"Law and Order" offers a valuable new study of the political and
social history of the 1960s. It presents a sophisticated account of
how the issues of street crime and civil unrest enhanced the
popularity of conservatives, eroded the credibility of liberals,
and transformed the landscape of American politics. Ultimately, the
legacy of law and order was a political world in which the grand
ambitions of the Great Society gave way to grim expectations.
In the mid-1960s, amid a pervasive sense that American society
was coming apart at the seams, a new issue known as law and order
emerged at the forefront of national politics. First introduced by
Barry Goldwater in his ill-fated run for president in 1964, it
eventually punished Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats and propelled
Richard Nixon and the Republicans to the White House in 1968. In
this thought-provoking study, Michael Flamm examines how
conservatives successfully blamed liberals for the rapid rise in
street crime and then skillfully used law and order to link the
understandable fears of white voters to growing unease about
changing moral values, the civil rights movement, urban disorder,
and antiwar protests.
Flamm documents how conservatives constructed a persuasive
message that argued that the civil rights movement had contributed
to racial unrest and the Great Society had rewarded rather than
punished the perpetrators of violence. The president should,
conservatives also contended, promote respect for law and order and
contempt for those who violated it, regardless of cause. Liberals,
Flamm argues, were by contrast unable to craft a compelling message
for anxious voters. Instead, liberals either ignored the crime
crisis, claimed that law and order was a racist ruse, or maintained
that social programs would solve the "root causes" of civil
disorder, which by 1968 seemed increasingly unlikely and
contributed to a loss of faith in the ability of the government to
do what it was above all sworn to do-protect personal security and
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