Reap the Whirlwind

During the summer of 2020, as widespread non-violent protests for racial justice gave way to steadily creeping violence and property destruction, we published our concerns on these pages that there was practically zero political will - and zero political incentive - by either party to do what was necessary to reduce that violence.

Republicans and Donald Trump believed that the violence at a number of BLM-related events would be framed alongside deeply unpopular "defund the police" narratives as long as they continued. They believed, I think, that this framing would be electorally helpful. However perverse, from a purely electoral perspective I believe they were right on both counts. They did not win the presidency, of course, but on most ballots the GOP outperformed very low expectations. I think antipathy toward the events of the summer played a significant role.

Still, if he wished to do so, Donald Trump possessed and did not exercise meaningful power to de-escalate and reduce this violence at multiple points.

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  1. The comments I’m hearing from the Left currently: “OMG this (January 6) was a coup! We need more power to prevent this from happening again!” The comments I’m hearing from the Right currently: "OMG this (January 7-10) was a coup! We need more power to prevent this from happening again! In both cases that “power” looks a lot like censorship up to and including political prisoners.
    It’s like the old 3D glasses where you had Red and Blue and two movies were able to be shown on the same screen at the same time with a slightly different color variation, but the effect on your retina was to blend both images together. Except now those glasses are different. Both lenses of the glasses are now the same color, either Red or Blue for both eyes.
    We still have the two movies (Red and Blue) being shown at the same time on the same screen, but now we’re all using only either Red or Blue glasses to view the movie.
    Honestly I’m not sure how the Republic survives these challenges.
    Folks on the Left are seeing the Blue movie and calling for their side to Purge the Right. Folks on the Right are seeing the Red movie and calling for their side to be prepared to defend against a Purge of the Right.
    Scary times.

  2. Sadly, Rusty, I agree with your (and Ben’s) assessment. The problem is that I don’t think the two sides are willing (or capable?) of “building a common national identity together”. We’ve been eroding the mediating institutions for generations now and all that seems to be left is power. The left seems to have realized this sooner than the right and are currently doing everything they can to grab and consolidate that power, pluralism be damned. As far as I can tell, the Republican Party just dealt itself a mortal wound. The Democrats seem like they’re just making sure it receives no aid and that it dies.

  3. I welcome the the inglorious Fourth Turning of 1621, a prime number!

  4. and a twin prime with 1619 - all is well in the symmetry of the universe

  5. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I think that’s a pretty good description, although I think I’d augment somewhat by saying that what’s happening in Big Tech / Social Media land is not quite as passive as all that.

  6. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    They are.

    What is amazing to me is that so many people are still surprised that Purges and Revolutions alike always end up pulling in far more than the specifically guilty parties of crimes and atrocities. It’s a fundamental part of why polarization is such a scourge on its own.

  7. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    In my own exchanges on this with “conservatives” I have experienced a total unwillingness/inability to directly and solely repudiate the actions of the terrorist mob at the Capitol. Whataboutisms as far as the eye can see with the bogus narrative mostly being “but what about antifa?” which demonstrates utter ignorance of the facts on the ground in yes, “Democratic run cities” and a too frequent viewing of Murdoch media. What hope is there when so many “conservatives” are more concerned about marginal tax rates than the responsibilities of citizenship in a representative democracy and pluralistic society? What hope is there when our government will not clean its own house of the white supremacist and anti-government factions in this country? I noticed you did not mention that the mob brought Confederate flags into the Capitol. For me, that is the thing that makes me the angriest at the narrative level – those fuckers have that image now. Pardon the language, I’m still white hot angry at these traitors that attempted to subvert the democratic will of the American People and disturb the constitutional work of the United States.

    We turn to justice not for some sense of the warm fuzzies, as you put it, but to reaffirm the rule of law that has been losing its grip since 9/11 and to reaffirm the separation of powers that is the only thing that ever made this country special in the first place.

  8. Great points as usual Rusty. My greatest concern is that any kind of appeasement towards the Q Anon-type factions is not going to bring us closer to unity. Twitter made the right call on this one

  9. I think Rusty is right. Trying to shut down the airways and conduits of discord will only fuel more hatred and paranoia on the part of white grievance. On the extreme end of this grievance spectrum any convictions coming from January 6th or beyond will create martyrs to the cause like Ruby Ridge and Waco. Embarrassing legal skirmishes with western cattle grazers like Cliven Bundy or Trump’s pardoning of the Hammond family for burning federal land in protest have only reinforced this groups feelings that their government is out to quash their basic rights. Common ground requires civil discourse. I’m not smart enough to see how we get there unless we can reconcile the alternative universe of facts each side operates from to draw their opinions. Part of this not smart enough is I don’t think we can do this without shutting off the spigots of misinformation. In a free society that’s a non-starter. Militarization of the police and armature of the general populace have laid sufficient kindling for the right spark. Talk me off the ledge but I’m to the point where I think we’re in for our own (i.e. much more heavily armed) version of the IRA.

  10. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    You might be right about that Rick. I think this faction only has white grievance so what else would they turn to? Besides religion that is, which in many cases has fueled these flames led by false prophets purposely conflating the kingdom of God with the kingdom of man.

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