After several days of nationwide riots, President Trump finally addressed Americans on how his administration would respond. In about seven minutes, Trump covered topics ranging from practical actions to political philosophy.
Trump opened his speech by saying that all Americans were rightly infuriated over the killing of George Floyd. Floyd's death was indefensible. The Police officers responsible must face justice. Trump continued, “…in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others.” Where the anarchists go, arson, theft, physical assault, graffiti, car burning, and flag burning have followed. The rioters are not the patriots they think they are. On the contrary, they have murdered patriots.
David Dorn, a retired black police officer, and Patrick Underwood, a black Federal Protective Services Officer, were two patriots murdered by rioters this past week. The rioters have become the very murders and oppressors they were rioting against. In the name of justice, they have burned down minority-owned businesses, ruthlessly beaten innocent citizens, and destroyed minority communities.
The rioters have a perverted sense of justice. When a member of a community commits an injustice towards another person, the whole community suffers. But instead of calling for justice for the officers responsible, the rioters have abused the tragedy to commit crimes against innocent civilians.
Trump responded to these rioters by saying that if cities and states refused to take the necessary action to suppress the riots, he would deploy the military and do it for them.
There is a long precedent of using the military to suppress riots. During George Washington’s administration, Washington personally led federal troops to Pennsylvania to quell the Whisky Rebellion. A few years later, Thomas Jefferson signed the Insurrection Act of 1807, which empowered the President to use the military to suppress insurrections and domestic violence. This act has been used numerous times, most recently, in 1992 by George H. W. Bush to quell the LA riots. If state governments fail to protect their citizens from rioters, the President has the power to use the military to restore order. However, calling on the military to fix a problem is a serious thing that should only be used as a last resort. In most cases, the National Guard should be able to handle rioters.
After threatening states with federal intervention, Trump said, “The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.”
If the rioters do not fear God, then they should at least fear the state. Without enforcement of the law, there is neither liberty nor justice. There is only chaos, pain, and suffering. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People.” Without moral and religious people, republican government crumbles. Anarchy is a poison to republics.
Trump continued, saying that America needs creation, security, healing, and justice, not destruction, contempt, anarchy, and chaos. As radicals push for revolution, Trump provides a counter vision of creation and revision. The late conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton said something similar when explaining the difference between conservatives and radicals. “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”
Near the end of his speech, Trump claimed, “America is founded upon the rule of law. It is the foundation of our prosperity, our freedom and our very way of life, but where there is no law, there is no opportunity, where there is no justice there is no Liberty, where there is no safety there is no future.”
Law and order are the means by which Americans are free. Just laws provide the necessary limits and boundaries for liberty to exist. In Federalist 51, James Madison said that justice is the end of government. Without justice, there is no freedom. Without laws that direct the people towards virtue, liberty will erode. The conservative philosopher Russell Kirk talked about the relationship between order, justice, and liberty. “In any society, order is the first need of all. Liberty and justice may be established only after order is tolerably secure.”
Widespread anarchy is, by definition, a grave threat to the nation. America needs Trump to transform his rhetoric into action. The President and Governors must coordinate to quell the riots. The process of sewing together racial divides in society will be long and difficult, but that cannot occur during mob rule. Prolonged chaos will bring nothing but death, destruction, and despair. There will be no liberty, justice, peace, healing, or reconstruction without first the restoration of order.