Token conservative David Frum has an excellent column up today in The Atlantic online. In it, he offers a prescription for effective protest against President Trump by encouraging more structured organization, as well as something today’s left preaches about but seldom practices: inclusivity.
Don’t get sucked into the futile squabbling cul-de-sac of intersectionality and grievance politics. Look at this roster of speakers from the January 21 march. What is Angela Davis doing there? Where are the military women, the women police officers, the officeholders? If Planned Parenthood is on the stage, pro-life women should stand there, too. If you want somebody to speak for immigrants, invite somebody who’s in the country lawfully.
Instead, the women’s march was beset by tribalism and factionalism, its headlines dominated by an unhinged Madonna musing about blowing up the White House and an invective-laden Ashley Judd reciting the same tired “Trump is Hitler” rhetoric. These pronouncements are as shrill as they are bereft of any specific solutions to oppose President Trump, which only serves to empower Trump and his base.
In similarly intolerant fashion, militant left-wing rioters prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the supposedly “tolerant” UC-Berkeley last week. Yiannopoulos, a gay Breitbart editor, scrapped his speech after violent protestors set fires, threw smoke bombs, and smashed windows outside of the student union building, a temper tantrum which caused in excess of $100,000 worth of damages to the Berkeley campus.
Even Bill Maher admitted that “shutting people up… is a problem on the left.”
Democrats’ claims to be the party of inclusion, free speech, and tolerance now largely ring hollow. Remember Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”? If the left is serious about affecting actual public policy change in the face of Trump, then they should — as Frum argues — focus on policy:
With the rarest exceptions—and perhaps the January 21 demonstration will prove to be one—left-liberal demonstrations are exercises in catharsis, the release of emotions. Their operating principle is self-expression, not persuasion. They lack the means, and often the desire, to police their radical fringes, with the result that it’s the most obnoxious and even violent behavior that produces the most widely shared and memorable images of the event. They seldom are aimed at any achievable goal; they rarely leave behind any enduring program of action or any organization to execute that program. Again and again, their most lasting effect has been to polarize opinion against them—and to empower the targets of their outrage.
With all the venom (not to mention actual bigotry) percolating through the current political discourse, it’s unlikely the left will mount a serious and substantive policy platform to compete with the Trump agenda anytime soon. Remember the daily spate of all-knowing, lecturing claims from the left during the 2016 election: that Trump and his supporters were bigots? That talking point runs counter to the results of a Nov. 1 Pew research study, which found that “Clinton backers – particularly highly educated ones – have more difficulty respecting Trump supporters than the other way around.” (The margin was not slim, either; it was a sizeable 18-point gap.) Who are really the intolerant ones, then?
After shouting ad nauseam that Trump lacks the necessary temperament for the presidency, the left has proven itself to be no more the adults in the room than the bombastic Trump. In 2017, they would be wise to look externally rather than inward, and heed the words of Frum, an official from the George W. Bush administration:
Protests are useful mostly to the extent that they mobilize people to participate in the follow-up meetings to realize the protest’s goals. Collect names and addresses. Form Facebook groups. Keep in touch. Don’t argue: recruit. Meet in real space as well as online. Serve cake. Make your presence felt on your local elected officials not just once, but day after day, week in, week out. Make them feel that they could lose their individual seats if they do not heed you. They feel the pressure from lobbyists all the time…to succeed, you should be equally focused and persistent. And that requires above all: be motivated by hope, not outrage [emphasis added].