They figure four more years will move the U.S. to even higher levels of chaos—and get them closer to power.
(By Eric Crudup/Shutterstock)
Many thoughtful observers on the right—including Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher, and Dan McCarthy—have pointed out that the current protesting and rioting is likely to help Donald Trump and the Republicans. That is, the ongoing violence, fomented by leftist elements, including Black Lives Matter and Antifa, could boomerang against Joe Biden and his Democrats.
However, the planted assumption here is that the vandals and looters want Joe Biden to win. And that’s not so obvious. Indeed, maybe the truth is just the reverse.
To be sure, the protesters and looters all hate Donald Trump. And yet actions speak louder than words, and their actions on the street suggest a kind of anti-matter affection for the Bad Orange Man. That is, each act of violence obscures the memory of George Floyd, who died at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman, and raises the prospect of a national backlash against both peaceful protestors and violent looters, offering a ray of hope for Trump.
Indeed, Douthat quotes Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow, whose research shows that back in the 1960s, peaceful civil rights protests helped the Democrats, while violent protests (also known as riots) hurt the Democrats. In Wasow’s words, “proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines.” And that’s how Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
We might add that Humphrey was a lot like Biden. Both were gabby senators turned vice presidents, regarded as reliable liberals, not as hard-edged leftists.
So now we’re starting to see where Biden, a pillar of the smug liberal establishment—he once told a group of donors that if he’s elected, “nothing would fundamentally change”—veers away from the far-left ideologues amidst the mobs.
Let’s let Andy Ngo–who has shed blood, literally, while chronicling bullyboy leftists—define the ideology of Antifa and Black Lives Matter: “At its core, BLM is a revolutionary Marxist ideology. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, BLM’s founders, are self-identified Marxists who make no secret of their worship of communist terrorists and fugitives, like Assata Shakur. They want the abolition of law enforcement and capitalism. They want regime change and the end of the rule of law. Antifa has partnered with Black Lives Matter, for now, to help accelerate the breakdown of society.”
We can observe that by “regime change,” these revolutionary leftists don’t mean replacing Trump with Biden—they mean replacing capitalism and the Constitution. In the meantime, if one looks at a Twitter feed identified by Ngo as an Antifa hub, It’s Going Down, one sees plenty of anti-Trump rhetoric, along with general hard leftism, but nothing in support of Biden.
However, here’s something interesting: The Biden campaign shows no small degree of support for the street radicals. As Reuters reported on May 30,
“At least 13 Biden campaign staff members posted on Twitter on Friday and Saturday that they made donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which opposes the practice of cash bail, or making people pay to avoid pre-trial imprisonment. The group uses donations to pay bail fees in Minneapolis.”
We might observe that these 13 employees posted their pro-rioter sympathies on Twitter; in other words, not only did they make no effort to hide their donations, but they also actively bragged about them.
It could be argued, of course, that these are just 13 vanguard employees out of a campaign staff that numbers in the hundreds, maybe even thousands. And yet as the Reuters piece adds, Team Biden is not practicing political distancing from its in-house radicals: “Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement to Reuters that the former vice president opposes the institution of cash bail as a ‘modern day debtors prison.’”
When pressed by Reuters—which is not exactly Fox News in its editorial stance—the official spox for Middle Class Joe was unwilling to say more: “The campaign declined to answer questions on whether the donations were coordinated within the campaign, underscoring the politically thorny nature of the sometimes violent protests.”
So we can see: The Biden campaign is trying to maintain its equipoise between liberals and mobs, even as the former is bleeding into the latter. Indeed, a look at Biden’s Twitter feed shows the same port-side balancing act. On May 30, for instance, he tweeted, “If we are complacent, if we are silent, we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence. None of us can turn away. We all have an obligation to speak out.”
There’s enough ambiguity here, as well as in his other tweets, to leave everyone parsing, and guessing, as to what, exactly, Biden is saying—except, as he said on June 2, that he opposes the use of chokeholds to restrain violent suspects, and also opposes more equipment for the police. The only other thing we know for sure is that he hasn’t tweeted an iota of specific sympathy for the people other than George Floyd who have died in the recent violence. One such is Patrick Underwood, an African American employee of the Federal Protective Service; he was shot and killed in Oakland, Calif. on May 29.
Yet while the Biden campaign attempts to keep its relationship with Antifa and its ilk fuzzy, other Democrats have made themselves clear. For instance, in 2018, then-Congressman Keith Ellison tweeted out a photograph of himself holding a copy of a book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which the radical-chic types at The New Yorkerdescribed as “A how-to for would-be activists, and a record of advice from anti-Fascist organizers past and present.” Ellison is now the attorney general for the state of Minnesota.
And on May 31, Ellison’s son, Jeremiah, a Minneapolis city councilman, tweeted, “I hereby declare, officially, my support for ANTIFA.”
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Still, if the Democrats can’t quite quit Antifa, most are smart enough to recognize the danger of being too closely associated with hooligans and radicals. Moreover, they need some theory of the case they wish to make, which is that they loudly support the protests, even as they mumble about the violence.
And Democrats have found their favored argument—the one that conveniently takes them off the hook. Indeed, it’s an argument they increasingly deploy to explain everything bad that happens: The Russians did it.
Thus on May 31, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice said on CNN of the tumult, “In my experience, this is right out of the Russian playbook.”
We might allow that it’s possible, even probable, that the Russian government has been taking delight in this spate of violence in America. And it’s similarly probable that the governments of China, Iran, and Venezuela, too, have been pleased, to say nothing of varying portions of the public in every country. And so sure, more than a few tweets and Facebook posts have probably resulted—after all, stories ripping the U.S. were right there, for instance, on the front page of China’s Global Times.
Still, it’s ridiculous to think that hundreds of thousands—maybe millions—of Americans are taking their cues from a foreign power; we’ve got plenty of home-grown radicalism and anger.
Yet even so, the Democrats have persisted in their Russia-dunnit narrative, because it serves their political, and perhaps psychological, need—the need to externalize criminal behavior. In other words, don’t blame us for the killings and lootings—blame Moscow.
Okay, so back to Antifa and Black Lives Matter. The left wing of the Democratic Party—including elements within the Biden campaign—might like them, but there’s no evidence that they like Democrats back.
Indeed, if the violence keeps up, it will become obvious that the leftist radicals are not trying to help Biden. To put it another way, the rads would become the objective allies (a political science term connoting an ironic congruence of interest) of … Trump.
To be sure, right now, Trump is running five or six points behind Biden in the RealClearPoliticspolling average. And yet, just as Dreher, Douthat, and McCarthy suggest, if the violence continues and Trump goes firm while Biden stays mushy, that could change.
Indeed, as we think of genuine radicalism, we would do well to look beyond the parochial confines of American politics, Democrat vs. Republican. Instead, we might ponder the epic panorama of leftist history, which offers radicals so much more inspiration than historically centrist America.
For instance, we might look to Russia. But not to the Russia of Vladimir Putin, but rather, to the Russia of Vladimir Lenin.
In the early 20th century, Lenin’s Bolsheviks, awaiting their revolutionary moment, operated according to a simple slogan: “The worse the better.” That is, the enemy of Bolshevism was incremental reform, or progress of any kind; the reds wanted conditions to get so bad as to “justify” a communist revolution. And that’s what Lenin and his comrades got in October 1917, when they seized power in the midst of the calamities of World War One.
Yes, of course, the communists made conditions worse, not better, for ordinary Russians. And yet things weren’t worse for Lenin and his Bolsheviks—they were now in power. So today, that’s the sort of dream that inspires Antifa radicals.
To be sure, an America dominated by Antifa and Black Lives Matter is a distant prospect. But radicals figure that four more years of Trump in the White House will move the nation to even higher levels of chaos—and thus move them closer to power.
With all that in prospect for radicals—that is, the worse, the better—the prospect of Joe Biden losing this year is a small price to pay. Actually, for them, it’s no price at all.
In the meantime, for America, there is no better. Only worse.
Politics News about the author
James P. Pinkerton is a longtime contributing editor at The American Conservative, columnist, and author. He served as longtime regular columnist for Newsday. He has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, National Review, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Fortune, and The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of What Comes Next: The End of Big Government–and the New Paradigm Ahead (1995).He worked in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and in the 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns.
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