- Law and order (politics)
politics, law and order refers to a political platform which supports a strict criminal justicesystem, especially in relation to violent crimeand property crime, through harsher criminal penalties. These penalties may include longer terms of imprisonment, mandatory sentencing, and in some countries, capital punishment.
Supporters of "law and order" argue that effective deterrence combined with
incarcerationis the most effective means of crime prevention. Opponents of law and order argue that a system of harsh criminal punishment is ultimately ineffective because it does not address underlying or systemic causes of crime.
"Law and order" is a recurring theme in
political campaigns around the world. Candidates may exaggerate or even manufacture a problem with law and order, or characterize their opponents as "weak" on the issue, in order to generate public support (see negative campaigning). The expression also sometimes carries the implication of arbitrary or unnecessary law enforcement, or excessive use of police powers.
Law and order as a political issue in the United States
In response to sharply rising rates of crime in the 1960s, treatment of criminal offenders, both accused and convicted, became a highly divisive topic in the 1968 U.S. Presidential Election. Republican Vice Presidential candidate
Spiro Agnew, then the Governorof Maryland, often used the expression (Agnew and running mate Richard Nixonwon the 1968 election, with Nixon becoming President of the United States).
Advocates of stricter policies toward crime and those accused of crime have won many victories since the issue became important. Highlights include stringent laws dealing with the sale and use of illicit drugs. For example the
Rockefeller drug lawspassed in New Yorkstate in 1973 — and later, laws mandating tougher sentences for repeat offenders, such as the three strikes laws adopted by many states starting in 1993 and the re-legalization of the death penaltyin several U.S. states.
Opponents of these and similar laws have often accused advocates of
racism. Civil rightsgroups have steadfastly opposed the trend toward harsher measures generally. The law-and-order issue caused a deep rift within the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and 1970s, and this rift was seen by many political scientists as a major contributing factor in Ronald Reagan's two successful Presidential runs, in 1980 and 1984. In both elections, millions of registered Democrats voted for Reagan, and they collectively became known as " Reagan Democrats." Many of these voters eventually changed their party registration and became Republicans, especially in the South.
Though violent crimes are the primary focus of law-and-order advocates, quality of life crimes are sometimes also included under the law-and-order umbrella, particularly in local elections. A tough stance on this matter greatly helped
Rudolph Giulianiwin two terms as mayorof New York Cityin the 1990s, and was also widely cited as propelling Gavin Newsomto victory over a more liberal opponent in San Francisco's mayoral election of 2003.
Recently, crime has also become a prominent issue in
Canadian, Australian, South African, French, and New Zealandpolitics.
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