Law and order (politics)

Law and order (politics)

In politics, law and order refers to a political platform which supports a strict criminal justice system, especially in relation to violent crime and 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 incarceration is 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 Governor of Maryland, often used the expression (Agnew and running mate Richard Nixon won 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 laws passed in New York state 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 penalty in several U.S. states.

Opponents of these and similar laws have often accused advocates of racism. Civil rights groups 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 Giuliani win two terms as mayor of New York City in the 1990s, and was also widely cited as propelling Gavin Newsom to 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 Zealand politics.



ee also

*Back to Basics (campaign)
*Civil disobedience
*Wedge politics

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