Representative Paul Ryan’s response to the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police was fairly straightforward: say nothing, do nothing. “We should take a deep breath, let’s have some sympathy for the family and the community, and let’s not prejudge anything, and let’s let the investigation take its course and hope that justice is served appropriately,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “But what I don’t want to do as a political leader is try to graft my policy initiatives or my preferences onto this tragedy.”
It was not a great moment in the Republican Party’s alleged outreach to minority communities, which Ryan has been championing, but this silence is a bipartisan affair. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle, with a few valuable exceptions, have by and large avoided what’s happening in Missouri entirely.
Most of the candidates likely to contend for the presidency in 2016 have been silent. Hillary Clinton, who has been eager in recent weeks to opine extensively on national issues as she embarked on a book tour, has acted as if the situation isn’t happening.
On Friday, as the nation was gripped by a series of rapid-fire events in Ferguson—the disclosure of Officer Darren Wilson’s name and the inflammatory convenience store footage, along with increased civil unrest—Clinton’s team released a hammy House of Cards spoof.
As Politico notes, the rest of the possible Democratic field avoided the events as well, save for Senator Elizabeth Warren (who, of course, insists she will not run). She told Politico the shooting of Brown was “a terrible thing…and then the Ferguson police badly overreacted.” She then sent this message from her Twitter account on Wednesday:
Glad AG Holder is in #Ferguson for independent federal investigation of Michael Brown’s death. We need straight answers about what happened.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) August 20, 2014
On the Republican side, Senator Rand Paul wrote a strongly worded op-ed in Time calling for the demilitarization of police and a reexamination of racial disparities in law enforcement. That represents the strongest, most detailed response of any 2016 contender to date.
One of Paul’s potential rivals, Senator Ted Cruz, called the situation “tragic” but didn’t weigh in on any fundamental issues raised in Ferguson, except to criticize the arrest of journalists. Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement saying “Michael Brown’s family is in my prayers during this terrible time in their lives. I’m very concerned by recent events in Ferguson, including the violence that has gripped that community and the inexplicable jailing of two reporters. As the FBI looks into allegations regarding the police department there, I hope Americans all over the country will voice their opinions through peaceful means and not resort to violence.”*