How Much Longer Will Violence Be Tactically Acceptable on the Left?

How Much Longer Will Violence Be Tactically Acceptable on the Left?

By Shaun Kenney  July 1, 2022

If you want to cool political temperatures? Removing the planks from our own eyes and opening up the institutions to true diversity of thought would be one heck of a start.

Dwayne Yancey writes in Cardinal News about how we can calm down the political rhetoric in America:

I hate to sound like a Cassandra but I’m hardly the only one. “Is America heading for civil war?” the Financial Times asked a month ago. “With the end of Roe, the U.S. edges closer to civil war,” the Guardian headlined. Our neighbors are worried about us: “America’s flirting with another civil war,” said The Toronto Star. We ourselves seem worried: “Majority of Republicans believe U.S. headed toward civil war: Poll,” wrote The Washington Times.

On the one hand, all these prophecies of doom seem far-fetched when I’m at the store buying hot dogs. Are the people next to me in line really prepared to take up arms to shoot me? (Umm, maybe if I take the last pack …) On the other hand, Jan. 6.

Curiously, there is zero mention of either the BLM or Antifa much less their four-month campaign of violence in over three dozen U.S. cities, with billions of dollars in property damage and several people killed. Nor is there any mention of September 4th where left-wing insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in order to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power in the judicial branch on September 4th, 2018:

I have made my thoughts pretty plain about the events of January 6th, so I won’t elaborate upon them further other than to add the following.

In the months since the J6 riots, not one single person has been charged with insurrection — a federal crime.

They won’t be, because they know the charge won’t stick.

Yet the hypocrisy of the left when it comes to their comfort level with violence in politics should be laid out in plain view.

Few if any center-left observers have raised the question as to whether the BLM/Antifa riots of 2020 or their behavior in 2018 changed the rules of the game which allowed so-called direct action tactics to be weaponized in political discourse. I can still remember being in Washington D.C. the night of the November elections in 2020 where most of the city was boarded up in anticipation of violent riots should Trump win the election. Everything was quietly dismantled after Pennsylvania’s votes came in…

Yancey begs this particular question:

As someone who has covered politics for a long time, I understand the short-term political wisdom of staying silent. Why say something and risk offending somebody, especially all the Donald Trump adherents in the Republican Party?

It has been several years since the BLM/Antifa riots of 2020. Several years after the Kavanaugh riots of 2018. The destruction of Virginia’s monuments in 2017 and 2021 were anything but peaceful.

Not a single Democratic elected official opposed any of that. To borrow Yancey’s argument concerning Republicans Morgan Griffith and Ben Cline, one feels nearly compelled to draw similar comparisons to Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam, Eileen Filler-Corn, Scott Surovell, and a host of Democratic leading lights in Virginia with the very same critique:

I have a hard time believing that either of them has anything but disgust about many of the things they’ve heard out . . . On the other hand, their silence is worrying. Since I can’t believe they condone what was going on, I have to believe that they simply hope all this will blow over. But will it?

Now I consider myself a rather sensible human being most of the time (friends and family may differ). I am neither prone to fanaticism nor consider myself a strictly partisan person, nor do I consider myself the unprincipled type who is willing to trade my values for incremental victories masquerading as gains.

I do believe in disagreement without the need to be disagreeable. Discovering the good things should be a process of excavation, not imposition. Yet the hypocrisy of the left when it comes to their race towards the eschaton is galling to say the least. Violence, it seems, is quite acceptable when the political left wants leans into it in the hopes that the arc of history will justify any act.

To answer Yancey’s question quite bluntly, this is not an equivocal problem of violence in politics as if both sides are somehow equally guilty of the same hypocrisy, but rather we have a problem where the political left by its very nature condones violence as a revolutionary act necessary for political change — and will not suffer resistance. That the populist right has begun to perform a caricature of what they believe is working so well for the left should concern all of us — but it does not alter the diagnosis that such acts are by definition reactionary in the fact of what is arguably a campaign of publicly justified and condoned revolutionary left-wing violence over the last 50 years.

Yancey raises the right questions and is not entirely deaf to the problems of left-wing violence, to be sure:

I’ve spent a lot of time here writing about the right-wing violence on Jan. 6, but I’m just as concerned about the potential for left-wing violence . . . I’ve seen people on Facebook who object to the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion posting the home addresses of the justices who voted in the majority. For what purpose? So people can protest outside their houses? The people making those posts would disagree, but that doesn’t seem very far from Jan. 6 to me – it’s the implied threat of force. Do those people think it would be OK if conservative protesters showed up at the home of some liberal judges to harangue them over some decision they might object to? (Thought experiment: What if climate change deniers harrassed the 4th Circuit federal appeals court judges who have held up the Mountain Valley Pipeline? I don’t think the left would like that very much, nor should they). We’ve seen people vandalize a faith-based pregnancy center in Lynchburg. Why? How does vandalizing that center help the cause of those who believe in abortion rights? Leave the justices alone. Leave the pregnancy centers alone. If you don’t like the court’s decision, try to elect more politicians who feel the way you do. Yes, you may feel the system is rigged – our political system gives the same weight to California as it does to Wyoming – but you either play by the rules, however unfair they are, or you step outside the law. Once you do that, you’re in Jan. 6 territory yourself. It’s only a matter of degree.

Yet the obvious omissions — the length and intensity of the 2020 BLM/Antifa protests for a start — should strike the casual observer as evidence that even the best of us still don’t quite understand the seriousness of the disease much less its source.

A more cynical observer might opine that the left seems more concerned about at present is that their hypocrisy might be fought with a hypocrisy of our own on the right. This is no idle concern — certainly it is the mantra of Steve Bannon and others who see National Conservatism as a solution, with the winner taking all and enjoying the spoils of victory. Which doesn’t sound terribly American to me.

Yet as we all implicitly understand, the opposite of hypocrisy is not more hypocrisy, but rather integrity — and as much as it pains me to say this, it is this core question of integrity (both in the philosophical sense of the term and in character) that plagues and is plaguing the political left.

What do we mean by integrity? Simply put, it is the moderate and balanced pursuit of the good, beautiful, and true.

From the cultural revolution of the 1960s to the present day, there has been a tendency for the political left to reach for an immoderate and unbalanced shortcut of violence in a way that is hardly comparable on the political right, typically through violent protest, but mostly through the tactics of peer pressure and shaming which the institutions — education, entertainment, and yes our print media — sadly ignore because the activists on the left know their fellow travelers will fall over themselves to make excuses.

After all, what is the primary complaint of the populist right? Conservatives are “too nice” and “fail always” in the face of a political left that cares little for process and will do anything to justify the ends. Nationalists proudly call themselves Gramscians of the right, denoting that your average leftist is indeed a Gramscian at core.

January 6th, ladies and gentlemen, is a caricature of how the other half of America believes and sees the political left to be — from the Vietnam War protests in the early 1970s to the Battle of Seattle in the 1990s to the Occupy movement in 2008, refusals to accept the outcome of the election in 2016, the 2017 riots, and the BLM/Antifa riots of 2020 and now open threats to attack pregnancy resource centers, assassinate Supreme Court justices, and Catholic parishes in 2022.

Consider for a moment what actual right-wing violence would look like on a similar size and scale. Imagine three dozen U.S. cities blockaded by right wing militia. Imagine not just abortion centers but the offices and homes of journalists and academics being firebombed. Imagine Richmond being boarded up before a gubernatorial election for fear of right-wing thunder runs. Imagine public schools being randomly targeted just because. Imagine if the right truly operated on the same scale and intensity as on the left?

Of course, this seems like I am pounding on Dwayne Yancey. I certainly am not — he merely gave me the writing prompt (and I most certainly invite you to read his article in full and in the best possible light).

While I am certain we will differ on the specific diagnosis, what should encourage most of us — all of us — is that we are tapdancing around the very same problem of restoring integrity into our political processes and public square.

Yet here’s where I think we will ultimately fail.

The political left — and by this I mean the largely neoliberal institutions — will not surrender power through inclusion easily. There are seven institutions — bureaucracy, media, entertainment, education, academia, religious, and military and LEOs. The left has the first five and is actively contesting the other two. The fact that the maximum consideration of conservative ideas the Washington Post will entertain is the likes of Jennifer Rubin galls most of us on the right. The fact that Governor Glenn Youngkin has to request resignations just to get a non-voting seat at the table of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) should strike any neutral observer as obtuse in the extreme.

Quick — name one conservative op-ed writer or journalist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch? The Virginian-Pilot? The Daily Press? The Roanoke Star? We all know it cannot be done, but the institutions would rather prefer a sort of diversity that fits in their shoebox rather than any true diversity which should make people uncomfortable, should challenge their ideas, should expose people to new viewpoints, and should be willing to tolerate force of argument.

Yet this deeper problem is not the intransigence of the right.

Rather, it is the complete myopia and total lack of introspection on the political left that is the disease, and the sooner people of goodwill on the left begin to embrace it with meaningful changes in the institutions to make them more resilient — not with tokenism but with actual reform — the sooner we can replace the hypocrisy of the present time with an integrity that sees value in the path of getting to solutions rather than the more immediate ends of defeating our neighbors.

In short, I am not entirely confident that my friends on the left see the problem clearly enough. Holding the institutions, they would rather keep them as they are while fobbing off criticisms from both the progressive left and the conservative right about their lack of diversity, introspection, and inclusion — failing the test of integrity, the institutions will indeed disintegrate; failing the test of ordered liberty, we will succumb to a disordered anarchy.

Finding the task to difficult, one remains afraid that they will simply abandon the task to the next generation with public institutions in a worse condition than the ones they received — which would mark the first generation of Americans willing to do so, God forbid.

The best way to calm down the political rhetoric is to open up Virginia’s public square to the ideas, personalities, thoughts, opinions, religions, poetry, music, and — dare I use the word? — culture that really does represent the rest of us.

Right now, our public institutions reflect the political will of one half of one half of the political left. We owe it to ourselves to do better than mere stasis.

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Reprinted with permission. Please see the original article here and leave him some comments! 

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