In July of 1967, after race riots gutted Newark and Detroit, requiring troops to put them down, LBJ appointed a commission to investigate what happened, and why.
The Kerner Commission reported back that “white racism” was the cause of black riots. Liberals bought it. America did not.
Richard Nixon said of the white racism charge that there is a “tendency to lay the blame for the riots on everyone but the rioters.”
The Nixon-George Wallace vote in 1968 was 57 percent to Hubert Humphrey’s 43. In 1972, Wallace was leading in the popular vote in the Democratic primaries, when he was shot in Laurel, Maryland. In November of 1972, Nixon and Agnew swept 49 states.
Among the primary causes of the ruin of FDR’s great coalition, and the rise of Nixon’s New Majority, was the belief in Middle America that liberals were so morally paralyzed by racial guilt they could not cope with minority racism, riots and crime.
And so they lost the nation for a generation.
That same moral paralysis is on display in the aftermath of the grand jury conclusion that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense when he shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.
When initial reports came in, that a police officer had confronted an unarmed black teenager on a main street at noon and shot him six times, it seemed like a case of a cop gone berserk.
But, day by day, new facts emerged. The “gentle giant” Brown had, 15 minutes earlier, pulled off a strong-arm robbery, grabbing a store clerk half his size by the throat while stealing cigars. And Brown was in the middle of the street, and maybe high on marijuana, when he refused an order to move onto the sidewalk.
Then came leaks from the grand jury that the 6’4″, 292-pound, 18-year-old punched the officer in the face in his patrol car and went for his gun, which fired twice, wounding Brown in the hand.
Wilson got out and told Brown to get on the ground, as Brown walked away. After this, what happened is in dispute.
Several grand jury witnesses perjured themselves by testifying that Wilson shot Brown in the back. All of Brown’s wounds were in the front. Others said Brown turned and faced Wilson, with four of them saying Brown moved toward or charged the officer.
The pattern of shells from Wilson’s gun indicates he was backing away while firing at Brown.
The grand jury concluded that not only did most witnesses support Wilson’s version, but the forensic evidence was consistent with what Wilson said had happened, and contradicted Brown’s lying companion.
Hence, no indictment, and wisely so.
No jury, based on the known evidence, would conclude “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Wilson committed murder or manslaughter.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch concluded he had no case and would not prosecute unless a grand jury, which had seen and heard all the evidence, concluded otherwise. It did not.
Yet, Michael Brown’s death, whatever the grand jury decided, is an irreversible tragedy, horrible for his mother and father.
But what happened last week was not a tragedy but a national disgrace, a disgusting display of adult delinquency.
Monday night we witnessed in Ferguson a rampage of arson, shooting, looting and vandalism, with police and National Guard ordered not to interfere. Stores and shops, the investments of a lifetime for their owners and the livelihood of their employees, were firebombed and pillaged as police looked on.
For a week, mobs blocked highways, bridges and commuter trains from New York to Oakland. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was disrupted. On Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, moms and their kids at malls had to climb over unruly protesters to do their Christmas shopping. The civil rights of law-abiding Americans were systematically violated.
And where were the president and his attorney general?
Neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder has yet to stand up and declare, unequivocally, that, in America, the full force of law will be used to halt, prosecute and punish those guilty of mob violence, no matter the nobility of the “cause” in which it is being committed.
America is a democratic republic, a free society of 320 million. That society and that republic will not survive if a precedent is set that masses of people can organize and attempt to shut it down when what happens within that system displeases them.
Make no mistake. The Ferguson riots of recent months were like neighborhood cookouts compared to Watts in ’65, Detroit and Newark in ’67, and Washington, D.C., and a hundred other cities after the 1968 assassination of Dr. King. But the reaction of our political, media and moral elites seems even more irresolute than that of the liberals of the 1960s.
Only three weeks in office, Eric Holder called us “a nation of cowards.” Observing his and his boss’ performance in the wake of the Ferguson riots and other rampages, the same word come to mind.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”