(AUTHORS NOTE: I originally began writing this post a few days ago, but given the news of the past day, it seemed a good idea to get back to it.)
I know I’m not the only one who has noticed the rather violent rhetoric coming from the liberal/progressive side of the American political spectrum over the last 18 months or so. Anyone paying even a modicum of attention cannot have failed but to notice it. The two video clips at the opening of this post are examples of leaders of that movement making very public statements that not only support the idea of engaging with people politically opposed to you in a violent manner but actively encouraging it. There are no “dog whistles” in these statements.
Hillary Clinton: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about… We have to get, maybe not cross the line, but get meaner, get tougher.”
Maxine Waters: “If you see anyone from that cabinet, that administration, in a restaurant, in a department store, in a gasoline station – you get out, and you create a crowd. You push back on them and you tell them: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!”
This type of incendiary rhetoric from the American left is nothing new, of course. It has its beginnings in the protest movements of the 1960’s, which in many respects were hijacked by radical elements looking not to reform American society but outright overthrow it. Most of you reading this are familiar with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals,” the openly subversive book that recommends confrontation with and hostile takeover of American institutions. Professor Alinsky advocated taking what began as an idealistic youth movement looking to proactively redress the egregious, systemic racism of our first 150 years and warp it into a campaign against all societal norms.
In the time between Richard Nixon’s near impeachment in 1974 and George W. Bush’s electoral victory in 2000, we enjoyed a respite from the violent catachism of the Left. Certainly, they were still out there and they still employed the rhetoric, but they were pushed to the fringes. After the abject failure of McGovern, the dismal Carter years, and the national rejection of progressivism that culminated with the Reagan administration, mainstream liberals largely rejected the type of political violence that attended their movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The bombings and assassinations stopped.
But those subversive elements never truly went away, they had just gone to ground. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” that ended the 20th century gave way to a full-throated progressive in Al Gore, whose narrow defeat seemed to awaken what was once thought a comatose movement. In 2004, the Democrats shifted even further left, nominating the very progressive (and some would say traitor) John Kerry as their standard bearer. His drubbing at the hands of the same George Bush who had vanquished Gore four years earlier unleashed the type of liberal passions that we are now living with. It was the driving force behind the eight years of Alinskyite leadership under Barack Obama.
Understandably, progressives were shocked to discover the mandate to fundamentally transform American society they imagined had been secured a decade earlier wasn’t much of a mandate. After decades of planning their relatively bloodless coup, they awoke on a frosty November morn in 2016 to discover their vision of America had been soundly rejected – again. And as when faced with similar rejection two generations earlier, they broke out the late 1960’s playbook almost immediately.
So, for nearly two years now, American sensibilities have been subject to a daily, at times hourly, onslaught of political violence. Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Waters’ statements aside, we’ve witnessed a progressive attempt to assassinate the Republican Congressional leadership at a softball practice. The Secretary of Defense and Chief of Naval Operations have been mailed ricin. A GOP congressional candidate in California was knifed, another in Wyoming had his campaign office firebombed. Jay Webber, a Republican running for Congress in NJ, has a police detail protecting his 7 children after a series of death threats against them. A teenager wearing a “MAGA” hat was assaulted for the crime of eating a sandwich. By one count, there have been over 550 acts of political violence – not just violent speech, but actual acts of violence – committed by progressives since the election of Donald Trump. By comparison, refusing to serve the Press Secretary or stealing the Senate Majority leader’s doggie bag seems almost trivial.
My point is this. From the days of Lenin and Trotsky, assassinations, arson, and other assorted mayhem have been the hallmark of progressive political argument. it is not a fallback position, so much as a default one. Historically, when progressives, whether they called themselves socialists, communists or fascists talk about fundamentally transforming a society, they speak of themselves as revolutionaries.
There have been very few succesful revolutions that didn’t involve an assumption of violence.
The progressive predeliction for violence is well established. The aim of such political violence is to destabilize normal society, to inspire fear – and ultimately, to provoke normal society into adopting the same tactics. The reason is simple. Once normal society includes daily, hourly political violent carnage, there is no more normal society. At that point, the fundamental transformation can occur without any resistance.
Normal society defeats progressivism by refusing to engage in the cycle of political violence. Normal society wins by continuing to engage in the normal political process: by engaging with ideas, not bombs; words, not knives; votes, not guns. Don’t take this to mean you should leave yourself defenseless or refuse to be vigilant. After all, a dead patriot is only good for worm food. Defend yourself if need be. But let it end there.
Last weekend, we saw a mob attack one of progressivism’s paragons, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I do not agree with a single position that Mrs. Pelosi espouses. However, chasing her through a hotel and refusing to let her speak is every bit as reprehensible as when progressives do the same to a conservative speaker. I found the actions understandable, but appalling nonetheless. We cannot defend all that we hold important by throwing our values out and engaging the left on their terms. Our goal should be to force them to engage on ours, if for no other reason than their tired ideas have time and again proven bereft of value.
I intentionally have not mentioned today’s (well, yesterday’s, by the time this gets published) spate of attempted bombings until now. I have a good reason for that. As I write this, the motivation behind them remains murky. Nobody has claimed responsibility. No associated manifesto has been published. This leaves several possibilities: a foreign actor, seeking to upset the political applecart. A very poorly executed attack by a right-wing extremist. Or a “false flag” operation by left-wing extemists looking to change the narractive prior to this year’s elections. I’m hoping it is determined to be option 1 or 3. If it is option 2, then this post may already be too late for all of us.