Biden Against Violence. Sort Of.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is about to unleash a huge ad buy  decrying violence in general, but not in particular. The reason is obvious.  Polling indicates that he is being hurt in swing states where support for Black Lives Matter has plummeted as a result of months of violence BLM unleashed. Further, despite heroic efforts of the mainstream media to obfuscate the facts,  the violence is largely a left wing affair, aided and abetted by Progressive Mayors. Up until this point the Mayors have refused to enforce laws designed to protect people and property from just the sort of violence that has become a daily occurrence in some American cities. 

Conveniently enough, the Biden campaign, along with its media allies, has pivoted to blaming the violence on Trump and white racists. “Without evidence” as CNN is fond of saying. Well, take a look at the video below of “protesters” below chanting “Death to America” Iranian style and count the MAGA hat wearers among them. It won’t take long because there aren’t any. 

Critics of the Mayors’ response (or lack of it) to the chaos have correctly pointed out that the cities engulfed in violence have been governed overwhelmingly by Democrats for generations. Hilariously enough, the New York Times has rushed into the battle with a front page story saying, well yes, it is true enough that the cities have been run by Democrats but…Mayors, unlike the President, don’t have sufficient power to prevent the violence and in any event Republicans abandoned the cities ages ago. 

Where to begin. 

Let’s start with this. Law enforcement is essentially a local affair. Mayors have the responsibility to direct police priorities. Some actually are directly in charge of police departments. To insure political accountability, most of them appoint the senior management (e.g.— like the Police Commissioner). And as for power, New York City has over 35,000 uniformed officers, making it larger than the standing Armies of most countries. But by and large the Mayors, including New York’s de Blasio, have ordered the police to stand down. In addition plenty of the Mayors have rejected federal law enforcement aid. Nancy Pelosi went so far as to refer to federal law enforcement officers as “storm troopers”. The idea that Mayors in the United States lack sufficient authority or resources to prevent the violence is simply ludicrous on its face. 

Then there is the charge that the problem is that the Republicans have abandoned the nation’s urban areas. Or as the Times notes with a straight face

“…if cities have become synonymous with Democratic politics today, that is true in part because Republicans have largely given up on them. Over the course of decades, Republicans ceased competing seriously for urban voters in presidential elections and representing them in Congress.

“Republican big-city mayors became rare. And along the way, the Republican Party nationally has grown muted on possible solutions to violence, inequality, poverty and segregation in cities.”

It takes a level of duplicity that is simply astounding for the Times to complain that there are few, if any, big city Republican Mayors. The very prospect of an actual Republican Mayor, particularly in New York, is enough to send the paper’s editorial board into periodic convulsions of fear and loathing. True enough the Times endorsed Michael Bloomberg in 2005, a nominal Republican. But the party label was a mere convenience for Mr. Bloomberg, evidenced by the fact that he abandoned the Republican Party after a few years and went on the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.   

The Times did endorse Republican Rudy Giuliani for a second term, basically because his rival Ruth Messinger displayed breathtaking incompetence; not because they agreed with his policy stances. You have to go all the way back to 1965 to find another Republican Mayoral endorsement. That would be John Vliet Lindsay, who like Bloomberg, eventually abandoned ship and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the 1968 cycle. 

The Times isn’t really interested in Republican policy proposals for cities, unless they have all of a sudden decided they are in favor of, say, school choice. What they really want is for the occasional nominal Republican to run as long as said Republican advances the policy objectives of the Democratic Party. 

Let’s be clear about what is going on here. The Democrats are caught in a vise. The radical left that increasingly controls the party’s agenda is sympathetic to the rioters. But the people who used to be rank and file Democrats, “the deplorables” as Hillary Clinton called them, are so unenlightened that they don’t relish having their houses and businesses burned down in the name of social justice. So Biden is trying to square the circle by decrying violence in general, while pointing at right wing racists, in a delicate effort to assuage all elements of his coalition by carefully avoiding saying anything of substance. 

Will it work? Who knows? It could. It is certainly a cynical enough strategy.

JFB

Truthful Lies

Sometimes lies tell the truth, however inadvertently. 

Ever since May when George Floyd was killed while in police custody there have been waves of protest in America’s cities, often spilling into violence. The violence has not been random and sporadic. It has typically been orchestrated by professional agitators, often by ANTIFA and the more radical members of Black Lives Matter (BLM).  

Up until just recently, Mayors of cities under siege have displayed a remarkable tolerance for the violence, arson and anarchy unleashed in the cities they nominally govern. The political calculus driving this has two prongs. First, the chaos would likely redound to the benefit of Joe Biden thereby making the task of beating demon Trump all that much easier come November.  Second, the Mayors, Progressives all, were (and are) sympathetic to the protesters who are becoming increasingly hard to differentiate from the rioters. 

The whole while, Progressive politicians who kept insisting on the importance of the rule of law, refused to enforce basic laws on the books designed to protect citizens and their property. The truth, made manifest by their behavior, exposed the lie of their devotion to the rule of law. 

Some polls have begun to suggest that the public has had enough. One recent poll, taken shortly after the Republican convention, shows Biden a mere 2 points ahead of Trump, well within the margin of error. In addition, the Trafalger Group (an outlier) who called key races in 2016 and 2018 correctly when others got it wrong, says that Trump is only a half-point behind Biden in Minnesota and slightly ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin. 

In the meantime the mainstream press studiously avoided the violence for months, insisting that there was “nothing to see here” and that the  demonstrations were “mostly peaceful”. Now they have changed the script. It turns out that there is a problem with violence after all, and that it is all the fault of—Donald Trump. Of course, Trump’s narcissistic insistence that everything is all about him, all the time, makes the job that much easier. 

Then there is the matter of the apparent murder of a Trump supporter in Portland, Oregon during another night of “non-violent” protest. The apparent shooter is a man named Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-identified “anti-fascist”.  Among other things he wrote: 

“I am 100 % ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! … We do not want violence but we will not run from it either! … Today’s protesters and antifa are my brothers in arms.”

Shooting in Portland

So about those lies that tell the truth. The lie that tells the truth is that the Democratic Party is run by moderates who wish to return to normalcy. That is manifestly not so. If that were actually true they would have taken action long ago to confront the rioters and restore order. Maintaining order is, after all, a local responsibility and the Mayors of America’s large cities are overwhelmingly Democratic. Actions speak louder than words. 

Now that the violence is being directed against them, some of Mayors seem to be having second thoughts—kind of like Robespierre most have had on his trip to the guillotine. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler can not have been happy last night when the rioters set an occupied apartment building on fire, apparently because they thought he lived there. 

The Democratic Party, now in the process of being taken over by Jacobins, has no institutional desire to return to normalcy. That is merely a cover and a transparent one at that. These modern day Jacobins mean to transform America and its liberal institutions in the service of a radically illiberal and utopian left-wing ideology. The Democratic Party has simply become an empty vessel waiting to be filled by Progressives so they can get on with the transformation. The truth is that these radical Progressives are so full of hatred for freedom that they are willing to tolerate, if not celebrate violence so long as it serves a tactical purpose in the quest for power.    

The final truth embedded in the lies may be revealed by the difference between real votes and those cast by ballot. An individual ballot, despite all the hysterical rhetoric, has virtually no practical significance. But voting with your feet has very real significance for the voter / mover.  Moving to a new locale is probably a much better indicator of what someone really thinks. 

By all reports there has been a torrent of wealthy and upper middle class migration out of the major cities and into the suburbs and smaller secondary cities. Undoubtedly some of this has to do with COVID-19 and the widespread adoption of working from home. But at least some is attributable to the unrest and increased incivility of the big cities. That could presage a much larger change than the results of this November’s elections. 

JFB 

Mostly Peaceful Protests

“Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

Spurred by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, protests against police violence—defined as the unjustified use of force—have erupted across America. These protests are invariably described as “mostly peaceful”. And they are, the way most people at Ford’s Theatre were just there to see the show. 

Then too, there is the matter of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He too represented only a small minority of the theatre goers; but of those, he is the one who mattered most. Because his actions defined the event. 

Riots, attacks on police and violence against people and property have taken place in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Portland Oregon, Seattle Washington, Minneapolis Minnesota, Los Angeles California, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Salt Lake City Utah and Atlanta Georgia, to name a few. And by and large, the police, following the orders given them by civil authorities, have backed away. In some cases, like Portland Oregon, organized violence has become a nightly affair. 

The media has studiously ignored the violence, preferring to emphasize the current narrative of “systemic racism” and “structural racism” being at fault. It is especially convenient to blame the violence on systemic and structural racism inasmuch as those terms lack definition and thus present a non-falsifiable hypothesis. And it is a politically convenient ploy because it distracts attention from the fact that America’s cities have been run by Democratic machine politics for generations.  

Virtually all the burning cities are run by Progressives, and have been for decades. In addition to the obvious mistrust felt by significant portions of their citizens, those cities are also notable for their failing public school systems and their chronic fiscal ineptitude. 

Taken together, failing public schools; police mismanagement; fiscal ineptitude, and the presence of powerful public sector unions present a picture of routine managerial incompetence. None of which has precluded the re-election of the same incompetents year after year. The obvious question is why. 

Why is it that year after year the people with the most to lose from failing schools, incompetent policing and fiscal incompetence, insist on voting for the same politicians who routinely produce the same failures of governance? 

The simple (and probably correct) answer is twofold. First, the opposition Republican party has not presented a viable alternative and shows little interest in doing so. Second, the party in power, the Democrats have  effectively become a wholly owned subsidiary of powerful special interest groups like public sector unions and environmental groups who dictate policy. 

In response, upper income groups are increasingly abandoning cities to escape from (1) rising crime and disorder and (2) a rising and oppressive tax burden. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be the catalyst, not the cause. If the trend continues and turns out to be more than fleeting, the results could be dire for the cities. As the truly wealthy head for suburban enclaves, taking the tax base with them, the cities will become islands of poverty surrounded by wealthy suburbs unwilling to finance urban excess. 

The remaining question is whether upscale former urban dwellers will bring their politics with them to the suburbs, or have they finally had enough? And if they have tired of financing failure, will the cities finally reform? Or will Progressives complete the takeover of the Democratic Party  and produce catastrophic failure nationally rather than just locally? 

We may get a hint in November. 

JFB

Battleground

The phrase battleground state has taken on a whole new meaning. 

As reports from various urban battlefields come in, the picture of what is happening is becoming clear. Let’s summarize. (1) In a number of American cities protests turn into organized violence once nightfall arrives. The violence does not appear to come from protesters, but appears to come from organized groups intent on stoking and escalating violence.  (2) Federal law enforcement officers have been ordered to some areas by the Trump Administration with orders to protect federal property. It appears that at least some federal law enforcement officers  have engaged in conduct that is clearly illicit. That conduct includes but is not limited to detaining citizens, handcuffing them and then releasing them without any justification or charges. Further, the evidence strongly suggests that some of these detentions were conducted by federal officers without proper identification using unmarked vehicles. Moreover some of these detentions have taken place well beyond perimeters established for protecting federal property. (3) Local authorities have been unable or unwilling to contain the violence. 

For some perspective, it is worth taking a look at what is going on in some (but not all) cities. The You Tube video (below) taken in Portland is an example of the violence; but it is not necessarily generalizable to other cities. On the other hand it is worth noting that the national media has been reluctant to characterize this type of violent behavior as violent as … violent.

Protest in Portland Oregon

Further complicating matters is the legal situation.  The extent of federal authority to intervene  to establish order absent a request from local authorities is unclear. Certainly the federal government may use federal law enforcement to protect federal property. But that authority is  narrow. It seems reasonably clear that federal law enforcement lacks the authority to free-lance and expand its mission beyond the narrow one of protecting specific federal properties. It certainly does not empower law enforcement to go searching for alleged miscreants outside of narrow perimeters established to protect lives and federal property. 

It is also clear that local law enforcement is not enforcing state and local laws. And the reason for it is that they have been instructed not to do so by locally elected officials. In the U.S. system it is elected officials, not police who are charged with determining the extent to which the laws will be enforced. Moreover the police have no legal obligation to protect lives or property, which is to say they are not vulnerable to a civil lawsuit for a willful refusal to protect lives or property. This is further complicated by the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” which makes it virtually impossible for police officers to be sued individually for their behavior, no matter how outrageous. 

Let’s also note that it is highly probable that the Trump Administration has escalated the situation simply for political advantage in the upcoming election. It is also the case that  Democratic office holders are fairly silent about the violence because (1) they see no need to comment while Trump is busy committing political suicide and (2) they see no profit in antagonizing the party’s left wing, which they need to prevail in November. 

So what is to be done?

The simple answer is that the remedy lies at the ballot box. Local officials are for the most part responsible for managing police and setting policy. They have the legal authority to determine the extent to which public resources will be deployed to enforce state and local laws. The line of both authority and accountability runs straight from the citizenry to the ballot box to elected officials. The same logic applies to federal elections. 

Citizens, who are sovereign, have a democratic choice to make. They can elect federal, state and local officials who promise to enforce the laws on the books to protect lives and property when they are threatened. Or they can elect officials who think it is more important to deploy public resources in other ways they deem to be more important. Citizens can also choose to elect local public officials who will take responsibility for the management of public agencies like police departments and education bureaucracies, or they can continue to vote for officials beholden to public sector unions. Citizens who don’t like the results can leave. 

Those are the harsh realities; but they are realities. To govern is to choose. Unless citizens hold elected officials accountable for conditions on the ground over which they have control, results will not change. We will simply have more of the same until the next explosion. That seems to be where we are headed. 

JFB