Two decades ago, after Los Angeles exploded in the worst American riots of the 20th century against years of police brutality against minorities, the political establishment responded by doubling down and ramping up all the wrong ideas that are blowing back today in places like Baltimore and Ferguson. President Bush blamed the LA riots on liberal anti-poverty programs from the 1960s and 1970s, which he claimed destroyed black families and a sense of responsibility in their communities. Candidate Bill Clinton talked “tough on crime” while squirting a few crocodile tears in public, all part of his New Democrat program. Libertarian Party nominee for president Andre Marrou vowed he would “send in troops right away” as his solution to the Los Angeles riots and grievances. Meanwhile, “principled” libertarian Ron Paul wrote in his newsletter after the riots that he taught everyone in his family, including his son Rand Paul, to use a gun because “the animals are coming.”
As with Baltimore, there was an enormous amount of long pent-up anger in South-Central LA, where the notoriously violent police under Daryl Gates had been waging a kind of counter-insurgency campaign against poor minority residents for well over a decade . . . and no one, liberals least of all, wanted to hear about it. The riots—in response to an all-white jury acquitting four LAPD officers who were filmed savagely beating a black motorist, Rodney King—left over 50 dead, 2000 injured, and over 10,000 arrested.
The political response to the 1992 riots makes for some infuriating, sickening reading—all the more so when you realize that most of the same names, parties, and bankrupt ideologies who had the solutions in 1992 are now hustling us again, promising that they have the answers, if we just trust them one more time.
Hillary Clinton is one obvious example of this: Her husband’s mass incarceration policies, which she supported, are policies she’s just now decided to campaign against. In her book “It Takes A Village,” Hillary 1.0 boasted about her husband’s tough on crime policies as if they were her own (h/t Zaid Jilani):
“As part of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for weapons, drugs, and other threats to the safety of teachers and students, the President signed an executive order decreeing that any student who comes to school with a gun will be expelled and punished as a condition of federal aid.
“Twenty-five thousand new police officers are being trained, with the goal of adding seventy-five thousand more by the end of the decade.”
Her replacement as Secretary of State, John Kerry, had caused some controversy just weeks before the LA riots with a speech he gave to Yale denouncing affirmative action and welfare programs, and defending resentful whites accused of racism:
“We cannot deride as politically incorrect the anger of taxpayers who work hard to support their families and then find themselves supporting generations of welfare families as well.”
Kerry described inner city neighborhoods as “ruled not simply by poverty but by savagery.” And another up-and-coming New Democrat at the time, Bill Bradley, also scolded blacks to blame themselves after over a decade of Reagan-Bush mass incarceration policies:
On the floor of the Senate, Bill Bradley said we can’t “make race an excuse for failing to pass judgment about self-destructive behavior.” He specifically named the 65 percent rate of out-of-wedlock births among black women and said that fear of violence at the hands of young urban black males “covers the streets like a sheet of ice.”
As for Jeb Bush’s father—President Bush blamed the 1992 LA riots on liberal social welfare programs in the 1960s and 70s, and the breakdown of the family structure in black communities. While for Vice President Dan Quayle, the LA riots were his moment to shine. And shine he did, blaming the uprising on a popular TV character Murphy Brown, and single mothers everywhere (not too different from Rand Paul’s latest analysis, come to think of it). Quayle produced some startling insights into the causes of the Los Angeles uprising, such as:
“Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.”
And in what stands as perhaps Quayle’s single most coherent moment of his vice presidency, he declared:
“I have been asked who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame.”
So when Rand Paul went on Laura Ingraham’s radio program to blame Baltimore on black culture and values and “lack of fathers,” the libertarian whom Time called “the most interesting man in politics” was merely rehashing 25-year-old mainstream Republicrat bigotries, the very same bigoted, wrong assumptions that led to all the disastrous policies we’re now paying for today.
Which brings me to the Libertarians of 1992.
After Ferguson exploded last year, Libertarians positioned themselves as the only political force that had no blood on their hands, the only political force that was “principled” enough throughout the past few decades to offer the right analyses — and the right solutions — to the problems faced by people now rising up in Baltimore.
In 1992, the most famous libertarian of all, Ron Paul, was still between Congressional stints when Los Angeles erupted, but he did run a profitable libertarian newsletter, “The Ron Paul Political Report,” to keep his ideas alive. Shortly after the LA riots, Ron Paul put out a “Special Issue on Racial Terrorism” offering his libertarian analysis of what he termed black “terrorism”:
“The criminals who terrorize our cities—in riots and on every non-riot day—are not exclusively young black males, but they largely are. As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.
“The cause of the riots is plain: barbarism. If the barbarians cannot loot sufficiently through legal channels (i.e., the riots being the welfare-state minus the middle-man), they resort to illegal ones, to terrorism. Trouble is, few seem willing to stop them. The cops have been handcuffed.
“The rioters said they were acting out of frustration over the acquittal of four L.A. policemen accused of using excessive force when arresting Rodney G. King. In fact, they were looking for an excuse to kill, burn, and loot.
“Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. The ‘poor’ lined up at the post office to get their handouts (since there were no deliveries)—and then complained about slow service.”
Dr. Paul, in his “special report,” repeatedly described blacks as “terrorists,” “racists,” and criminals:
“We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”
“I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in [major U.S. cities] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
Not only are blacks inveterate criminals, but they’re also commies at heart, according to Dr. Paul:
“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.
“…The advice some libertarians give—‘don’t vote, it only encourages them—applies here. We must not kowtow to the street hoodlums and their sanctimonious leaders.”
A few months later, in October 1992, Dr. Paul explained how he taught his own family—presumably including his favorite son, Rand Paul—how to defend themselves and even murder what Dr. Paul called “hip-hop” carjackers, “the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos”:
“What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example.).
“I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice; but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.”
Imagining scenes like this—Ron Paul sitting his family down, teaching them how to fire guns, warning them of “animals” coming to steal their cars, and offering vigilante advice on how to get away with murdering black kids— puts Rand Paul’s grubby Confederate outbursts into new light. Unless you block it from your mind, which most of Rand Paul’s progressive fanboys tend to do.
Moving on down the Libertarian line: Andre Marrou, the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1992, had been Ron Paul’s running mate on the Libertarian ticket in 1988. Marrou’s Libertarian solution to the LA riots: more troops, more quickly, as he explained to Larry King:
“Send troops in to stop the looting. It’s something that [Gov. Pete] Wilson waited 24 hours for, and [Los Angeles police chief] Daryl Gates of course withdrew his troops of police. They ran away when the rioting started. That’s what we would’ve done—we would’ve sent the troops in to stop the looting.”
So what distinguishes the Libertarians from the old two-party responses is their hair-trigger in bringing in troops to suppress the uppity minorities. Beyond that, the Libertarian Party’s political solution to African-American poverty and injustice was to abolish all welfare programs, public schools, and anti-discrimination laws like the Civil Rights Act. This was the solution promoted by an up-and-coming libertarian, Jacob Hornberger—who this week co-hosted an event with Ron Paul and Glenn Greenwald. Hornberger believes that 19th century antebellum slave-era America was “the freest society in history”. . . and after the LA riots, he offered this solution:
“the repeal of: (1) every law that takes money from some people and gives it to others; (2) all regulations that interfere with peaceful exchanges between consenting adults; (3) all drug laws; and (4) all compulsory-attendance laws and school taxes.”
And then there’s libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard’s response to the LA riots. Rand Paul credits Rothbard as “a great influence on my thinking”; and Rothbard blamed the LA riots not on racism and black grievances, but rather on slow and insufficient police response and “the moral and esthetic nihilism created by many decades of cultural liberalism.”
As for solving the problem, Rothbard, who had come out in support of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, wrote in 1992:
“Sending in police and troops late and depriving them of bullets, cannot do the job. There is only one way to fulfill the vital police function, the only way that works: the public announcement—backed by willingness to enforce it—made by the late Mayor Richard Daley in the Chicago riots of the 1960s—ordering the police to shoot to kill any looters, rioters, arsonists, or muggers they might find. That very announcement was enough to induce the rioters to pocket their ‘rage’ and go back to their peaceful pursuits.”
And in case Rothbard’s anarcho-libertarian solution wasn’t clear enough, he reiterated it once again:
“Devotion to the sanctity of person and property is not part of their value-system. That’s why, in the short term, all we can do is shoot the looters and incarcerate the rioters.”
On the mainstream side of libertarianism, Reason magazine editor Virginia Postrel denounced “the hate-filled politics of Rep. Maxine Waters,” and proposed as solutions to South-Central LA’s problems private policing in the form of “citizen patrols” on foot, like “private security firms” who patrol “wealthy enclaves.” In other words: Stand Your Ground and vigilante groups:
“Certainly citizen patrols would need more than community spirit; they would require police training, extra supervision, probably pay, and possibly weapons.”
Along with armed private patrols, Reason’s editor proposed turning inner city blacks into private jitney bus drivers, reasoning that since blacks in South Africa do it, blacks would be happy doing it in South Central too:
“If South Africa can let black entrepreneurs make it big in the jitney business, so can L.A.”
These same zombies are still with us today, still walking the earth—or at least, America—snarling and snapping their jaws at us every night, trying to infect the mortals with their rancid, deadly zombie politics—liberalism, libertarianism, doesn’t really matter anymore. For some of us, the goal is to avoid getting bitten and turned into one of them; for others, the hope is just to avoid getting your neck snapped.