Calls for a national police force — a concept deeply in conflict with our very form of constitutional governance — are becoming, if not commonplace, more troublingly recurrent. Of particular concern is the idea that America needs such a force not to defend against widespread lawlessness, but rather to defend against the ideology reflected in what the Left describes as “MAGA.” The real target of this movement is in fact political conservatism.
A recent essay by Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson published on April 21stas a “Big Idea” in Politico, strongly suggests such a move. The main title of the piece, “The Threat of Civil Breakdown Is Real,” might appear to the reader who reads no further, as a timely warning against rioting and other mass lawlessness our country has suffered in recent years, including the George Floyd-inspired riots that rocked major cities in 2020.
The subtitle of the Politico essay —“National security officials are still not prepared for a far-right revolt” — makes clear the authors are worried solely about “right-wing” violence. They make no mention, much less express concern about violence-prone groups such as Antifa, Black Lives Matters, or the eco-terrorists opposing construction of a police training center in Atlanta, Georgia.
On the other hand, the “Big Idea” is replete with what the authors perceive as the real threats our country faces:
- “hyperbolic reactions of far-right Republican figures and media commentators”
- “bellicose conservative agendas”
- “white supremacist groups”
- “far-right groups” generally
- “the MAGA movement”
- “Radicalized Republicans”
- “high-powered weapons like the AR-15s”
- and, of course, “Trump” and “Trumpism”
The authors of this call to action lament that the United States, “unlike the United Kingdom … has no nationwide government agency authorized and equipped to counter radicalization.” In this, they are correct, but it misses the point widely. The government structure established by our Constitution, as secured by a bloody revolt against the tyranny of the English system, was designed explicitly not to be national in form or nature.
I do not know if either of the authors of Politico’s “Big Idea” are acquainted in any degree with the Federalist Papers authored in the late 1780s by such phenomenally learned men as John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Had Politico’s pair of 21st Century academicians been thus familiar, they would understand that central to the government structure outlined in the Federalist Papers, is the principle that the universe of powers that can be exercised by governments rests not with the national government, but with those of the states.
Furthermore, as Madison eloquently describes in Federalist Nos. 45, 46, 49, and 51, the national government’s powers, unlike those of the states, are few and limited; nowhere is the notion of a national police force even hinted at, including as a “necessary and proper” power in Article I, Section 8.
Moreover, fresh from escaping a tyrannical British government that used soldiers as domestic police officers against American citizens, our Framers wanted no part of such a national force in the new United States (hence the Third Amendment).
Now, more than two centuries later (and after the first police “department” in the country was formed in 1838), we have nearly one million law enforcement officers and employees in communities in every state. Additionally, there are 90 federal agencies with law enforcement powers that employ nearly 137,000 law enforcement officers. The list of agencies with intelligence, investigative, and law enforcement powers goes on and on and on.
Simon and Stevenson, and their fellow travelers on the Left who wish to expand federal law enforcement beyond its current vast reach, accurately note that coordination among all these hundreds of agencies at all levels is lacking. But the solution cannot seriously be to expand federal powers even further; revamping and reducing federal law enforcement would help greatly, but that’s a story for another day.
The ideologic lens through which the Left considers the problem of crime in 21stCentury America, however, admits of no historic reality, and the partisan political blinders they wear allow them to see only the crimes they want to see.
The solution of a national police force for which they yearn would take us back to the future, to a place we rejected long ago, and which we must again if we are to preserve our Republic.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.