Wednesday, May 25, 2016


It's a rare day when Charlie Pierce and Power Line's John Hinderaker agree on something, but they agree that continued violent protest against Donald Trump will probably put him in the White House. Here's Hinderaker, from a post titled "Electing Trump, One Riot at a Time":
Last night in Albuquerque, rioters attacked a Donald Trump rally. Several tried to disrupt the event and had to be removed from the crowd. Most remained outside, throwing rocks at the hall and burning objects at policemen....

Liberals will try to imply that violence by anti-Trump rioters is somehow Trump’s fault, but they can’t sell that theory. Most people dislike riots and rioters just as much today as they did in 1968. Trump has risen to the top of the political heap in large part because of the enemies he has made. During the primaries, the more he was denounced by liberal reporters, the more votes he got. The same will happen in the general election if voters see that he is besieged by left-wing rioters.
Hinderaker, of coursed, would be pleased at that outcome. Pierce, not so much:
What happened in Albuquerque Tuesday night not only was pointless, it was utterly stupid. It gave the campaign of He, Trump enough footage to create campaign ads all the way through his re-election campaign in 2020. It gave cable news a chance to monger some fear; by midnight, the CNN reporter on the scene was practically begging the cops to unleash hell on the people "who won't go home." It turned He, Trump into a victim....

One of the most important ways to defeat He, Trump is to be smarter than he is. That shouldn't be difficult but, so far, it's eluded the other Republican contenders, and the Clinton campaign, and the people who show up at his rallies who can't seem to understand that, by doing so, they become part of the show.

Stay across the street. Protest silently and, in the name of god, don't be such easy marks.
But I'm sticking with what I said in the last post: Violent protest makes Trump seem like the candidate who's courting chaos. If we're all going to look back on 1968, let's recall that the winner of that year's election was the candidate whose campaign wasn't associated with violent protest in the public mind. The Republican convention that year wasn't comparable to Chicago, which became a millstone around Hubert Humphrey's neck. And the candidate who finished third had a Trump-like habit of courting violence at his rallies:
“The confrontation with the hecklers became a highly stylized feature of every Wallace rally,” writes Lloyd Rohler in his book George Wallace: Conservative Populist. “Violence seemed always to be lurking in the background and it frequently burst forth.” At a Wallace rally on October 29 in Detroit, reported the Chicago Tribune, “wild, chair-swinging violence erupted” as “Wallace supporters and some of several thousand hecklers clashed, first with fists and then with folding chairs … Wallace supporters struck handcuffed hecklers as they were being led away by police, who did not interfere.”
The winner of that year's election was the guy fraudulently claiming that he'd govern as a healer, the one who said he had a secret plan to end a divisive war, the one whose campaign cynically took its slogan from a sign held up at a rally: "Bring Us Together."

Voters wanted to believe that Richard Nixon would calm troubled waters. Donald Trump doesn't even want voters to believe he'll bring calm -- he clearly wants to butt heads with everyone who looks at him crosswise. Some percentage of the country wants that, but I don't think it will be a majority.

I could be wrong and Charlie Pierce could be right -- he usually is. But in a country where even partisans say they hate partisanship and want compromise, I'm not sure being the candidate associated with violent unrest is a successful strategy.

The wild card here is whether Hillary Clinton gets yoked to violence by the planned Sanderspalooza outside the Democratic convention. Organizers of the planned pro-Bernie protests say they'll be peaceful. We'll have to wait and see how that works out.


Feud Turgidson said...

I have genuine affection for Pierce. IMO he is THE most graceful a& funniest writer on politics & society there is, particularly post Molly Ivins.

But he's not perfect.

I had some disputes - arguments - with him in his previous online spots, particularly when he was with the Globe and other Boston organs. He's more right than I am WAY more times. But sometimes he's dead wrong. I have to say, I SAVOR those rare moments when I'm right and he's wrong, because they're so rare, but then I get mad at myself because Charlies the big star emerald in the crown that is the best of American journalism.

Folks who have no read his books are cheating themselves. Idiot America has a TERRIBLE title, but the writing is ridiculously good. It's cheap like borscht on Amazon, people. I keep my copy right here in my office nearby because the PASSION and the STYLE are unsurpassed.

FWIW - and Charlie's gonna guess at who I am from this - my fave moment was when Charlie was blogging Sports for the Globe, back in August 2010, when he wrote his piece on Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum falling apart. I ripped him for that in reader comments, and LUCKY ME Lincecum then almost immediately went bananas and blew away the entire NL in September 2010, then KEPT IT UP in two classic duels with the Phillies ace. But - BIG BUT - Charlie had a point, and his laugh, rueful as it was, lasted longer, because 2010 was the first year that showed strong evidence on the impending crumble of Lincecum. He was ... okay, sort of, in 2011, but by 2012 every concern Charlie expressed about him in August 2010 had come to pass.

To return to the point: I have ZERO doubt that you Steve M are right and Charlie is wrong on this violence effect on political popularity. But here's the problem: I think, Steve, you are right NOW, THIS year. The issue of political violence is going to get worse. White dude ass-hole-ry - I'm one, so I know - is going to get way worse. I cite the rise of fascism in Germany as starting back in the last embers of the German Revolution, as the flower of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was still in bloom, but OLD, and German nationalism was first on the rise - expressing itself as socially-acceptable culturally-tolerated overtly anti-Semetic words and actions.

That's something like what we here are going to have to face over the next two decades as the white dude hegemony experiences shrinkage. What happened in Oregon this winter is going to happen again, and again. Guns are going to get shot, and vulnerable fee-fees white dudes will be doing the shooting.

So, once again, even in the throes on one the rare times when I'm sure Pierce is wrong and I'm right, Charlie's got a point, and Charlie's point is more likely to prove out in the longer run.

petrilli said...

Along with Feud's mention of the rise of fascism in Europe, I would guess Pierce's set point is more Beer Hall Putsch than Grant Park. I don't know if anyone can extrapolate from either experience into how it plays out in America this time. I know one thing for sure. Our culture is not nearly as prepared to deal with this old beast as we were 80 years ago when it reared it's ugly head in Spain. I don't see any musicians with "This machine kills fascists" written on their flat tops these days. As for me, I can't stop looping an old tune in my head from from the Freakout album. "It can't happen here. It can't happen here…"

BroD said...

Wrong. The riots helped Nixon because he was the authoritarian, "law & order" candidate. Unrest at Trump events will nurture his--and his followers'--brown-shirt tendencies.

CH said...

Even 80 years ago, we (as in "most of the US adult population/electorate" and/or "the government") did precious little about the rise of European fascism in its Spanish incarnation, and those relatively few Americans who went to Spain to fight it in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were later tagged (under Truman, as I recall) as having been affiliated with a subversive organization.

Before Zappa appropriated it, "It Can't Happen Here" was the title of one of my favorite Sinclair Lewis novels, this one from the 30's, having to do with, yes, the rise of an American Fuhrer/Duce very loosely patterned on the Kingfish.

Rob Conrad said...

Please -- I'm asking nicely -- (a) support and encourage protest as the crown jewel of American First Amendment rights (b) mention frequently and in the same breath how UTTERLY TRUE it is that agents provocateur infiltrate and poison every. single. progressive social justice movement in this country. Always have, always will. It only takes those 10 people who take a swing, stomp on a cop car, and brick a window to poison an entire protest. Never fail to mention this -- it's important.

KenRight said...

Interesting post and poignant question
The smart money always knew there was the ultimate question, when it was to be asked time uncertain, of whether the founding ethnic core was going to fight back or surrender the United States and that fighting back meant a little more than Tea Party debate. But of course the blogger here for the time being refers to voting.

Ten Bears said...

"[A]gents provocateur infiltrate and poison every. Single. Progressive social justice movement in this country. Always have, always will. It only takes those 10 people who take a swing, stomp on a cop car, and brick a window to poison an entire protest."

Bears repeating, over and over again.

Swellsman said...

Hmmm . . . . my read on the riots from '68 (and, admittedly, I am too young to remember them; I really have only read about them) is that the percentage of the population that wanted confrontation was a small one. Nixon really was onto something - then - about "the silent majority." The majority of people - then - were white people for whom the American system worked and who really just wanted all the unpleasantness that came with recognizing its inherent unfairness for everyone else to just go away. My sense is that they were more than willing to vote for Nixon because he promised them a way out of what seemed like social chaos.

I think the percentage looking for political confrontation - not necessarily violent, but confrontation nevertheless - is much, much greater today. To be sure, the people attracted to or at least willing to vote for Drumpf are more than willing to confront those they call enemies. And us leftists? Well, speaking only for myself, my initial reaction when Drumpf announced his candidacy with a naked appeal to blatant racism was to say, "Good. Let's dispense with the dogwhistles. This guy is going to tear off the facade that been covering the ugly truth behind the country's divisions, and if the right wants to have this confrontation, let's get it on. Because, today, our side is bigger and I think we'll win."

Note: I was talking about a political confrontation, not a violent, physical one. Still, I think today both sides in this debate think they are stronger, and both sides think they are gonna win. And so I think there is much, much less of a yen to "just have things settle back down to normal."

So I tend to think that a great deal of electoral appeal will not depend on being the candidate who promises stability, but on being the candidate who passionately promises a victory over the forces of darkness (and what party you belong to pretty much determines who you think that is). I get Charlie's concern that riots can be used by Drumpf as proof that he is doing something right, and his refusal to back down from "these savages" makes him presidential. I hope he's wrong, but I understand his reasoning and why he worries.

Paul said...

Read daily, and love it. But gonna side with CP here. This kind of thing only does one thing in white America: pucker assholes. The optics here are terrible. Trump protestors battling with police for .... what? He's surely a threat to democracy, but we already have a remedy for that: Voting.

But that's HARD. There's a certain element in humanity that just wants attention, for any reason. If you're a parent, you've seen it.

The electorate might be stupid, vapid and ill-informed, but it sure knows who to blame when a bunch of young people start breaking things. It's the damned liberals.

Unknown said...

FWIW, IMO a lot of the blowback to Humphrey over the 1968 convention riots was the clear understanding that the rioters were DEMOCRATS at war with what they perceived as faults within their own party (most importantly, a hawkish Vietnam policy)

By contrast, the consistent incidents at Trump rallies have been, for better or worse, painted as the work of outside agitators or similar. IOW, as other commenters have noted, Nixon successfully ran as the law and order candidate; having already established himself in that light, he would have been as happy as a pig in slop if radical violence had broken out as an appearance: "See? I told you, these liberals will stop at nothing, NOTHING, to undermine America's spirit!"

Unknown said...

"I could be wrong and Charlie Pierce could be right -- he usually is."
Nope. Not lately. He has a very weird burr up his butt regarding Sec. Clinton's "campaign" even though she has thoroughly demolished Sen. Sanders relative to her campaign versus Pres. Obama in 2008. He also has a creepy/hyperbolic vendetta against and loathing for Rep. Wassereman Schultz, which makes absolutely no sense because she has stayed totally neutral, kept calm, cool and collected in the face of a barrage of very nasty attacks by Jeff Weaver, who appears to be a misogynistic sociopath and Worked her ass off to manage her reelection campaign, the nuts and bolts of the DNC role in national POTUS, Senate and House races and statehouse campaigns in several states that are newly competitive. Mr. Pierce's hateful attitude toward Rep. Wasserman Schultz is especially egregious given the incompetent, cowardly and clueless management of the RNC by Reince Pribus. I'm starting to think that you can take the Irish-Catholic boy out of the Church but you can't take the Irish-Catholic boy out of the warm and fuzzy embrace of patriarchy.

Steve M. said...

I don't like Wasserman Schultz either. I don't like anyone who carries water for the bloodsuckers of the payday loan industry, an industry whose business model is 100% dependent on trapping people in poverty for life. On this I'm with Pierce and BooMan.

Jeff Weaver is a dick, but two wrongs don't make a right.