You Can Learn A Lot About Donald Trump’s Views On Crime From One Of His Old Books. | Gradient

You can learn a lot about Donald Trump’s views on crime from one of his old books.


Donald Trump is known to oscillate between overt bigotry and the usual “dog whistles” about black crime and pathology. Recently, Trump has doubled down on “tough on crime” rhetoric as he unsuccessfully attempts to court black voters. German Lopez, trying to find concrete policy statements from Trump’s campaign (and largely coming empty) mined some criminal justice priorities from a potential Trump administration by reading his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve.” From Vox:

Trump’s 2000 book, The America We Deserve, offers the clearest view into his criminal justice positions — and they’re unquestionably “tough on crime.”

Trump warns about an incoming crime wave “early in 2000.” (This never happened; crime has steadily dropped since the mid-1990s.) He dismisses social contributors to crime — particularly “poverty, lack of opportunity, or early childhood mistreatment” — as excuses, arguing that such explanations for crime enable “soft” policies that aren’t tough enough to make US streets safe. And he favors “a zero-tolerance policy,” lengthy prison sentences, and aggressive police tactics.

Trump’s thesis explicitly embraces “tough crime policies”:

Tough crime policies are the most important form of national defense. Government’s number-one job is to ensure domestic tranquillity [sic], and that means tranquilizing the criminal element as much as possible. Aggressive anticrime policies are the best social program, because they allow citizens in all neighborhoods, and especially the tougher ones, to live and work in a safe environment. They also protect children from the predatory mob that brutalizes them at every turn.

He calls for putting more people in prison:

According to the bipartisan group Council on Crime in America, on any given day there are about 1.5 times more convicted violent offenders out on the streets on probation or parole than are behind bars.

Clearly we don’t have too many people in prison. Quite the contrary.

Meanwhile, the rest of us need to rethink prisons and punishment. The next time you hear someone saying there are too many people in prison, ask them how many thugs they’re willing to relocate to their neighborhood. The answer: None.

Even though the book was published 16 years ago, it’s reminiscent of the Donald we know now, especially because his assertions aren’t backed with evidence. Lopez references Trump’s support of “broken-windows policing,” a frequent point of criticism in the Department of Justice’s scathing analysis of Baltimore’s police department. Trump — or whatever deeply regretful ghostwriter — promotes the death penalty’s effectiveness in deterring crime, something that Lopez again, points out is unproven and even disagreed upon by a consensus on criminologists.

Trump is laughably behind in the polls, so assuming Clinton rolls a normal campaign free of unforced errors, we won’t have to live the dystopian nightmare of Trump’s vision of America. But, if you want a good overview of what’s at stake, Lopez has graciously saved you from actually opening a Trump-authored book.

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