In an election season like this one, any blogger is going to get a lot of feedback. I am no exception. From what I am reading in my email, there are two big concerns influencing readers and they haven’t gotten enough ink. Until last week.
First, normally solid Democratic voters worry a great deal about the violent actions of antifa and its call for anarchy. They fear a Biden victory would give the left a patsy to push around and influence his policies in adverse, overly progressive (e.g., AOC) ways. Solid Republican voters also feel this way and view Black Lives Matter as part of this problem. Both middle-of –the-road Democrats and Republicans are interpreting the destructiveness seen in Portland, in particular, as indicative of a dangerous group of anti-government leftists. These same two groups of voters see more trouble on the left with its anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian rhetoric and its plans to turn the United States into a socialistic democracy a la Bernie Sanders. Both groups are backing Trump out of fear of the extremes on the left.
A second group of voters worries about the extreme right, alt-right, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Proud Boy universe of Trump supporters and are driven to vote for Biden because of the alt-right’s declarations of anti-immigrant, anti-Jewish, anti-Black hate. Last week’s arrests in Michigan foiling a plot to kidnap the Governor by right wing white supremacists seems to indicate this group of extremists is a more likely threat and far more dangerous.
It is interesting that at this time in our history we should be so concerned about fringe groups, but our Founding Fathers were worried about them, too, explaining the Electoral College, the election of Senators by state legislatures, and the limited number of white men who could even vote at the time the Constitution was ratified. We have now lived through the mess that the Electoral College provides us with as many victorious presidents have not won the popular vote. Senators are now directly elected and most American citizens can vote even if there are still people trying to put stumbling blocks in their way. For example, it took us an hour to find the right entrance at NRG Arena to drop off our ballots and by then the office had closed. We shall try again. (Success off Kirby, Entrance 9 the next day).
None of this makes the threat from the extremes on the right or the left any less scary, but it does lead to some steps we can take to minimize the effect of these groups on our lives.
First, put them all on television. BLM had a powerful influence on America’s thinking after the George Floyd murder and most of their demonstrations were peaceful. The fact that some were not may be attributed to antifa, but also to the extreme white men who tend to show up at these demonstrations with guns and camo gear. Law enforcement cannot coddle either group. Guns present in crowds should always be a signal for the police to disperse the crowd. Mr. Trump is right. The vast majority of Americans do want law and order in the streets and in their towns and expect the police to control rioting mobs no matter what their political affiliation.
Second, leaders from the White House on down must condemn both the white supremacists and the antifa rioters. These are not good people on either side. These are bad people on both sides looking to make trouble. Local leaders too must not allow demonstrations, even peaceful ones, to block city streets or create traffic messes as was the case in downtown Seattle unless the demonstrators have permission to do so. Shame on that mayor.
Third, spewing hate from the right or the left is probably against the law and is getting real close to yelling fire in a crowded theater. Public safety dictates peaceful demonstrations are fine, but they cannot disrupt life in the cities or the suburbs.
Fourth, for goodness sake—VOTE!
I share the concern of my readers about both the right and the left extremists. The more their policies of hate are made transparent, the better we in the middle can handle their attempts to upend a peaceful society.
Peaceful protest is great. Guns and burning are not. The men who founded this country were worried about groups like this over 200 years ago. Of course, the Loyalists in the Colonies thought the Minutemen were terrorists and the United States was born in a rebellion, but when it came to writing the Constitution, the Founders wanted no part of extremist groups. Most Americans want no part of them now either.
The hate both extremes give voice to is magnified by their access to the Internet. Perhaps the tycoons of Silicon Valley could do a bit more to police their sites and tamp down the hateful rhetoric no matter which side it comes from. That would help.