Events like the complete civic breakdown in Ferguson, Missouri, inevitably get shoved through political filters. They play out before a polarized public, often through ideological intermediaries, and become the responsibility of elected officials. They draw on community resources and are subject to second guessing by agenda-driven people watching from the sidelines.
But if you pass Ferguson through a political filter, what comes out the other end is completely incoherent. Ferguson is situated in St. Louis County, one of only three Missouri counties President Obama won in 2012. But Ferguson has a Republican mayor, while the state of Missouri has a Democratic governor. Said governor, Jay Nixon, has been roundly criticized for sitting on his hands as Ferguson descended into chaos, and Obama, perhaps wary of inflaming tensions, issued a remarkably tepid response to the unrest days after it began.
They managed to get outflanked on the left not just by less powerful Democrats but also by people vying to lead the Republican party, most notably Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. His Time Magazine op-ed included a few ham-fisted phrases meant to construe police brutality as a symptom of “big government”—an ill most conservatives view as synonymous with providing too much aid to residents of cities like Ferguson. But unlike Obama, he attributed the violence against civilians to police militarization, or some other derivative of the “m” word, eight times, and to race several more.