We’ve had a lot of protests lately, and in many of them, the cry has been “no justice, no peace.” Simply put, it means the protesters promise to continue their aggressive dissent until their demands are heard and action is taken. But what if the opposite is true? What if justice in a free nation cannot be achieved without peace?
President Richard Nixon proved with his victory in 1968 – and a follow-up landslide in 1972 – what is still true today: People want safety more than anything, and will vote for a candidate who promises to deliver it. Nixon, like Trump today, responded to the growing violence in the anti-Vietnam War movement with a platform of pure law and order, overriding many other issues of the time.
If people don’t feel safe leaving their homes, little else matters.
In any democratic form of government, those who offer radical change must make their case before the voters. Our republic was designed by the Framers of the Constitution to achieve systemic reform only when widespread support is achieved among the American people. We have been blessed with a system of governance specifically designed to cool the passions of the day through shared and balanced power granted to the president, Congress, and the courts.
It was not designed to produce change by the barrel of a gun.
To the extent Martin Luther King Jr. succeeded in changing the hearts and minds of average Americans, it was by pushing his followers to seek peace, not violence. He recognized that if there is a righteous message accompanied by violent mobs, people will remember the mobs and forget the message.
If those with a true interest in racial justice wish to succeed, they must separate themselves from the insurrectionists acting in their name who have caused only fear and destruction. Otherwise, their efforts will amount to nothing.
After the riots that decimated Kenosha, Wisconsin, one woman voter captured the sentiment: “I’m not going to remember them for anything they said,” she said of the protesters. “I’m going to remember them for what they did to their own city.”