You don’t have to squint your eyes or pore through the media with a magnifying glass to find leftists, liberals, and elected Democrats defending and making excuses for the rioters currently burning through several major American cities. On the one hand, we’re told that most of these violent perps are “outside agitators” coming from as far away as MAGA country to give inner-city blacks a bad name. On the other, we’re told that the rage that leads these protesters to steal air-fryers from Target is entirely justified and that police should step back and give these people “space” to “heal.” Readers with long memories will hear echoes of the 2015 Baltimore riots.
Speaking of 2015, we’re put in mind of a column that New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote in May of that year, a month or two before Donald Trump made his infamous trip down the escalator. Chait, a reliable liberal who will probably never again feel quite as happy as he was during the Obama years, had a warning on that day. Writing in the aftermath of the riots in Baltimore and only shortly after similar chaos in Ferguson, Chait nervously pointed to a then-new study that indicated that “riots make America conservative.”
From the column:
The question is not whether rioting ever yields a productive response, but whether it does so in general. Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, has published a timely new paper studying this very question. And his answer is clear: Riots on the whole provoke a hostile right-wing response. They generate attention, all right, but the wrong kind.
The 1960s saw two overlapping waves of protest: nonviolent civil-rights demonstrations, and urban rioting. The 1960s also saw the Republican Party crack open the New Deal coalition by, among other things, appealing to public concerns about law and order. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson swept every region of the country except the South running a liberal, pro-civil-rights campaign; in 1968, Richard Nixon won a narrower victory on the basis of social backlash.
Wasow finds that nonviolent civil-rights protests did not trigger a national backlash, but that violent protests and looting did. The physical damage inflicted upon poor urban neighborhoods by rioting does not have the compensating virtue of easing the way for more progressive policies; instead, it compounds the damage by promoting a regressive backlash.
A billion pages have been written attempting to explain why Donald Trump won the 2016 election. Workers in the Midwest felt forgotten by the Democratic Party. It was a “whitelash” against the Obama years. Hillary Clinton was a uniquely terrible candidate. America wanted a strongman who would push back on Islamic terrorism – the name of which Obama and Hillary would not even speak. And so on.
But maybe those riots – Ferguson and Baltimore – played a bigger part in the election than anyone realized at the time. Maybe the lingering memory of that abject chaos (and the media’s not-so-subtle cheering-on of the violence) colored the 2016 election in ways that most pundits missed.
If so, we may not be looking at the “revolution” in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities. We may be looking at the final nails in the Democratic Party’s 2020 coffin.