Politics & Policy

End the Double Standard on Political Violence and Unrest

Trump protesters and supporters outside a town hall in Tampa, Fla., March 14, 2016. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

It will be impossible, over the long term, to maintain peace and even national unity if elite media and the Democratic party continue to condone and even encourage political violence and the systematic violation of individual rights by its radical progressive base. From Occupy to Ferguson to Baltimore to the unrest on campus, Americans have watched the liberal establishment trip over itself to express solidarity and sympathy with protesters who’ve burned, looted, shut down roads and parks, and violated the fundamental rights of American citizens.

As Trump supporters are fond of pointing out on Twitter, this didn’t happen at a Trump event:

Nor did this:

For the better part of two years, millions of Americans have watched as violence and disruption actually work. At college campuses, radical students and allied professors and administrators will shout down dissenters, intimidate fellow students, disrupt the educational process, and win.

In the streets of American cities, protesters will riot, vandalize, block traffic, and invade shops and restaurants, and they win. When the narratives (“Hands up, don’t shoot,” or “It’s open season” on black males) are debunked by facts, protesters still prevail. Police tactics change even as the national murder rate seems set for its largest spike in 25 years. In the nation’s 50 largest cities, 770 more people were murdered in 2015 than in the previous year.

Yet with the exception of a few courageous progressives, the Left largely hails this unrest. Even riots are excused or minimized by leading figures in the liberal intelligentsia, and mob actions that violate the free-speech rights of fellow citizens — by shouting down or shutting down events the Left doesn’t like — are whitewashed as “peaceful protest.”

RELATED: Don’t Blame Trump for Divisiveness When the Left Says Stuff Like This

If the Left thinks that it can continue to use, with impunity, violence and disruption as the enforcement mechanism of its political and intellectual movement, it is sadly mistaken. Recent American history shows that tolerance for left-wing violence and disruption is limited, and that same history shows that the violence will meet with a response. Whether that response is constructive or destructive depends on the quality of American leadership.

The political violence and unrest of 1968 helped usher in an era of Republican presidential dominance. Between 1968 and 1988, Republicans won five of six presidential contests — often running on law-and-order platforms designed to directly counter the sense that America was unraveling, that violence was spiraling out of control. Clinton was able to break the Republican winning streak only by directly confronting black radicals (remember his “Sister Souljah moment”?) and doing so with enormous rank-and-file black support. Now, sadly, he’s ashamed of the bipartisan crime bills that helped end America’s murder epidemic.

Stepping back from the brink took leadership. Where are our leaders now?

#share#As Molly Ball notes today in an insightful piece in The Atlantic, Trump is dominating the GOP primary in part because he is directly tapping into the anger over double standards. In response to an unruly protester, he asks, “Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do, can you explain that to me?” Pondering American military restraint in the face of ISIS atrocities, he writes, “The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”

Trump’s message is simple — an eye for an eye. Witness this tweeted threat against Bernie Sanders:

In the face of an unraveling, Trump is responding. Ball writes:

This is why Trump won’t denounce the violence at his events: He is standing up for the people who are tired of being told the divisions in American society are all their fault. As far as they can tell, he is the only one who is.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and when leaders are absent, the void will be filled. In this sense, Trump may be destructive and violent, but in the absence of a meaningful counter to left-wing bullying and elite double standards, he, or someone like him, was inevitable.

EDITORIAL: Shameful Spectacles, in Chicago and Elsewhere

The productive, proper response to the Left’s double standard isn’t to mimic its tactics but rather to impose lawful consequences while forcefully defending core American values. In other words, the answer is a forceful call for respect and for law and order, properly understood — not the boot heel of oppression but the end of most-favored-criminal status for social-justice warriors.

Condemning Trump is not enough. Constructively countering an increasingly radical Left takes real leadership, men and women who can both articulate America’s constitutional values and enforce its constitutional protections. We either remember how to respect and protect the rights both of the majority and of dissenters or we will remember the high cost of political unrest and national division. The chaos of 1968 beckons. Trump and the Left embrace the madness. Who will stop it?

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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