My headline is the actual subhead of this piece today by Robert Tracinski. He’s basically echoing something that Don Lemon said this week, i.e. the rioting has to stop because it’s showing up in the polls.
Consider another exchange caught on video: a store owner shouting out from his shattered window, “Are they trying to get Trump re-elected?” A protester replies, “These people don’t represent our movement.” His rejoinder: “I’m sorry, but they’re with you.”
That’s the problem in a nutshell. The anarchist and revolutionary wing of the protest movement has run riot—quite literally—among the non-violent protesters with not nearly enough resistance from either elected Democrats or the left-leaning media.
Consider, for example, the role of the press in sugar-coating the dark side of these protests. There is the way they described the takeover of downtown Seattle as having a “festive” atmosphere—which Seattle’s mayor compared to the Summer of Love—and only later printed the stories of residents and business owners intimidated by lawless mobs. Or the way CNN characterized the burning of businesses in downtown Kenosha as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”
“Mostly peaceful protest” has become a running joke as an evasive way to describe a violent mob. Is there a big difference between a protest and a riot? Absolutely. I just wish the media would remember this and stop blurring the difference between them…
This is precisely the sort of thing that could tip the election back to Trump by making his opponents seem like weak and timid men afraid to confront the violent brutes.
He’s absolutely right that the rioters have been sheltered by Democratic mayors and the media. Why? Tracinski doesn’t really say. He does say that every political party attracts a fringe element, which is true. But why are so many mayors and media outlets eager to back or at least downplay the left’s fringe when it is rioting in the streets? I think the answer to that question helps explain why Democrats are so nervous right now.
Here’s my answer: BLM isn’t fringe anymore it’s the biggest source of energy for the Democratic party at this moment. So they can’t afford to alienate BLM. At the same time, BLM’s politics remain deeply fringe. Disbanding the police. Reparations. Identity politics. White fragility. These are not things that every one is on board with but they are inseparable from BLM. And those things are really just scratching the surface of how deeply fringe some of this stuff is.
A lot of the proposals being put forward by the woke arrive in a framework of often unspoken ideas about race, collectivism, individuality, etc. I’m not going to recapitulate the full argument here because it would take up a lot of space but go back and look at that NY Times piece about the foundations of anti-racism training. What the author found was underneath all of the talk about white fragility and systemic oppression was a fairly consistent view of the world (among the top trainers in the field) that was anti-captialist, anti-individualism, anti-rationalism, anti-excellence and even anti-punctuality.
If you’ve read that already, consider looking at James Lindsay’s piece on why the woke won’t debate. Again, it’s not because there’s a rule out there against it, it’s because wokeness comes with deep skepticism about all of the cultural structures that have led us to what they see as a corrupt and failed system of oppression. They don’t want to play the liberal game anymore, and by liberal I mean they don’t really support things like free speech for everyone.
All of this means that in practice, these groups often behave differently in the streets because they are coming from a very different perspective. When you believe reality is a state of constant conflict for power among different racial groups, you wind up with groups of people telling white strangers to give up their home to a black person. When you believe the purpose of white people is to be allies to black causes, you end up with a mob of white kids being told by black leaders to move in and confront the one white woman who won’t show solidarity by raising her fist.
And more to the point of the ongoing riots, you get people who believe looting is a form of reparations and destruction of property isn’t violence and maybe even that violence is necessary for change.
So to wrap this all up, I think Democrats have a real problem. The problem is that they can’t really afford to condemn the extremism which is creating the problem for them at this moment because that extremism can’t be localized to a group of outsiders. There is no Sister Souljah to condemn. The extremism is already well inside the tent. It’s too late to throw Antifa under the bus after months of people like Don Lemon defending Antifa and media outlets downplaying Antifa. No one would believe it.
It’s true that “mostly peaceful” has become a running joke to many as a description for nightly protests that inevitably turn violent. What that phrase conceals is that there are large groups of agitated people in the streets who all share similar ideas and who believe in a “diversity of tactics” to achieve their shared goals. They have been working together for months, so condemning the riots without offending the wider movement is going to be very tricky to do at this late date.