“Law & Order!” and law and order

1st September 2020

Here is a tweet from Donald Trump.

And now look at the date of this tweet: it is from the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

In recent days, Trump has tweeted a number of times about ‘Law & Order!”.


One obvious reaction would be to say that his recent demands for “Law & Order!” show that he failed to keep the commitment in his 2016 tweet.

Another obvious point is that Trump’s misuse of pardons and commutations, his non-compliance with legal requirements and so on are a negation of law, just as his stoking of violence for political ends is the negation of order.

But such ‘reply guy’ points do not really matter.


The potency of “Law & Order!” does not depend on Trump’s record or his consistency.

What is significant about the 2016 tweet is this was how he approached the last election, with the same message as now, and it was effective.

And it may be effective again.

The fact that, in substance and in practice, Trump is not interested in either law or order is irrelevant.

“Law and Order!” has nothing to do with law and order.

It is about coercive power and about those who that power should be inflicted upon.

It is about control and it is about supremacy.


Of course, it is easy to mock Trump, and it is easy to point out the inconsistencies and the lies.

But he has worked out a way to get power, and his opponents so far have not.

Do not underestimate him.

(Johnson and Cummings have also worked out how to get power, and their opponents also so far have not.)

Waiting for the mass of lies, absurdities and inconstancies to somehow self-implode, and thereby eject Trump (or Johnson), is not going to work.

The thing (for want of a better word) is self-sustaining: it feeds off the simple opposition that it creates.

And there is not point ‘matching’ it, as those promoting this thing are better at lies, inconsistencies and absurdities than their opponents.

The thing would have to be defeated some other way.

And that defeat must be political and electoral.

For example, looking to the courts or to special counsel investigations is wishful thinking.

Lawyers and judges are many things but they are not fairy godmothers.

(And “activist lawyers” also feed the thing.)


Pointing out lies does not work when a sufficient number of voters do not mind being lied to.

And so the daunting task for the opponents of Trump (and Johnson) is to get enough voters to care that they are being lied to.

To care about law and order, and not “Law and Order!”.

And that ain’t going to be easy.


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13 thoughts on ““Law & Order!” and law and order”

  1. You’re right. I’m extremely worried that Trump could steal this election by using these very tactics.
    Biden &co need not rely too much on the polls that ominously enough have been narrowing of late.

  2. David, one way the opposition could gain traction is to understand and use in their own way Modern Monetary Theory, aka MMT, the national economic framework that correctly describes how the government and its economic system actually works. Government is not run like a household or firm. Because it is the monopoly issuer of the national currency, this affords national government opportunities and powers that the individual users do not have. The national goverment can never run out of money, for instance, while households and firms can. I would recommend the accessible book by Stephanie Kelton, The Deficit Myth, which has just been published. It isn’t enough to know that something is wrong, such as when Rishi Sunak says he has to raise taxes to claw back money spent on covid, which he doesn’t; it is necessary to know *why* a given policy is wrong. This gives you greater leverage over the falsehoods that we hear from politicans and pundits about the national economy every day. They need to do better, but they will probably only do better if we all force them to do better by challenging them from an informed perspective. If, when criticised, such a pundit or politician says to a critic, Why am I wrong?, the critic can tell them precisely why. There is much more to MMT than I can talk about here. So, my advice is to inform yourself and read Kelton.

  3. Your analysis on Trump rings true. So how will Biden and the Democratic party break this entrenched package of lies and false hopes? Are best hopes in (a) reaching the Evangelical voter through exposure of the corruption, tax avoidance and dissimulation or (b) using the abundance of Republican politicians who have spoken out against Trump or (c) using the public testimony of his sister and niece on his eternal goal of self-advancement without any attachment to a serous political cause or (d) ensuring voter registration and postal voting are protected ? If this works in USA, let us try it in the UK

  4. Terrifying. And Johnson’s opportunity to abuse our system is far greater than Trump’s. Starmer and Davey had better take lessons, work together and start landing real blows.

  5. Yes, it will not be easy.

    It will need a “root cause analysis” of the many causes that brought shysters like Johnson and Trump to power, and then each cause will need to be addressed. Some of those causes were simple mistakes – for example in the UK Tony Blair not throwing Corbyn out of the Labour Party, some are more recent, such as the use of Facebook to channel lies and poison “below the radar”, and some have been around a long time. but have intensified, such as the xenophobia of the UK right-wing press, selling fear by the penny and hate by the pound.

    Perhaps it was not as obvious as it should have been how fragile representative democracy was and is. What is especially depressing is to see the Republican party in the US and the Conservative and Unionist Party in the UK shed any and all pretension to what they should hold most dear. But they are now wholly lost to those ideals.

  6. Self interest (aka self preservation) is always the greatest motivator.

    Today there was an opinion piece on how new planning laws will alienate heartland Tory voters. That brings echoes of the poll tax.

    Our greatest hope, then, may be for the Shires to ride to our rescue. For the US the “white charger” is less clear.

  7. Good piece.
    Dems dont understand that Trump’s behavior is so erratic and outrageous that much of the stuff they rage about is largely ignored as Trump as usual. It doesn’t help that the media editorializes everything Trump does and says to such extremes that it looks like political advertising which encourages changing channels and turning the page.
    You might add that the progressive opposition has sent four years peddling its own miss- and half truths. It is hard to nail Trump on conspiracy theory excess when you indulge in even more yourself.
    The depressing fact is that after 4 years the Dems have little to show and the US is faced with a dismal choice. As you warn, dont count Trump out because if neither side is appealing the devil you know may feel better.

  8. In the UK they currently hold all the cards and continue to create little battles to get their base involved.

    The language and the use of media, mass and social, is brilliant and they twist the agenda whichever way they need it to go in order to keep power.

    They will go after the checks and balances within the country; law, the courts, quangos, the BBC.

    There desire is not just political but to change the country completely to control for many years. The FPTP system means that even with Labour on 40% it will struggle to win a majority. Johnson and Cummings know this and therefore have no fear to rip up the UK.

  9. A 180 000 plus dead and likely to break 200 000 shortly, and Trump ignores other than to spew more lies on vaccines available before the end of the year and other quack remedies. Far better to use distractions. BLM and the not unexpected retaliatory violence are convenient distractions to COvid-19 thrown in with hiding the Russian interference (as done in the UK by Johnson) by not allowing Congress to question the Security Services, chopping the legs off the US Post Service to make postal votes questionable, until the next distraction comes along. Never mind what his niece or sister says about him lying and it being all about him, it is soon forgotten. In theory Trump will be white washed on 3 November 2020. Sadly, all the Dems are able to muster is to point out his lies and inconsistencies, without a real coherent alternative.
    Two old men in their 70s racing against one another, one a decent honorable man, one a misogynist, a liar, a cheat, a racist, a tax fraud, a rouge, etc. with a pliable Fox News to do his bidding and fire up his useful maskless idiots for whom he cares no a jot despite his protestations of protecting them. Sadly he continues to hold the lime light and will pull ANY trick to stay in power and dam the rest! He is not good for America nor for the World at large and will certainly go down in infamy, but it may not be until after another four years of chaos!

  10. The one saving grace of Trump election win (still more likely than not) is that he has no interest in government or politics, only is boosting his narcissistic personality. He cannot, after a second election victory stand again, so he he can and probably will stand back, soak up the adulation of any crowd he can find and be an entirely passive, no action president, except perhaps in campaigning to amend the constitution so that presidents can serve more than two terms.
    Its not what the US needs and it will make the necessary re-building slower and harder work, but in a way the disaster of a Trump presidency will galvanise the US and re-invigorate democracy in the US.

    Reculer pour mieux sauter as Arthur Koestler wrote.

  11. Note the lies in King Lear’s moral blindness, Macbeth’s ambition, and Richard II’s tyranny. At least they all cop it in the end.

  12. I disagree that “looking to the courts or to special counsel investigations is wishful thinking.” It clearly cannot be the whole solution, but at the same time it is critical that the courts uphold the rule of law, and are seen to do so. If the only solution to any misbehaviour in public office is to convince the electorate to rise up then we are already doomed to the tyrany of majoritarianism.

    In the US at least, the Executive, Congress and the Judiciary are co-equal branches of government for precisely this reason. The UK situation is, of course, more complex but an independent judicary not subject to public opinion has historically been an important (small c conservative) safeguard in our system.

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