They should be careful if they really want to ‘go there’. They just may walk into something that does more than bite back.
Democrats Promise to Be Sore (and Violent) Losers
They know that the media, corporations, schools, and even churches will cheer them on.
Writing in The Atlantic recently, the sober-minded commentator Shadi Hamid says, “I struggle to imagine how, beyond utter shock, millions of Democrats will process a Trump victory.” For Democrats, having failed to cope with the 2016 election, and believing the polls that show a solid Joe Biden lead, another shock Trump win would “provoke mass disillusion with electoral politics as a means of change — at a time when disillusion is already dangerously high.” And it would lead decent folks astray. They would seek remedies “outside the political process, including through nonpeaceful means,” though, “not necessarily out of hope but out of despair.”
Don’t notice the gleam in the arsonist’s eye, he’s really just heartbroken over the fate of the Biden-Harris ticket!
Given Hamid’s premises, why bother even having the election? Why not find a peaceful but extralegal procedure to make Joe Biden president right this second? We could relieve the whole nation of the suspense of what Democrats will do if once again they’ve nominated someone who can’t beat one of the most broadly unpopular political figures of modern times.
For what it’s worth, like Hamid, I’m worried about post-election violence. But my view of the causes is slightly different. Hamid says, “Losers of elections need to believe that they can win the next time around. Otherwise their incentives to play the spoiler increase.” Okay, true enough.
He also says that “the anxiety gripping the two parties is asymmetric.” Joe Biden is a moderate Democrat, he says, and therefore theoretically more acceptable to Republicans, whereas Donald Trump “represents the nativist wing of an already nativist Republican Party.” His conclusion: Biden should win for reasons of civic peace.
Now leave aside the claims of leftists, including Obama, that Joe Biden has become much more progressive in his current campaign. And let’s leave aside the question of whether Donald Trump is actually a moderate or liberal Republican on issues such as federal welfare spending. Hamid fails in his analysis because he is unwilling or unable to see things from the other side. Maybe it’s time to practice empathy.
What if the anxiety gripping the parties was asymmetric in the other direction? Conservatives don’t see politics as just a matter of elective office, but of power generally. And they notice that the major corporations, Hollywood and pop culture, academia, what’s left of mainstream media, most local institutions, the leadership class of their own movements through the years, and even their own churches are substantially to their left politically. They also notice that progressives notch major political and cultural wins even from conservative elites, and even following conservative victories.
Hamid might have noticed that conservative activism was born over “despair” of the sort he describes. It was born of the observation that even winning elections wasn’t enough to secure political victories. Instead of the Electoral College or the Senate, conservatives had to face the more inscrutable Supreme Court, which for years overturned conservative legislation and enacted progressive victories that had no chance of receiving a democratic mandate. Conservatives’ response was to double down on electoral strategies, making an explicit case that they needed to win elections to reform the judiciary. Why didn’t conservatives simply pout and threaten to abandon the democratic process altogether, as Hamid admits liberals are wont to do?
Perhaps because conservatives then, as now, knew on which side of the divide the institutional and oligarchic power landed. Progressives feel secure in making all but open threats of violence and revolution because they know that the heads of domestic security agencies are on their side, they know that the most powerful voices in media and academia are at the ready to craft apologies for their violence. And they know that their reputations will be restored or even burnished after committing violence on behalf of their causes.
The modern American conservative movement was a populist and democratic movement because it had to be. The modern Left knows where its power lies as well — with the already powerful.