The Corner


When States Go Wild

President Donald Trump speaks prior to signing an executive order on police reform at a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House, June 16, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

In past rioting, over the last 60 years, mayors, police chiefs, and governors restored law and order. They often beseeched the federal government for backup when they were unsure of their efforts.

Now, in a first, they are more often passive in the face of massive lawlessness and disorder. Some blue-state officials, in neo-Confederate style, silently sympathize with their local protests, violent though they are. Others are willing to endure chaos in hopes it reflects national anarchy that can be attributed to Trump’s inert leadership come November. Still more are not sure they have reached the tipping point where the once passive or sympathetic suburbanite or inner-city resident trapped at home finally pushes back due to a busy signal on a 911 call, or a nice park littered with bronze and stone corpses of even liberal icons, or a major thoroughfare once again shut down by illegal hood-pounding demonstrators.

Trump can call in federal troops to restore order to downtown Seattle or calm in parks in San Francisco, but given that he will have zero local support in blue states that have a monopoly on the violence (the D.C. mayor evicting Guard personnel from hotels, or the Seattle mayor warning him to stay away from her “summer of love” non problem), who knows what would greet federal troops in blue land?

In addition, our most esteemed retired military, in unprecedented fashion, essentially have called the president unfit and not deserving of military support to deal with the “small number” of violent protestors — to the degree that Joe Biden interpreted their “skinned him alive” commentary as support for removing Trump from office if he did not leave after losing the election — “losing” apparently defined by Biden on the basis of whether Biden himself determines Trump cheated and thus “stole” his victory.

When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs cites a technicality and offer apologies for appearing alongside the commander in chief for a photo-op — oblivious of the long tradition of presidents posing with bemedaled chiefs during most crises that inevitably involve controversial political decisions — we are indeed in new territory and cannot completely count on federal troops to quell civil unrest. (E.g., from now chairs will apparently consult retired and serving military to determine on what occasions they will agree to appear with the commander in chief, and thus down the chain of command, majors will resent appearing alongside colonels during politicized parades, or one-stars tell four stars of a different party that they are not going to play along with their ostentatious presidential ceremonials.)

As a result, we are in a sort of standoff.

In addition, blue state governance won’t end the lockdowns and thus won’t restore fully key economies like New York, Illinois, and California to the national recovery — on the argument that new spikes in cases (oddly showing up after exempting massive protests of millions of youths in the streets this entire month) make quarantines even more necessary (despite death rates in general from the virus not increasing). How odd that one month ago, blue-state officials green lighted correct protests and now are shocked, Casablanca-like, that spikes in infections regrettably demand restorations of their lockdowns, despite key differences in morbidity and case profiles from the initial outbreak.

The game of chicken continues with passive or nonexistent local and regional policing and veritable free rein to looting, destruction, and vandalism. In response, Trump only squares his hesitation to call in federal troops, with loud rhetoric about law and order. But until the swing voter himself gets off his fence and decides either ‘enough is enough,’ Trump has put himself into a dilemma of talking loudly with a twig rather than softly with a real club.

He will soon have to seize the moment with allies in Congress and his cabinet to galvanize the country to squash a veritable revolution that wishes to remake America in its 244th year into something more aligned with the visions of Robespierre and Saint-Just than with Washington and Jefferson — replete with a new foundational myth, a new national anthem, a rebooted constitution without an Electoral College, but with proportionally allotted senators, a huge new Supreme Court, and new array of revolutionary statuary and icons. A cult of the Supreme Green Being and dunce caps for wayward or incorrect intellectuals are not far away.

In the end, Trump must cease lamenting the quite true unfairness of the past, accept the lose/lose dilemma, work quietly around the blue state governors and mayors, and the military, and outline how and why the U.S. is not going to be recalibrated into something it was never intended to be, something that is far less fair, prosperous, and free.

He might then declare, as Lincoln did, that federal property in blue states will have the protection of the federal government, and that the working classes deserve safety and security and a right to return to their jobs, and that Washington, D.C. will not see any statue toppling and renaming. Translated, that might entail everything trivial and major, from ordering freedom to camp in a federal park like Yosemite or garrisoning the monuments in D.C., or filing civil-rights indictments against those who endangered the constitutional freedoms of others through illegal occupations and systematic harassment, or withholding federal funds to wayward states that will not enforce federal laws, or organizing a national legal task force to indict on federal charges the hundreds or indeed thousands who helped organize or carried out the looting and rioting — and much more still. And it can be done quietly and systematically, without bombast.


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