his footing. He does not exude strength.

         What that means is that we have two candidates, both older than the Law and Order fan crowd running for the most important job in the world. Am I concerned? You bet. Is there any way we can get a few more choices?

         I understand that my lack of enthusiasm for summarily dumping Trump has concerned many of my East Coast friends out there, but get real. This choice for president is dismal and what it really indicates is that the system by which we select candidates is seriously flawed. There were good, viable candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Instead, the Democratic Party apparatus chose Biden after the South Carolina primary and everyone else dropped out. I am not sure I can ignore how feckless this all was on the part of the Democrats. Once again, we have to decide on who is the less bad candidate. What a mess!

Leonard Zwelling