Is the Chaos and Destruction a Preview of Biden… or More Trump?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve read and listened to a lot of political commentary  suggesting that the violence we’ve seen in major cities is merely a preview of chaos and destruction that will befall America if Joe Biden wins the presidency. It’s an interesting claim.

The argument rests on the looting, vandalism, and assaults in places like Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City sharing a common theme: the fact that they’re happening in cities run by progressive leaders — Democrats who’ve been unwilling to effectively deal with the violence, and bring peace and calm to the streets.

The idea is that if President Biden turns out to be the “far-left puppet” many on the right (and perhaps even some on the left) believe he’d be, he too would be paralyzed by considerations of political correctness and other progressive sensibilities. The result being that the violence would continue and escalate to other parts of the country.

In an abstract sense, I suppose it’s not a bad argument. And it’s no wonder that President Trump and his surrogates are campaigning on the theme, and trying their best to marry Biden to calls from the far-lefties in the Democratic base to “defund the police.”

To Biden’s credit (and political benefit), he has rejected those calls to defund the police. He has also put out some firm statements against the rioting, including this one back in June: “There’s no place for violence or destruction of property. Peaceful protesters should be protected, and arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted.”

That said, talk is cheap. Once in power, maybe the line between protesters and anarchists will appear a little blurrier to Biden, as it has to others on the left. Maybe he’ll become more tolerant of, and even empathetic toward, violence in the name of “social justice.” Thus, persuadable voters should vote for Trump, right?

There’s just one problem — a significant flaw with that reasoning. The Dispatch’s David French recently pointed it on Twitter:

The fact of the matter is that the aforementioned violence has occurred on Trump’s watch, going down during the fourth year of his presidency. While violent protests are a hypothetical under Biden, they’re a reality under Trump.

Saying that we need Trump in office to stop something that’s actually happening while he’s in office doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that Trump’s to blame for the violence. He absolutely isn’t. It just means that his efforts to supposedly address the issue (like deploying federal officers to protect federal property, and repeatedly tweeting “Law & Order!”) haven’t done a whole lot to curb the violence. Again, that’s not his fault. There’s only so much a sitting president can directly do without overstepping his bounds.

For the most part, these are local matters. And when local leaders fail to protect innocent people in their cities, they should be held accountable by their constituents — not just when it comes time to vote, but also through ongoing public pressure.

Does a president have any part to play in reducing the street violence and vandalism going on in American cities? There are certainly resources he could offer, and though Trump has threatened in the past to send in the National Guard, that type of thing would far more likely come from a state governor. I would argue that the most significant role of a president on this matter would come from how he talks about the issue, both in tone and substance.

No, I don’t mean through appeasement and groveling, like the kind we’ve seen from some of these Democratic mayors. I’m talking about an appeal to people’s better senses and common decency. I’m talking about calling on (and perhaps even meeting with) respected community leaders and other people of local influence, to publicly denounce the violence. I’m talking about drawing sympathetic — not combative — attention to victims of the violence, and the horrors they’ve gone through. I’m talking about working to lower the temperature, and sounding more like a dignified leader calling for betterment… than a professional wrestler cutting a promo.

It might not do any good at all. But it’s worth a try. All the tough-guy talk from the White House certainly hasn’t done the trick, nor should we have ever expected it to. It’s largely performative. Again, real change would have to come at the local level.

So, this begs a couple questions… How would re-electing Trump bring peace to these cities, when his tenure thus far hasn’t (and he doesn’t even seem to know how to talk about it)? And how would electing Joe Biden make the situation worse, when the only real difference in approaches would likely be rhetorical.

Maybe what we’re seeing in these cities isn’t a preview of anything related to the presidency, but rather a reflection of society under chaotic circumstances, cultural unrest, and weak local leadership.

There are a number of differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and therefore the decision voters are faced with in November will be a consequential one. But I have yet to hear a compelling argument for how either candidate would be consequential on the issue of protest violence.

Maybe one will eventually come.

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Only Their Version of the Truth is Now Acceptable

A while back, a friend of mine – someone who was a liberal in the 60s but has moved to the conservative side over the years – told me that if the left was ever in a position to shut down ideas and opinions they didn’t agree with – they would do just that.

That’s how authoritarian the new left had become, he told me.

My friend is smart, but I wasn’t buying his dark vision. The very essence of liberalism, I figured, was to be open to all points of view, whether you bought into them or not.

Boy was I naïve.

We are witnessing a kind of Cultural Revolution spreading across America, one that came alive as George Floyd was dying.

And as is it often happens with revolutions, they don’t always end up as planned.  It’s not unusual for the purists to take over the movement and that’s when certain ideas become unacceptable. Certain opinions are no longer tolerated. You either believe the right things, you only utter acceptable ideas, or you pay a price.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal eloquently captures what is going on in America these days.   “On matters deemed sacrosanct—and today that includes the view that America is root-and-branch racist—there is no room for debate. You must admit your failure to appreciate this orthodoxy and do penance, or you will not survive in the job.”

So in this Brave New World you either conform to acceptable thought and speech, or face the consequences.

This is why HBO, in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd, announced that “Gone with the Wind,” the 1939 civil war classic was pulled from its library.  It won’t be shown on its new platform, HBO Max – not for a while anyway.

A spokesperson for the company said that, “Gone with the Wind” is “a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society.”

And it’s why Grant Napier, the play-by-play announcer for the Sacramento Kings basketball team since 1988 was fired.  His crime:  When asked by a former Kings player what he thought about the Black Lives Matter movement, he tweeted back, “ALL LIVES MATTER…EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!”

The media company that forced him out said Napier’s comments “do not reflect [our] values.” If “All lives matter” doesn’t reflect their values – what in the world are their values?

A member of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team was fired – not because of anything he said or did – but because of something his wife posted on social media.  That’s right, his wife!  She wrote – in Serbian — that police should shoot protestors, whom she called “disgusting cattle” – a sentiment her husband denounced with a post of his own.  Not good enough for the Galaxy.  They couldn’t fire her so they fired him.

Then there’s Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback, who said that while he deplored what happened to George Floyd, he also disapproved of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem; he thought that was disrespecting the American flag.

Within one day, after blowback from teammates, Brees apologized, recanted, and confessed that what he said was divisive and hurtful.  He’s lucky he wasn’t shipped off to a re-education camp.

After a newsroom revolt over an op-ed by a Republican U.S. senator, the opinion page editor at the New York Times was forced to resign … for agreeing to publish an opinion.

The op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton ran online and was scheduled to run in the paper’s widely read Sunday print edition.

Cotton argued that President Trump should deploy military troops to American cities to help local police stop rioting and looting.

Like infantile college students who throw tantrums when exposed to views they don’t like, young, woke staffers at the Times revolted, saying the column put black lives in danger.  And that’s all the spineless publisher needed to hear before he caved.

The paper, which has published opinion pieces from the Taliban and from prominent dictators, gave in to the mob and decided not to run the op-ed in its Sunday print edition.

So journalists who scream “chilling effect” if a critic looks sideways at them, are the ones advocating censorship at the Times? Calling it ironic would be a massive understatement.

There was an in-house revolt at the Philadelphia Inquirer too, where dozens of minority journalists said a headline over a column from an architecture writer made it harder for them to do their jobs and “at worst, puts our lives at risk.”

The headline read:  “Buildings Matter, Too” – a reference to structures that were torched during riots in Philadelphia.

Three editors wrote a letter apologizing for the headline, but that wasn’t enough to please the aggrieved journalists.  So the top editor at the paper resigned in order to ease their concerns.

All this raises a question: Where are the liberals standing up to this intimidation, to this censorship?  Are they afraid of the mob – afraid to speak up for fear that they’ll also be targeted?  Or have they come to believe that on some matters there really is no room for debate – that there’s absolutely nothing worth considering from the other side?

And if we see more Americans bend to the intimidation of the cultural revolutionaries, we can be sure of one thing:  that what we’re witnessing now is only the beginning.