Saturday, June 4, 2016

1968 has arrived with a Weimar moment in San Jose

I made the following historical allusions to open and close The torches and pitchforks came out for Trump last night.
Last night, my wife and I watched as Donald Trump's rally on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus was "postponed" in the face of massive protests.  They were at least one step above calls to 'Dump Trump' and 'Arrest Snyder' at the Detroit Republican Debate.  My wife said that "the torches and pitchforks came out for the Trumpenstein monster last night."  Yes, they have, but a different image came to my mind.  The protests and the conflict afterward stuck me as just one step short of Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold fighting with the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten during the Weimar Republic.*  The mainstream media's came off as less alarmed, but not by very much.
As for ABC News' comparison of today to the summer of 1968, I think it's a better analogy than Weimar Germany.  We're not at either place yet, but 1968 is only blocks away and we're headed right for it. Weimar Germany, on the other hand, sits way out on the horizon where one can make it out with sharp eyes.  Let's hope we're not headed there.  Otherwise, it's welcome to Weimar America, where it's Springtime for Trump.

*The sides aren't as extreme as Sturmabteilung vs. Roter Frontkämpferbund--yet.
We've now arrived at 1968 and it's only June.  ABC News has the story in Trump Protesters Attack Supporters At San Jose Rally.

Supporters of the presumptive Republican nominee were sucker punched and pelted with eggs.
That's definitely a significant escalation from what happened in Chicago last March.  Then, tensions were high and there were a lot of confrontations that threatened violence, but I don't recall seeing any blood flowing.   This time, the crowd went from protesting to rioting.  Welcome to 1968.

As my readers can figure out, I consider this to be a bad development.  I understand why the protesters are reacting the way they are, but I also think it's dangerous and counterproductive.  Follow over the jump for people who agree with me.

Both Democratic candidates decried the violence.  Bernie Sanders denounced it and was quoted byTalking Points Memo.
"If people are thinking about violence, please do not tell anybody you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, because those are not the supporters that I want," the Vermont senator said.
"I understand how reprehensible and disgraceful Donald Trump's positions are; how ignorant they are," Sanders said. "I can understand the anger, I surely can, because I feel it.”

“The bigotry that is coming out of his mouth,” he continued. “The insults to the Mexican community, the Latino community, the Muslim community, and women, and African-Americans and veterans. I understand the anger. But we are not going to defeat Trump by throwing eggs or getting involved in violence of any kind. We defeat Trump when we stand together as one people and fight for a progressive agenda. Educate. Organize. Bring out large numbers of people."
Listen to Sanders utter these sentiments on CNN.

Speaking of CNN, the news channel quoted Clinton's disapproval of the violence as well as what the protesters objected to.
"I condemn all violence in our political arena. I condemned it when Donald Trump was inciting it and congratulating people who were engaging in it," Clinton said after a campaign event in Culver City, California.

But Clinton said Trump has "set a very bad example."

"He created an environment in which it seemed to be acceptable for someone running for president to be inciting violence, to be encouraging his supporters, now we're seeing people who are against him responding in kind," Clinton said. "It should all stop. It is not acceptable."
Clinton said that Trump has "lowered the bar" on civility and questioned whether it is now a surprise that "people who don't like him are stepping over that low bar."

"I don't think it is," Clinton said.
Bill Clinton repeated the disavowal of violence in the Los Angeles Times.
“If people want to protest Mr. Trump or Hillary or me or anyone, fine, but it should be peaceful. People should be able to have their say," Clinton told The Times after rallying supporters for his wife, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, in a Burbank park. "We should listen to everybody respectfully. We can win this argument; we don’t need to shout it down.”
Her campaign manager John Podesta was even more blunt. “Violence against supporters of any candidate has no place in this election,” he wrote as quoted by the New York Times.

It's not just the candidates.  Mattew Yglesias at Vox opined that Anti-Trump rioting is counterproductive and wrong.
Showing up at Donald Trump rallies looking for an opportunity to fight with Donald Trump supporters, set Trump merchandise on fire, chant Mexican nationalist slogans, get into scuffles with riot police, and throw eggs at people is a bad idea. It is wrong, morally speaking, to inflict physical violence on a random person because that person happens to hold what you see as erroneous political beliefs.

And while a Trump presidency is in some respects a threat to the rule of law and the American constitutional system, it is also a threat that is currently well-contained by the conventional political process. Trump is currently a very unpopular person, and if some large fraction of the people who currently don't like Trump show up on Election Day and vote for his opponent, then he will lose.

It is certainly true that in the course of human events, political situations arise that cannot be adequately remedied inside the context of the legal electoral process. But there's no reason to think that this particular situation is one of those situations, and people living in a democratic society have an obligation to attempt normal political strategies before resorting to extreme ones.

On the contrary, the evidence is fairly clear that illegal anti-Trump activities are not an "extreme" tactic that may be justified by an "extreme" situation — they are a straightforwardly counterproductive form of venting that people interested in actually stopping Trump ought to avoid.
Yglesias then cites some research showing that exposure to violent protests prompted voters to vote for Nixon in 1968, while exposure to peaceful protesters made voters more sympathetic to Democrats.  Since we've reached 1968 in California and other places in the southwest, that's an appropriate example to use.  Yglesias concluded his piece with "Conventional politics is very likely to beat Trump, and a rising tide of lawlessness is one of his more plausible routes to winning."  I agree.

Vox also put its money where its mouth is by suspending one of its editors for sending tweets that supported the rioting.
“We at Vox do not take institutional positions on most questions, and we encourage our writers to debate and disagree,” Klein wrote. “But direct encouragement of riots crosses a line between expressing a contrary opinion and directly encouraging dangerous, illegal activity. We welcome a variety of viewpoints, but we do not condone writing that could put others in danger.”
Remember, freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns one, and Vox is Klein's press.

Finally, Vox warned its readers yesterday that Donald Trump rallies are only going to get more dangerous for everyone.  We may be headed past 1968 and getting closer to Weimar.  I'll keep my readers posted along the journey.


  1. Violence scares The Establishment because it threatens their monopoly on violence.

    1. It certainly does. After all, one of the definitions of terrorism is a violation of the state's monopoly on political violence. That written, I'm not calling what either side is doing terrorism. Instead, I'm against it because it will empower Trump's side of the contest more than than his opponents' when it comes to getting Americans to vote. Notice I didn't say the rioters were wrong, just counterproductive.

  2. Trump's campaign, inane as it may be, has revealed deep rifts in the American public. Those rifts won't disappear after election day, and the next president will have to deal with those divisions and anger.

    I too worry that we're heading for a violent summer, be it a repeat of 1968 or Weimar.

    1. It certainly has. Two decades ago, I expect elections in this decade to be organized around a single big issue. In 2008, it wasn't. It ended up being about both war and the economy. To a lesser extent, so was 2012. This year's election is, but it's one I didn't expect. All issues have been focused by Trump on approval or disapproval of multicultural America. Ugh. I was hoping it about be about the environment. Maybe in 2020.