The violent protests at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s campaign rallies are not only continuing but escalating their level of violence, and with each new outrage we expect the protestors are nudging their hated nemesis a bit closer to the presidency. Such is always the counter-productive nature of all protest movements driven more by rage than reason.
We’ve seen it often over our lifetimes, starting way back in our childhood when the hippies and the yippies got their hated nemesis Richard M. Nixon elected president on a “law and order” platform. The Weather Underground and other outright leftist terrorist organizations, along with the general craziness of the bra-burning and free-love counterculture out to undermine the extra-legal social arrangements, also helped to make the reliably anti-communist but otherwise not very conservative Nixon seem palatable to an understandably nervous America. Even then we were able to see that the anti-war crowd’s best bet to end the war early was to go “Clean for Gene” and knock on middle America’s doors and make a polite pitch with a clean-cut appearance for the candidacy of anti-war but otherwise boring Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy. Riots and bombings were more emotionally satisfying, though, even if the war was thereby prolonged for several more years before the commies foreign and domestic were at last able to secure a victory.
Since then we’ve seen the same mistake made several times on both the right and the left. The borrowed-from-the-left “direct action” strategy of the radical anti-abortion Operation Rescue movement not only shut down the local abortion clinics but also the essential Kellogg Avenue artery of our hometown back in the ’90s, and we well recall how the anti-abortion polling numbers went down even in this church-going and instinctively anti-abortion community. When a bunch of a drag queens dressed as nuns starting shutting down Catholic worship services in San Francisco a short while later, and shutting down some nearby thoroughfares as well, their polling numbers went down even in that unchurched and libertine metropolis. The radical anti-government terrorists who wound up blowing a gaping and deadly hole in downtown Oklahoma City helped re-elect the bossy government of President Bill Clinton and discrediting its most principled and non-violent critics, that less deadly but appallingly un-hygeinic “Occupy Wall Street” movement helped elect the current Republican majorities in Congress, and we can’t think of any protest movement that has ever succeeded on a platform of blind rage.
These anti-Trump riots seem likely to become the definitive example of the phenomenon. Trump’s rise to the status of presumptive Republican presidential nominee has largely been the result of his arguably xenophobic and undeniably blunt if nonetheless carefully vague pronouncements about illegal immigration, all fueled by a suspicion that there’s a revanchist Latino afoot, and a bunch of protestors waving Mexican flags as they violently disrupt a perfectly legal American political rally is unlikely to allay those already well-founded suspicions. If they at least succeed in forcing his just-as-awful Democratic opponent to embrace their unabashedly revanchist ambitions and violent methods they’ll be doing even more of a favor to their hated for the nemesis, as we read the momentary demographic moods, and they would have been far better off going clean for Hillary.
Their hated nemesis has his own record of encouraging violence at his rallies, and there really is arguably something xenophobic about the shifting policies he’s proposed that could be well defended without any resort to xenophobia, and there’s an unmistakably lawless and disordering ring to his Nixonian appeals for “law and order” and simultaneous promises to shake everyone thing up, but the video of Mexican-flag-waving thugs creating chaos will surely make it palatable to a perhaps-decisive portion of the electorate. At the moment the only likely alternative seems Hillary Clinton, whose long-planned coronation by “the man” will also be attended by such riotous behavior, and probably none of those anti-Trump protestors will ever realize how very counter-productive their righteous rage proved to be.
Trump’s unlikely status as the presumptive Republican nominee has been driven more by pure rage than reason, too, and against the same ill-defined “establishment” that the incoherent opposition on the left claims to be railing against, so we can’t predict any happy outcome no matter who prevails. Nothing good came out of any of those rage-driven protests movements we’ve ever seen, and neither of these seem at all promising.
— Bud Norman