The Ethics of Political Violence

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar rtodkelly
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    says:

    Good piece.

    Violence is usually bad, but violence in the service of subverting the democrat process is always bad, even if you’re on the side of angels. I agree with others who say that, like the old dude who sucker0punched the black guy in cuffs, all of these people need to be identified and prosecuted.

    But also, there is this:

    Romney wasn’t exactly popular with the left, and neither was McCain. And even they weren’t portrayed as the monsters that W., Cheney, Cruz, Palin, Bachmann, and even Buchanan are. But all of those people have one thing in common: People don’t show up to their rallies with the express purpose of committing violence. The violence seems to primarily happen at the rallies of the one guy who encourages his followers to beat up protesters, and brags that he’s pay their legal bills if they seriously hurt those protesters. That’s not a coincidence.

    None of that is to absolve people who show up to commit violence. As I said, they need to be prosecuted.

    But sooner or later, we need to stop pretending that the things Trump tells his supporters to do aren’t all just media-master high-jinx. Or that one of the two major parties giving Trump a platform to say those things isn’t doing serious damage to the democratic process.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to rtodkelly
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      says:

      On the one hand, I admit I’m pretty wary of the general thrust of this argument (it seems to echo a lot of victim blaming arguments), but I also admit this does seem to be heavily focused on Trump alone.

      OTOH, Sanders supporters seemed to have gotten more than a little out of hand (if they weren’t being violent, they were certainly threatening a lot of it) a few weeks ago, so it’s perhaps not so Trump-centric as it sounds.

      On the gripping hand, Trump IS actually encouraging violence straight up. Live by the sword, as it were.

      I dunno. I’m still firmly on the belief that “Political violence? Either armed rebellion against oppressors or NO, NEVER”. If you’re throwing punches, it better be pretty close to “violent insurrection against our political overlords” and less “I want my guy to get more votes than that other guy”.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Morat20
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        I don’t think it’s victim blaming. The people who get attacked at Trump rallies are victims, no matter whether they support him, oppose him or are neutral. The people who attack them are malefactors.

        Trump is not a victim of the violence. Criticizing for contributing to an atmosphere where violence is acceptable is, thus, not victim blaming. It’s possible to argue that protestors directing violence at Trump supporters at his rallies are “playing into his hands”, but more importantly they aren’t defending the norms of liberal democracy that he’s threatening, they’re attacking them even more directly than he is.

        What they’re doing cannot possibly work, any more than copulating for virginity can.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to rtodkelly
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      says:

      I agree with this. A concern going forward is that now that things are revved up, it may not take a Donald Trump to do it next time. The next candidate, even if representing a “course correction” of sorts, may run into opponents for whom this is the political environment, and supporters figuratively and maybe literally armed and ready for it.

      There are a lot of assumptions that this will be easier to come back from than I fear it will be.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to rtodkelly
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      People don’t show up to their rallies with the express purpose of committing violence.

      Buchanan rallies were know for violence committed by his supporters. There’s not much of a fig leaf when your campaign slogan is “Lock and load”.Report

  2. Avatar veronica d
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    says:

    I say civilization is a thing worth fighting for, but turning a democratic election into a riotous free-for-all isn’t exactly fighting for civilization. It’s doing the opposite.

    Entropy always wins, of course, but we can slow it down. After all, evolution was neg-entropic. We can build lovely pockets of order.

    Except order is not the natural state, and we cannot forget that. Does Trump stand for civilization? Do his supporters? How tenuous is this democracy thing?

    What about the pigs at Stonewall? What about the rioters?

    #####

    If you see some asshole charging down the subway platform, full of swagger, literally shoving people out of the way — I’ve seen this; people like this exist — if you see him get punched, do you cry about it?

    I wouldn’t get violent at a Trump rally — not that I’d ever attend in the first place, but whatever — the point is, I wouldn’t get violent there, not for the dignity of the system, nor for any considerations of Trump. Instead, I wouldn’t get violent because what it says about me, my dignity. Trump, you see, has none. If someone else wants to throw rocks at the fucker, whatevs. He’s a human-shaped turd. I don’t really care.

    It’s not like our system can become more of a mockery than it already is. This election!

    Oh wait, there was that Libertarian guy who did a striptease at their convention — or whatever happened. I saw the video with the sound off. It looked … odd.

    So yeah, I guess there is always one more step down the path of mockery. I wonder what is next.

    #####

    It’s kinda funny when you realize that (first order) questions about morality don’t actually have answers.

    “When is the right time for political violence?”

    *silence*

    #####

    All the same, civilization is a darn nice thing to have.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to veronica d
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      Well now with Stonewall it is important to remember that these folks were in a neighborhood that was getting shaken down/beat down on account of them being glbt. These people were being attacked and they responded. If the people at Stonewall had instead bided their time, gone to a Republican Senate campaign rally in 1970 and beat the hell out of the attendees there Stonewall would -not- be remembered as a turning point in gay rights (or at least not a positive one).Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Nice summary. There are certainly times when violence is warranted. However for every 100 times people think its warranted i bet 99 of those times they are wrong. There isn’t a direct threat to them or they arent’ being oppressed. The riots are counter productive but wrong in principle. His Trumpness is a threat to some people but there is a clear democratic road to stopping him. So use the Big D to defeat him. Self Righteousness, even when you are really correct, is one of the most deluding substances.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to greginak
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      Agreed… I honestly can’t even comprehend what those protesters were thinking.

      Edit… well maybe someone yowled “respectability politics” which is just… I can’t even.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to North
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        I’m guessing they weren’t thinking, they were caught up in their emotions. And lord knows intense emotions never lead to doing unwise things.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to greginak
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          Truth there. But that means that the organizers of those protests should be doing some serious thinking about how to prevent that in the future -NOT- trying to defend it.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North
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        I suppose that, in the protester’s defense, politics will probably affect their lives far more than, say, soccer scores.

        Mob mentality, more than anything, i suspect. Peer pressure working to channel passion into violence, instead of restrict it.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Morat20
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          Yeah and that’s a problem that their organizers really want to tackle if they care about their cause.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North
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            It’s all about what’s socially acceptable. Which is where Trump comes in as a problem. He’s normalizing it, claiming it’s okay.

            That doesn’t just touch his supporters. One of the two “real” candidates for President of the United States seems to feel political violence is okay, as long as his side wins.

            You don’t get a lot more social approval than that. Pushing back on that requires more than candidate’s denouncing it, you’d need pretty much everyone else to stop and yell “WHAT THE F*CK?” back at him.

            Which you didn’t get. Politicians did, but the media in general approached it more as “Trump says another crazy thing!”, like he’d said every poodle should get a free ice cream cone on Tuesdays.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman
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    Update: Vox suspended Rensin today.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    The most important thing you have to do is crush your enemies in such a way that you are the sympathetic ones and your enemies are exceptionally unsympathetic as they respond defensively.

    If you don’t pull that off just right, you can look like a bully. So don’t do that. Destroy them but look like the victim as you crush them under your heel.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Or: “The most important thing is to make your enemies look like stoopid morans. If you don’t do that, people may think they have an actual argument. So don’t do that.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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        Absolutely! This is why having a sympathetic media is very important. If you’re covering something like a War, for example, find the guy at the War protest who is in blackface while burning an effigy of the Queen of England.

        “The protesters are very passionate, wouldn’t you say, Walt?”

        “Thanks for your coverage of that important anti-war demonstration, Kate! Now we’ll interview the Secretary of State to see what she has to say.”Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Seriously, right there is the argument for courtesy in a nutshell.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Jaybird
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      @jaybird I am almost in agreement with this point. It seems that if you think you are in the right, and thus violence will be used in the aid of your cause, it seems like you should push to crush your opponents completely. What would be the point in just using some violence? I have answers to this rhetorical question but I am interested to see what others say on the matter.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Roland Dodds
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        Jay’s original point was that utterly crushing one’s enemies is the goal. To clarify the most utter crushing of ones enemies one can accomplish is by making them admit you were in the right all alone. The most effective means of accomplishing this ultimate crushing generally requires eschewing violence, not resorting to it. Thus if crushing your enemies is your goal then resorting to violence is generally an abandonment of it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Roland Dodds
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        What would be the point in just using some violence?

        Pearl Harbor was not enough.

        Hiroshima was not enough.

        Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Right about enough.

        But have Pearl Harbor happen after Hiroshima and you have a different story altogether.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    I can only fall back on a variation of the Just War theory, asking if political violence meets any of the tests, and in today’s America, it doesn’t.

    It might come close in some circumstances, but I’m not willing to go over that line, sorely tempted though I may be.

    Because we always like to fantasize that when violence breaks out, it somehow assumes a surgical precision where only the truly wicked get harmed, while the bystanders and innocents are magically spared.Report

  7. Avatar trizzlor
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    says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of Rensin’s argument and I feel like I’m not a different planet from these people. It seems completely obvious that a leader can be:

    A: Fascist with no power, deserving of condemnation
    B: Fascist with power, but violence is not an effective response
    C: Fascist with power, and violence is the most effective response
    D: Fascist with power, and violence is the only response

    Seems to me like a lot of people are purposefully conflating A and D to score some cheap street cred points.Report

  8. Avatar Roland Dodds
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    says:

    The Trump San Jose event came up at lunch today, and while political violence is not a common element in American politics, I had to push back against some coworkers that thought Trump/Anti-Trump people have brought in something new to our political process. Radical left/right -wingers have used violence against their opponents almost constantly since French Revolution; I can attest to far worse political street fights in the last 20 years than what I saw in San Jose. What might be different in this case is that it was directed at individuals who came out for an event from a major political candidate.Report

  9. Avatar Joe Sal
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    Social constructs will insure constant violence. As soon as constructs have authority invested, the violence flows from there. It is only a matter of time. Perpetual war is the cost of construction. Faction against faction, authority against authority. There are no by standards or innocents, it’s social, it damages all it touches, no opting out.Report

  10. Avatar aaron david
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    says:

    People keep telling me that Trump is a facist, but the only facists I am seeing are the blue shirts.

    If you have to tell people you are “punchin up”, you probably aren’t.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to aaron david
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      When one of these individuals attacking people gets the Democratic nomination, that will be a good point. Alternately, when Hillary Clinton offers to pay their medical bills.

      Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman
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        Here’s Trump’s “condemnation”:

        Great evening in San Jose other than the thugs. My supporters are far tougher if they want to be, but fortunately they are not hostile.

        Hmmm…Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Well, I am glad they are rejecting the violence of the protesters, but what are they doing to STOP it? This isn’t the first time they have shown up at Trump events, so, other than the words of the campaing directors(?) what is going on with them? Right now, people are looking at this, people who will vote, and they aren’t seeing the Trump peeople go to Bernie or Hillary events. If they had, it would be all over the news. As far as I can see, Bernie and Hillary aren’t starting speaches and rallies with a loud and firm STOP. They don’t seem to be doing anything, except issuing press releases and wringing hands. If they think the media is going to make a difference, they are seriously mistaken.

        So, from the outside, yes, it looks like the media is doing its normal “worse than Hitler” dance. Maybe he is, but they have cried wolf too many times…Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to aaron david
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          They have done more than Trump has done.

          They have every right to show up at Trump rallies and protest. They don’t have a right to assault, but they do have a right not to be assaulted if not assaulting.Report

          • Avatar aaron david in reply to Will Truman
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            says:

            “They have every right to show up at Trump rallies and protest. They don’t have a right to assault, but they do have a right not to be assaulted if not assaulting.”

            I agree with this, but they are showing up and being violent. And neither Hillary nor Bernie is making moves to stop them. While at the same time Trump followers aren’t showing up at either of the D nominees rallies, as that would be all over the news.

            I know we don’t agree on this @will-truman, but I am just not seeing it. The facism on the right that is, I see it all over the left, and have been for a while. Maybe that is why I am dispossed to seeing it on that one side. That and I consider Hillary soooooo much worse.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to aaron david
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              says:

              Aaron, did you think Tea Party types showing up to health care townhalls with guns was a threat or out of line?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to aaron david
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              says:

              Remind me, what has Trump done about the terrorizing of Jewish reporters? Did he ever stop retweeting whit supremacists? I forget, what’s his current position on David Duke? What, if anything, has he said about the Trumper pepper spraying in San Diego? What again was his position about the legal fees when his supporters assault an interloper?

              But yeah, Hillary and Bernie haven’t stopped some out of control protesters, so clearly that’s where the problem is?Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Will Truman
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                And those are all good indications that he is a racist. And so, yeah, that is pretty bad. And again, I won’t be voting for him.Report

              • Avatar rtodkelly in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                OOC, other than condemning the act of X and calling for their supporters not to do X, what exactly do you think someone for running for office can do?Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to rtodkelly
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                That is a good question @rtodkelly and not one that really gets discussed. First, they need to be the ones starting out a speech condeming it, not a tweet from a campaign director or flunky. Second, they need their people to be there, counter demonstrating, acting as a steady hand. Right now, it looks like they are kinda OK with it. At least from these eyes.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to rtodkelly
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                Thats a start, but it really does need to go much, much further. She needs to be blasting it at every single opportunity possible, along with Bernie. And yes, I know that was put out today, and we are talking about recent events. She really needs to be the one driving the conversation, making it be a point in her campaign cap. And while I think she is the lesser of the candidates, she has a place to rise, to convince me otherwise. Indeed, to show everyone that she can do the job. If she wants to be presidential, she has to be presidential.

                In other words, she needs to convince me that she can be trusted and lead the country. And here is that opportunity.Report

              • Avatar rtodkelly in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                OOC, is this a thing you are demanding of Gary Johnson as well?

                IOW, is this more a case of, whatever she does, it’s going to be lacking because there’s just too much damage between you and the left right now?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                So she needs to stop campaigning and spend her time hippie punching protesters at Trump rallies? To be honest I’m highly dubious that anything HRC could realistically do would win your vote.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to North
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                It’s not that she needs to hippy punch, its that she needs to Be presidential. If she can start to act like a leader, for the whole country, I might be disuaded from thinking, that even as bad as Trump is (and he is that bad) that she is worse. Yes, it is a long row to hoe, but this is the opportunity. So far she has only talked to those who were always going to vote for her. She needs to get out there and get people to believe that she is the right one.

                Does that make sense @north? I know I am walking a fine line, but that really is the best I can do to explain. Look, I am under no illusions that Trump is good, that he isn’t wholy awful. I just think that she is a worse choise. Right now she has an opportunity to actually lead, and a really perfect opportunity to look presidential. But it isn’t just going to break her way, she will need to work for it and work hard. Right now the country is pretty badly messed up, politically. She has a chance to run with the ball on this, run in a way that shows that she could be president. And that could clear up a lot of my fears about how she is so bad at this as to be dangerous for the country. Because that is how I feel about her, in a nutshell. That she is so dangerous for the country and the rule of law that Trump looks good in comparison to her. And that is scary as fish.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                Being presidential is what Clinton needs to do to elevate herself above Donald James Trump in your eyes? Being Presidential? To repeat this is to refute it. I don’t know what it is about the Democratic Party in general and Hillary Clinton in particular that bothers you so much, but whatever it is it’s screwing with your ability to see these things clearly.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Don Zeko
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                Well, I think she is an incompetent, lying, warmongering, bribe taking, rape appologizing grifter, who is destroying the value of the Democratic party, a party that has taken the absolute wrong turn in the idea of free speach, something that I take very seriously.

                So, yeah, that is why I am horrified by her. Those are the reasons that I think, as bad as he is, Trump is looking better than her. Coupled with the fact that our poli system is designed to stop ideologue and demogougues. That is why we have the seperation of powers. Divided government. Trump gets caught in that web, gets shut down. Hillary short ciruits it, because she is the getalong candidate. She is the one who expands presidential powers even more, ignores congress when it tells her not to spend anymore, gets the senate to rollover when they confirm a judge. Is given a pass on breaking the rules, that others get fined for.

                She breaks the system. Furthers the damage that Bush and Obama have done. This is why I am a librtarian now, why I can’t in good conscience vote for her, not without something that changes my opinion of her. She has the opportunity here, if she is presidential enough to take it.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                Rather than go through your bill of particulars, which I obviously disagree with in all sorts of ways, I have a question. When did you move away from the Democratic Party, and what was the last straw for you?Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Don Zeko
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                says:

                The last straw was citizens united. The mere idea that the gov’t would argue that it could effectively ban a book or film. There are other things, but that is the final act.

                I come from a massivly liberal family on my mothers side, liberal like most people can’t immagine. And while I was never that far left, I was exposed to much of the crazyness of Berkeley in the post ’60’s era (that is where they are from in the US.) So breaking with it was hard, but the break was pretty formal, so to speak.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                Suppose the presumptive nominee was ::insert replacement-level Democrat:: and was running in more or less the same style and policy space as Clinton. Would you still think we’re in fractured skull v. bone cancer territory, or do you find Clinton particularly unacceptable?Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                The law in question was the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. The McCain part referring, of course, to the Republican 2008 presidential candidate. Polls have shown that something like 80% of the public opposed the CU decision, including a majority of Republicans. So I’m having a hard time understanding why you peg that specifically on Democrats and/or the left.

                FTR, I can agree that the specific provision of that law in question was unconstitutional. My main concern is the way they ruled far beyond the scope of the original suit to all limits on campaign spending, particularly by corporations, particularly with no disclosure requirements, and particularly leaving the door open to foreign influence.

                If you’re a “Make America Great Again” kind of guy it should bother you that the Saudis, the Chinese, etc, can now fund political messaging in secret.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                Seems to me saying she isn’t “presidential” sorta misses the mark. By … well … quite a bit. Your worry is that a Hillary Presidency will damage institutions you care about, and importantly, damage them more than a Trump presidency.

                I don’t think that’s an uncommon view, to be honest. And depending on the depth of perfidy one ascribes to her, Hillary’s entrenchment in and familiarity with government institutions stands in stark contrast to Trump’s sorta transparent administrative incompetence and/or outsider-status, and that works against her. Obviously Trump thinks that works against her. He’s busy working that very angle.Report

              • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                I think she is an incompetent, lying, warmongering, bribe taking, rape appologizing grifter, who is destroying the value of the Democratic party, a party that has taken the absolute wrong turn in the idea of free speach

                But enough about their similarities; what do you see as the difference?Report

              • Avatar rtodkelly in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                Does that make sense

                It doesn’t, and I’m really not trying to challenge you here as much as I am trying to understand.

                Look, forget about the racism and anti semitism, and the Constitution, and even the election. Just confine it to this one single issue.

                We have one person who is encouraging his supporters to use physical violence. We have one person who is condemning all violence on both sides.

                How do you look at the second person and say that the lion’s share of blame goes to them over the first?

                I’m seriously flummoxed. And it’s not a “you should hate Trump!” thing. I honestly understand where Tom and Tim are coming from in their support. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

                But when you come out excusing Trump for this one issue and condemning Hilary, I am truly baffled as to how you got from point A to point B, and I very much want to understand.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to rtodkelly
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                says:

                Well, I think she is an incompetent, lying, warmongering, bribe taking, rape appologizing grifter, who is destroying the value of the Democratic party, a party that has taken the absolute wrong turn in the idea of free speach, something that I take very seriously.

                So, yeah, that is why I am horrified by her. Those are the reasons that I think, as bad as he is, Trump is looking better than her. Coupled with the fact that our poli system is designed to stop ideologue and demogougues. That is why we have the seperation of powers. Divided government. Trump gets caught in that web, gets shut down. Hillary short ciruits it, because she is the getalong candidate. She is the one who expands presidential powers even more, ignores congress when it tells her not to spend anymore, gets the senate to rollover when they confirm a judge. Is given a pass on breaking the rules, that others get fined for.

                She breaks the system. Furthers the damage that Bush and Obama have done. This is why I am a librtarian now, why I can’t in good conscience vote for her, not without something that changes my opinion of her. She has the opportunity here, if she is presidential enough to take it.

                That is what I listed to Don, above. And I am aware of how bad Trump is, and people in this thread keep making me more aware of more stuff, but she is that bad, that it makes him look that better of the two still. Does that help you @rtodkelly? At the same time, I am not backing him, or giving a soft shoe endoresment. I am voting my consciense, libertarian.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                I think it makes emotional sense but I think I join Tod and Don is wondering what actual actions/words constitute doing what you’re saying. If I’m reading what you said before correctly (and feel free to correct me) you think she should basically spend every opportunity denouncing the Trump protesters to the general exclusion of anything else. If that’s what you mean then it would be functionally throwing the campaign so I’m assuming I’m misreading you.

                Could you give an example of a presidential candidate or President maybe? A specific incidence of presidential behavior? What’s the Aaron gold standard of Presidential? Bonus points if you have one from each side of the partisan divide.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to North
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                Well, here are two: Obama at the ’04 convention. You can watch him assume the presidency before your eyes.

                Bush at ground zero, grabbing the bullhorn and just believing in the US.

                It isn’t that she needs to spend every minute, what she needs to do is rise above. Show us that she is better than him, that she can lead the country.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                Bush at ground zero, grabbing the bullhorn and just believing in the US.

                Pity about every moment before and after.

                At least you didn’t use the flight deck moment.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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                says:

                When you see it as describing reality rather than saying “I see this as objectively AWESOME”, you realize that the whole issue of whether or not someone sees a thing as objectively AWESOME as secondary to whether they’re seeing it accurately.

                If they’re seeing it accurately, they’re seeing it in a way that you want to see it.

                I’ll grant that “I see this as AWESOME” is a good tell as to them not seeing it accurately, though.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                Thanks, so it’s very much a presence thing. I think I’m more clear on what you’re looking for though I’m doubtful if that’s something that is anything but subjective. The Republicans did not think much at all of Obama’s 04′ convention speech for instance.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to North
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                Well, to a greater or lessser degree it is all subjective. Repubs wont like anything Dems do, and vise versa. The hatred is too deep at this point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                I’m not seeing why the violent protestors are particularly Hillary’s responsibility, or Bernie’s. Or that they’re being violent only because they think that’s OK with Bernie and Hillary.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling
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                Because clearly the only way anyone could object to Trump would be if they supported his political rivals.

                He’s never upset any other soul, except that thin-skinned pair running in the Dem primary. Only their goons had motivation.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Will Truman
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                At anti-Trump protests, eschew violence and any other behavior that helps his cause.

                The activist left is very antagonistic to “respectability politics,” which Wikipedia defines as “attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference.”

                Since nonviolence is a value held dear by large majorities on the activist left, not a mainstream value it rejects, efforts to keep anti-Trump protests as peaceful as possible are not at all inconsistent with rejecting respectability politics.

                They’re a no-brainer.

                Results-oriented activists should go a step farther. If organizers at anti-Trump rallies did their utmost to keep Mexican flags out of the hands of activists and to have as many American flags waving as possible that may or may not constitute respectability politics. Labels aside, that tactic would significantly increase the chance that a given rally will help the anti-Trump cause and significantly decrease the chance that a given rally will harm the anti-Trump cause. All who regard preventing the empowerment of a demagogue who pits his supporters against Mexicans and Muslims as a hugely important goal should prioritize its achievement.

                Conor Friedersdorf

                This is what I am trying (and failing) to communicate. Like I have said to you many times, I liken Trump and Hillary to a broken skull and bone cancer, respectively. And I do think Hillary is much worse, for a variety of reasons. And yes, that calcus takes into account my hatred of bigotry and family issues with anti-semitism. But this is what people are seeing. not just me, but the whole nation. And while these people aren ‘t specifically H or B supporters, they are Anti-Trump, which puts them effectively on H or B’s side, the the public eye. And the media can try to explain that away, but no one trusts the media anymore

                So, Hillary and Bernie having the campaign director tweet that he dosn’t approve, well that just aint cutting it. Or, maybe I’m wrong, and no one outside of Trumps camp will think so.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                Yeah but Hillary has directly disavowed and condemned it, personally and promptly.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to North
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                says:

                And what’s more, the few voices on the left defending the protesters are well to Clinton’s left and invariably opposed to her campaign. What more can Clinton do to appease you here?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                Aaron, One of the things I think you’re worried about is that Hillary and the left are more fascist than Trump and the right (you said as much upthread) yet, paradoxically, your solution to the protestor violence issue requires HiIllary and the left to exhibit the exact type of centralized, top-down groupthink behaviors lurking behind your worst fears: a Directive from Leader to obedient gendarmes to “maintain the peace”. If she did that you’d be flipping out. And you’re already flipping out!Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                No, its not quite that. Its that she needs to rally the country around her, to lead us away from this. To show that she can direct the country.

                To show us that she is presidential, competent.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron Warfield
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                says:

                Its that she needs to rally the country around her,

                That’s a pretty high bar. I don’t know of any (edit) candidate that rallied the country around them…

                On the other hand, after her speech yesterday she’s rallied some conservatives around her…Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Hillary wins the election by going to San Jose and/or Trump’s next big rally and publicly standing for him to represent the opposing party’s views.

                Her goal is both the actually reduce the violence and tension, and ultimately to show that she’s an effective leader with sound judgement and worthy of trust.

                Tweets and soundbites with backhanded insults might enable you to check the box of respectability (for your true believers). But it doesn’t steal a march on actually winning the election.

                I’m surprised at the willful “shucks, what more can a person do but “reject” something in an interview” stance. Its the difference between trying not to lose the election and having an idea of how to win it.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Marchmaine
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                says:

                @marchmaine

                Bingo.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Marchmaine
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                says:

                Obama has been the only grownup in the room for the last 8 years, and now it’s Hillary’s turn.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Yep, that’s what the voters thought when they rejected Hillary’s claims to the contrary in 2008.

                I’m not a big fan of the “Adult in the room” put-down; but even that is yet another game that she’s not very good at either.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to aaron david
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          says:

          These protesters aren’t explicitly Bernie or HRC people though, who the hell even knows who they want to vote for. They aren’t up there waving HRC or feel the Bern posters. The groups organizing these protests aren’t specifically in the tank for either of the Democratic candidates. I understand why rightists would want to associate them with team blue but it simply isn’t that clear cut. Otherwise HRC and or Bern would doubtlessly be saying “stop”.Report

          • Avatar Autolukos in reply to North
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            says:

            The only candidate for whom I’ve seen evidence of support among last night’s protesters is Gloria La Riva. I’m sure there were a non-zero number of Clinton and Sanders voters, but Bay Area activists aren’t really known for supporting right-wing parties like the Democrats.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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            says:

            These protesters aren’t explicitly Bernie or HRC people though, who the hell even knows who they want to vote for.

            From what I can gather (newspaper articles, photos, Twitter reports) the group was primarily comprised of latinos, and in particular folks of Mexican descent, protesting support for what they view as explicitly racist policies.Report

          • Avatar Patrick in reply to North
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            says:

            Caution: extreme anecdotally-based opinion

            From what I’ve seen on social media since November of last year, the folks who are most likely to engage in direct political activism re: protest movements (as opposed to direct political activism re: working on a campaign or a get out the vote drive) are highly correlated with “folks that generally don’t vote”.

            My own direct experience locally as an elected official mirrors that, but that may not generalize.

            There are lots of possible reasons here and getting into speculation is getting into some seriously murky waters, particularly when issues of systemic racism are involved.

            I would guess, at this point, that if you threw up a wall around an ongoing protest and gathered all the folks together and just got their names and addresses and let them all go rather than arresting them, and then you checked your local voter rolls against the names you collected, you would find a very different pattern of participation rates in comparison to the national norms.

            Particularly for folks under 35 who show up to this sort of thing.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to aaron david
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          says:

          I remain confused and appalled at how much you have your thumb on the scale for Trump. He’s personally attacking and threatening the judge in his ongoing fraud trial, for fish’s sake.Report

          • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to Don Zeko
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            says:

            Hrmmm, I don’t know anything about his trial, never heard of it till now.

            It’s not that I have my thumb on the scale for Trump, its that I think Hillary is the absolute worse thing for the country, president wise. And the actions of the left, regarding her email issues, the war in Libya, her vote on the Iraq war, etc. give me absolutely no confidence that that they would reign her in on illeagal actions of the presidency.

            For what it is worth, I will be voting Libertatian this year, and I live in CA, which is going to go the way of the left anyhow and maybe that frees me in my own mind a little. But it is disconcerting to describe what I see and be instantly labled as having my thumb on the scale for one candidate.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Aaron Warfield
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              says:

              I’m referring to his comments about the judge in the fraud case against him over Trump University. You know, the one who can’t be fair to Trump because he’s of Mexican ancestry.Report

            • Avatar rtodkelly in reply to Aaron Warfield
              Ignored
              says:

              Hrmmm, I don’t know anything about his trial, never heard of it till now.

              I think I am finally getting why you don’t think Trump would be as bad as a more traditional D or R.Report

              • Avatar Aaron Warfield in reply to rtodkelly
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                says:

                Ah, doing a little looking around I do know about the case, but haven’t been following it that closely. Don’t know about theats to the judge though, hadn’t heard that.Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Aaron Warfield
              Ignored
              says:

              @aaron-david

              I really do get the argument that Hillary is even worse than Trump. I don’t agree, but I can see how someone could reasonably come to that conclusion. (And for the record, I’m leaning 3rd party myself.)

              For me, though, the issue isn’t only whether Hillary is worse than Trump, or even whether on the “promotes/endorses/doesn’t do enough to stop violence” scale she is sufficiently unlike him. For me, the question is Trumpism. As Will has pointed out a couple of times, his chief fear isn’t that Trump will win, it’s that his candidacy will make it easier for someone like him or someone who appeals to the same type of violent protest as he does, will win. To me, a vote to defeat Trump is a vote against Trumpism. I don’t see a counterpuntal “Hillaryism” that’s a dangerous as Trumpism. In fact, I see her as just another imperially inclined candidate to the imperial presidency and while that scares me, it’s also, in my view not an appeal to what Trump appeals to.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I hadn’t considered whether we would have full-throated Trump support on OT.

    I admit to thinking that it’d be a contrarian voice or two saying “Anybody But Hitlery!” and smattering of “I’m voting for Hillary because she, and I, are grownups” with a whole lot of other voices balanced between “I’m voting for the crook, it’s important” and “I’m voting Third Party because I want to look at myself in the mirror!”

    This is going to be an interesting summer.

    I wonder if we’re going to have riots.Report

  12. Avatar Zac
    Ignored
    says:

    This is one of those things where I’m conflicted between my brain and my heart.

    On the former side, I agree completely with the OP; political violence rarely seems productive.

    But there’s also the part of me that remembers talking to the family members on my Dad’s side who escaped or survived the Holocaust, or my great-uncle Hank on my mom’s side, who lost his arm fighting the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. And I think, Fuck it, somebody needs to just shoot the bastard. And while they’re at it, anyone who supports him. I know intellectually that that’s wrong, but the “Never again” part of me is hard to reason with.

    I dunno. It’s tough.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Zac
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      says:

      When that guy rushed the stage in April or whenever, I tweeted that I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump were shot (at) by the end of all this.

      I haven’t changed my mind. No one at or around a Trump rally is particularly safe.Report

  13. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    This is a very good take:

    People will know not only that Trump is opposed, but that you oppose him. I get the allure. But with the alternatives available, it raises questions about whether it’s about Trump or about you. That’s something to mull over, anyway.

    My second reaction is that it would be nice to get rid of the passive voice. But it’s tricky, isn’t? I don’t know what someone else is thinking, or responding to. They might not know. But it certainly looks to me like it’s not about Trump, it’s about them.

    I think that a bit of caution in condemning violence on moral grounds is probably a good thing. Because we tend to do it selectively, after all. I have a long history of non-violence, but most readers of me aren’t going to know that up front. So it just looks like “moral high ground” posturing.

    I do think it’s wrong. And it’s counterproductive.Report

  14. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Political violence always struck me as a “in case of an emergency break glass” tool. Normally, violence is counter-productive immoral and political un-productive even if your a put upon minority facing persecution because it will just increase your persecutor to turn up the persecution in normal circumstances. At the same time, sometimes violence is the only way to prevent a bad thing from happening or stop it from getting worse. Most of us would not begrudge somebody the right of self-defense unless you were very into all the pacifist virtues. So basically, you really have to judge things based on all the circumstances and you really only know if violence was properly used in hind sight. Trying to determine the morality of violence at the time of use is never going to work.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Mmm I was with you up to the last sentence. I think it’s pretty unambiguous how bad violence is, both morally and practically, in this specific incidence:
      -Trump and his followers have behaved pretty shabbily but they have generally not gone out to besiege their opponents campaign activities. That makes the Anti-Trumpers the aggressors which is horrible optics as a practical matter and pretty dark grey to flat out wrong morally.
      -By and large the violence we’re talking about has been in reaction to political speech. As a practical matter if you’re having a verbal argument the first person to hurl a punch is the loser. That’s how the masses perceive it. What on earth is the moral argument for devolving a debate into a fistfight?Report

  15. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Violence against people assembling is generally bad. I am not a fully Ghandi pacifist but he and the Civil Rights Protesters in the 1960s really understood the sheer power of non-violence. There are very few images as powerful as sit-in demonstrators getting all sorts of violence and other things thrown on them as they silently sat at counters and demanded to be served like the human beings they were.

    Unlike Aaron, I think Sanders and Clinton have done the proper steps as well as the liberal media with people like Chris Hayes. Violence is wrong because it is wrong.

    The worry is that this only gets worse and emboldens Trump. Trump has already been emboldened to say some really horrible things and things that go straight to the heart of American democracy and equality.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      I’m not afraid of Trump being emboldened. I simply cannot imagine that going more extreme against those things can be a winning strategy. I don’t think the constituency that plays to is large or well placed enough to give him a victory that way.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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        says:

        I’m not afraid of Trump being emboldened.

        No, me either. This is a guy who entered the primary by calling Mexicans living in the US rapists and murderers. He’s also the guy who singlehandedly destroyed the USFL. He’s BOLD.

        I’m not sure I agree with the second part. GOPers are already congealing in an oozy mass around him, and it’s still undetermined how many Hillary-haters, anti-establishment Berners, and currently-closeted xenophobic racists he can pick off.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    But Marxism and its intellectual heirs reject this notion: People are not autonomous. They do not behave rationally, or freely.

    Very true; they’re driven by resentment to support miscreants like Trump, or so I’m told over and over.Report

  17. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    As I said elsewhere, if you say “Trump’s rhetoric inspires violence” then it looks pretty derpy for you to be the one that brings the violence.

    It maybe sends a message to Trump supporters that they’re on the right track. Like the man (sorta) said, first they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to DensityDuck
      Ignored
      says:

      Who is “you” here? This only makes sense if we assume everyone to the left of Lincoln Chaffee is one big undifferentiated mass.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Don Zeko
        Ignored
        says:

        No, DD is right. And also he didn’t say anything about ‘the left’.

        The protesters (Who seem mostly Latino in these circumstances) are specifically claiming that Trump’s rhetoric causes violence, especially against themselves. That is their actual complaint. (I am not surprised you don’t know that, because the media hasn’t bothered to explain it.)

        They aren’t wrong there.

        And they feel the media has completely ignored this.

        They aren’t wrong *there*, either.

        The media seems to still be pretending that Trump is saying ‘controversial’ things, instead of pointing out he is saying blatantly racist and violence-inducing things.

        The man is walking around calling an American-born Hispanic judge a ‘Mexican’ and asserting the man shouldn’t be allowed be a judge because of that, for God’s sake. And that’s just one example. It’s not close to racist, it’s not accidentally racist sounding, it is actual, literal, blatant racism, and the media just sorta shrugs it off, and treats it the same as Trump’s dumbass ‘My African-American’ crowd thing. We knew the media was broken, but I’m not sure we ever realized just *how* broken.

        The protesters have thus concluded the best way to get the media attention is to raise a ruckus. Not planning to have violence *per se*, but to drift really close to the line with screaming and anger instead of the normal peaceful political protest.

        They are *astonishingly* wrong there.

        The problem is, that sort of things slips *very easily* over the line into actual violence, and when it does so, it completely undermines their entire point, especially since it literally plays into Trump’s racism! (If we assume the propensity towards violence is a bell-shaped curve, if you tune the norm to 75% or so, the ‘shouting and screaming’ position, which is well within the law….you’re still going to get a small fraction hitting ‘violence’. That’s why you tune towards *calm*, and then the extreme you get is some people yelling.)

        And, to make things even stupider, violence at protests is *not actually how to get the attention of the media*, even if it wasn’t slipping over the line. Yes, the media will report you *exist*, but won’t explain a damn thing about you or what the message you’re trying to get across.Report

  18. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    American history has a well-established precedent for the legitimization of political violence.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    It is when the government itself becomes an enemy of the rights of the people which it was constructed to guarantee that extraordinary and inevitably violent means of political action are permissible.

    Donald Trump is not yet President, and Providence and Prudence preserve us, he shall not be.

    Should he gain that office, we shall first see if the political process, and then the established limits of the Constitutional government of our Republic, are sufficient to restrain what all evidence suggests will be his authoritarian policies. In other words: there is still Congress, and failing that, there are still the courts.

    After that, there will be — or at least there ought to be — another election in 2020.

    If all this fails, then maybe Jefferson and Associates’ call to arms might be taken up. For now, our tools of protecting our rights may be found in our political pocketbooks, and in our rights of assembly and speech, and in our exercise of the franchise. Let us look there first, before making Molotov cocktails.Report

    • Avatar Zac Black in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      Burt Likko:
      If all this fails, then maybe Jefferson and Associates’ call to arms might be taken up. For now, our tools of protecting our rights may be found in our political pocketbooks, and in our rights of assembly and speech, and in our exercise of the franchise. Let us look there first, before making Molotov cocktails.

      Isn’t that a bit blinkered, though? This is not the 18th century. The playing field between citizens and their government is not even remotely even, in the modern world. The British in the 1770s did not have tanks or cruise missiles or Predator drones or nuclear attack submarines. If you’re going to take out a dictator, potential or otherwise, is it better to wait until after he has those tools at his disposal?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Zac Black
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        says:

        Back then, as now, it’s not a matter of having more guns and bullets and bombs and whatnot than the government – it’s getting the people that are immediately in charge of people with the guns and the bullets and the bombs and the whatnot to defect and work on your side.Report

        • Avatar Zac Black in reply to Kolohe
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          says:

          Fair enough, but given how heavily Republican/evangelical the military is these days, I’m honestly not sure they can be trusted to fully defect in such a scenario. I certainly hope I’m wrong about that. Suffice it to say, I think it’s better to move while the number of deaths can be as low as possible rather than wait until it goes Full Metal Syria.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Zac Black
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            says:

            On the right side of the poltical spectrum, Trump is on the shakiest ground poltically with white evangelical Protestants and the professional military complex. They are all right now merely going along to get along. They are also the core of nevertrump, at least based on my twitter feed. The very fact that Trump won the nomination means their power is waning, was overestimated, or both.Report

  19. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    I think I’m a bit ahead of Burt Likko, in that there’s no case for violence of any kind before the election, but there’s a strong case for secession if Donald somehow is able to declare victory after the voting is over.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      For secession? Whose? Merely if he wins?

      Burt’s right: there are a lot of checks to try before starting to undo the whole Thing. We have a process for removal. “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” is a total fig leaf; they can impeach whenever they want. If he’s impeached and removed but won’t go, that’s when the questions of how forceful removal plays out come into play. Not that you don’t think through that stuff so you know what’s coming. But you don’t jump the gun, so to speak.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        ‘They’ can impeach whenever they want, but an election that Trump wins give us a Congress who is a ‘they’ that won’t impeach Trump for any reason for at least two years (until there is a new congress).

        Secession is for any body politic that thinks that Trump is an existential threat to their existence if Trump gets the power of the State to obey his will.

        (The open question is whether or not enough of the State will obey his will. The other tricky thing is that the parts of the country where the state is most powerful are exactly the part where the local body politic thinks Trump is the biggest threat.)Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe
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          says:

          I’m quite confident that if the chain of events goes Trump is elected, Trump is impeached, Trump is convicted, Trump refuses to leave, a delegate from the JCS will, with the backing of all of her colleagues and an overwhelming number of those under her command, deliver a message to the effect of, “Mr. Trump, it’s time to go, the President needs this office.”

          The respect for the rule of law and the Constitutional process for government is a very, very strong ethic in the military. The officer class may understand that ethic and its theoretical underpinnings better than the median enlisted member, but it’s a top-to-bottom ethic of great strength. The oath service members take is to defend the Constitution, not to a particular organ of government (be that the Presidency or the military or any other subdivision thereof, though loyalty to the military is taught, as is appropriate), the commander in chief (though the importance of political control and following orders is taught, as is entirely appropriate), not even the flag (though great reverence is taught for that symbol, as is entirely appropriate).

          So if we ever get to a Varys’ Riddle type showdown, I’m confident the result will be consistent with the rule of law specified in the Constitution.

          But it won’t come to that. Trump would back down. He’s made of exactly the same stuff as Richard Nixon was, and a theoretical President Trump would resign to salvage his personal dignity rather than face a likelihood of removal by impeachment.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko
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            says:

            The problem is you’re treating impeachment as a probabilistic independent event from the election. Specifically with Trump, the only way he becomes President with the more or less the current crop of Congress critters – who we have now seen will either get aboard the Trump train or get out of its way, only a vanishing few who are trying to derail it. They will never impeach Trump. The midterms are the first opportunity to get a new congress, but midterms are also a more Trump friendly electorate.

            When we look at coups, revolutions, and seperatist movments, it’s typically Colonels, not Generals that lead them (e.g. Qaddafi, Noriega). Generals are in most cases too remote from first line leadership and are too close to the poltical class. Colonels are in a niche that can be leveraged either way.

            When you really get down to brass tacks, it’s the Secret Service that determines who the ‘real’ President is, if there’s a dispute about it.

            Let me also be perfectly clear that I’m in no way committed to any sort of radical action if Trump becomes President – just that there’s a strong case to be made (particularly because at this point, the only way I can see it happening in outright and widespread fraud)Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko
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            says:

            You just used “Trump” and “personal dignity” in the same sentence. I submit that any conclusion requiring such usage bears close re-examination.Report

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