Taking it to the streets

The protests remind us that Trump does not – and has never – had the support of the nation.

Wendy Kaminer
columnist

Share
Topics Politics USA

Retail stores in my neighbourhood are supposed to be opening up now, yet many are boarded up instead. Thousands of people have protested peacefully in Boston over the past two weeks, but one night of violence by a relatively small number of looters who apparently care more about sneakers than social justice brought out the National Guard. They’re about to leave and I can’t wait. Perhaps because I was in college in 1970 when National Guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students at an anti-war demonstration at Kent State, their presence here does not make me feel safe.

Some of us old enough to remember the Sixties are experiencing déjà vu all over again, although the pandemic casts a shadow over marches and rallies that we could not have imagined. Back then, demonstrations were sometimes dangerous, especially for civil-rights activists set upon by vicious dogs and equally vicious human beings, although at least then the dangers were visible, not microscopic. But it’s not the mass protests that remind me of mid-20th-century anti-war and liberation movements. It’s a change in the weather, the sense that protesters, mostly representing a rising generation, might once again have the wind at their back.

The latest public-opinion surveys can give you whiplash. ‘Over the last two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years’, the New York Times reports. Public support for protests that have followed the killing of George Floyd is ‘overwhelming’ and even bipartisan, according to the Washington Post. Three quarters of Americans say they support the protests and two thirds believe that Floyd’s killing ‘represents a broader problem within law enforcement’. These findings represent a remarkable and remarkably rapid change in public opinion. For decades, ‘law and order’ has been a potent political message, especially for Republicans, ever since Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968 on a pro-police platform that exploited the backlash to civil unrest. Twenty-five years ago, President Bill Clinton, Senator Joe Biden and congressional Democrats bowed to what was then a political reality when they passed the harsh, anti-libertarian crime bills of the 1990s, for which they are now repenting.

Left of centre, repentance is reflected in the embrace of progressive policies that seemed well outside the mainstream only a month ago, including, most surprisingly, budget cuts for law enforcement and a reallocation of funds to social service and violence-prevention initiatives. House Democrats will not support demands to defund the police (which pandemic budget deficits may require in any case); but they have put forth a broad police reform bill, aimed at curbing abuses, insuring oversight and accountability, and including limitations on immunity from civil suits against officers for civil-rights violations. Even long-time law-and-order Republicans are moderating their rhetoric, and the Republican Senate will issue its own, much more moderate, reform bill.

Democrats and Republicans are unlikely to agree on a compromise, and it’s much too soon to tell the fate of reform, but support for it seems virtually unprecedented. Trump’s rage-filled, fearmongering rhetoric, including his praise for abusive police practices, may misapprehend the moment. His marshalling of military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Washington, DC for the sake of a bizarre photo op – Trump holding a Bible aloft in front of a church – shocked a lot of people who seemed resigned to his extra-constitutional antics. Perhaps most notably, the top US general, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, publicly apologised for participating in the president’s photo op and creating the ‘perception of the military involved in domestic politics’. A former draft-dodger, Trump likes to wrap himself in the military, but its leaders are beginning to disoblige.

Of course, the shifting political winds owe much to technology. People who might once have believed dishonest police accounts of officers’ fatal interactions with civilians are viewing damning evidence of gross police abuses, now including police attacks on protesters. Fiercely devoted members of Trump’s base will accept whatever alternative facts he offers; as the president once advised his followers, ‘Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening… just stick with us’. But a majority of Americans consider Trump dishonest and may prefer to believe what they see and experience, not what he says.

A majority of Americans don’t support the president (elected by a minority of voters) and aren’t represented by the US Senate: every state, regardless of population, elects two senators, so residents of sparsely populated states, like Wyoming or Oklahoma, enjoy much greater representation than residents of, say, New York and California. Trump owes his unchecked power to the Republican Senate, also elected by a minority of voters nationwide. It helps shape the federal government, confirming federal judges, cabinet members and other high-ranking executive branch appointees.
America is not, therefore, a majority-rule democracy, and the persistence of minority rule partly underlies the current wave of protests and the unusual public support they’ve enjoyed. Brexiteers should recognise that even in a partial, dysfunctional democracy you can’t deny the will of the majority indefinitely; at least you can’t do so without consequences. Sooner or later, people will take to the streets.

Wendy Kaminer is an author, a lawyer and a former national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Picture by: Getty.

Let’s cancel cancel culture

Free speech is under attack from all sides – from illiberal laws, from a stifling climate of conformity, and from a powerful, prevailing fear of being outed as a heretic online, in the workplace, or even among friends, for uttering a dissenting thought. This is why we at spiked are stepping up our fight for speech, expanding our output and remaking the case for this most foundational liberty. But to do that we need your help. spiked – unlike so many things these days – is free. We rely on our loyal readers to fund our journalism. So if you want to support us, please do consider becoming a regular donor. Even £5 per month can be a huge help. You can find out more and sign up here. Thank you! And keep speaking freely.

Donate now

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

KATHLEEN CARR

16th June 2020 at 2:27 pm

If Biden gets to be President to paraphrase Shakespeare ‘There is something rotten in the state (s) of (America).

Mark Bretherton

16th June 2020 at 12:35 pm

Trump Derangement Syndrome at it’s finest.
I’m almost certain that spiked only gives her a column for sh!ts & giggles.

Dan Black

16th June 2020 at 11:13 am

I have a genuine rational fear that if, as I expect, Trump wins in November then even bigger riots and disorder will follow. What has become of the “left”? They are nothing like the left of old mainstream left. Patriotic and in the main looking for a wider distribution of wealth within a lightly regulated capitalist system. Now here and in the US they cannot tolerate any opposing opinion. Cancel culture is rife and has infected the UK in a truly shocking and troubling manner. Given this Trump Evil, Dems Good narrative they have pushed I can honestly see no losers consent in November.

harry briggs

16th June 2020 at 10:44 am

Polls are not likely to be accurate and it seems more like wishful thinking when the author claims that a majority support these protests. there is a huge difference between real support for change and support for appearances sake.

paul hooley

16th June 2020 at 8:33 am

The final 2 sentences of the article totally negate the authors previous arguments.
For someone who was a senior member of the American Civil Liberties Union she has an odd way of defining democracy.

Michael Byrne

16th June 2020 at 2:23 am

The majority support it? Or are large numbers brainwashed what is actually occuring? Not even every black in America supports this movement and many BLM claims debunked as clearly not true, people accepting truth is another matter of coarse.

L Strange

16th June 2020 at 1:19 am

“Brexiteers should recognise that even in a partial, dysfunctional democracy you can’t deny the will of the majority indefinitely; at least you can’t do so without consequences.”

Brexiteers are the majority. We won the 2016 Referendum and confirmed our wish to leave the EU in the 2019 General Election.

This woman is an idiot!

Michel Houllebeq

15th June 2020 at 10:01 pm

CHAZ renamed CHOP has given us a nice vision of the far-left woke utopia they want for us all. It has descended into chaos and violent anarchy (we fully expected) although the media keeps telling us it as peaceful and friendly.

In CHAZ:

– Rapes & violent crime skyrocketing.
– Everyone robbing from each other.
– Violent mob justice.
– Endless fighting

Come to think of it – it’s like Mayor Khan’s London from Hackney to Tower Hamlets minus the Islamist problem.

Jerry Owen

15th June 2020 at 10:49 pm

Don’t forget their … Ahem, borders!

Michel Houllebeq

15th June 2020 at 9:46 pm

Nobody ever said he did(has any president), indeed we’re told in the media 24/7 that he does not but he won the election and will win the next election as the law and order candidate over sleepy uncle Joe. My goodness, those head to head debates are going to be a joy to watch, will Joe even remember his name?

Jerry Owen

15th June 2020 at 9:11 pm

So Kaminer isn’t happy that Trump won on a minority of the vote… That’s your system, suck it up or provide an alternative.

John Lewis

15th June 2020 at 8:19 pm

Compared to Wendy the organisational structure of CHAZ appears rational. More comedy gold.

Michel Houllebeq

15th June 2020 at 9:50 pm

I’ve seen more evidence of mayhem and violence in a week in CHAZ (Renamed CHOP because of the French revolution chopping peoples heads left right and centre) than a years worth of “police brutality”.

George Whale

15th June 2020 at 6:53 pm

Look forward to the shattering of this broad’s leftist delusions when Trump wins again.

Andrew Mawdsley

15th June 2020 at 6:39 pm

Trump is going to massacre Biden.

Maybe, instead of looking inwardly at the progressives within America you might try talking to the people who’s lives Trump has improved by getting them back to work.
You know, the people who don’t sneer at patriotism towards the country that they love.

AQNXIOUS COUPE

15th June 2020 at 10:36 pm

Trump is going to get battered in november if he has the balls to actually hold the vote , sleepy joe might not be superman but only the knuckle draggers will back trump and there wont be enough of them this time

Jerry Owen

15th June 2020 at 10:55 pm

Oh look AC has used a capital.. just the one mind.Perhaps a full stop is in the offing sometime soon, it’s nice to be able to breathe when reading!

Stef Steer

15th June 2020 at 6:34 pm

If Trump doesn’t win in November then frankly I am baffled or suspicious and very fearful. The Democrats appear to be ok with rioting and killings within the riots and are wanting to defund the police and at the same time attack business owners. It is truly bizarre.

Its not like the Dems seem to have a great candidate, I mean Biden to me comes across as a slightly senile Saul Goodman.

Maybe they are going to rig it through postal votes or maybe I am massively out of touch with how people think in 2020 but if Biden wins identity politics is the new norm and we all better get used to bending the knee. What wonderful times we live in.

PAUL ROGERS

15th June 2020 at 6:25 pm

Wow. This article has as much self delusion in it as the Liberal Democrats in 2019. It’s full of exaggerations, dubious sources and overlooks how democracies work. The guys with more votes get to win, if they get over a pre-agreed threshold. It’s your system too, Ms Kaminer.
Has this woman actually been the Britain and spoken with anyone who voted either for Brexit, or like me, didn’t but accept it and want it over asap?
I’m all for hearing all views, but this article is bubblespeak.

Jeff Taylor

15th June 2020 at 4:17 pm

I always enjoy your contributions, Ms Kaminer, and I’m grateful that you enter an arena where you might not always feel comfortable but really:

“Brexiteers should recognise that even in a partial, dysfunctional democracy you can’t deny the will of the majority indefinitely; at least you can’t do so without consequences.”

I don’t think Brexiteers need reminding of this, we have had the majority since the referendum in 2016 and our will was defied for over three years by a highly privileged minority who are still continuing to fight against the majority will.

Jim Lawrie

15th June 2020 at 3:40 pm

Regarding your last paragraph Ms Kanimer. If you read Spiked you would have known by now that Brexiteers were in the majority.

Jim Lawrie

15th June 2020 at 3:37 pm

“déjà vu all over again”. Is that what college did for you? What would your grasp of english have been without 8 years of tertiary education?

Jim Lawrie

15th June 2020 at 3:34 pm

“Perhaps because I was in college in 1970 when National Guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students at an anti-war demonstration at Kent State, … ” Aye. Right. Flirting with danger in a library 500 miles away.

Jim Lawrie

15th June 2020 at 8:40 pm

Passing motions.

SDL Earle

15th June 2020 at 3:19 pm

Firstly, Trump is gonna win hands down in November. Secondly, the rioters (theyre not protesters) are people who were never gonna vote Trump anyway. Thirdly, the only swell in support for these black supremacists has come from the middle classes. Theres no factory workers or warehouse operatives going to these bullshit marches, only privileged students and sad old hippies.
Personally im going to laugh my tits off when all the liberals, trannys and gays start actually getting persecuted when the black man rules the land.

James Knight

15th June 2020 at 2:52 pm

What I am reminded of is how far the pendulum has swung: race baiting now comes much more from the left than the right.

Dominic Straiton

15th June 2020 at 2:45 pm

No politician in a democratic society has “the support of the nation. Not a single one. The only thing required from a functioning democracy is losers consent, which Trump hasnt had from day one. The Democrat party and the American MSM is at war and will do anything, create any chaos, tell as many lies,kill as many people(hydroxychloroquine) as required to regain power.

Dominic Straiton

15th June 2020 at 2:47 pm

They better do it quick or Hillary Clinton will be behind bars.

Jonnie Henly

15th June 2020 at 5:32 pm

“The Democrat party and the American MSM is at war“

At war? At war with who? The previous administration government for 8 years without ever once receiving losers consent. Perhaps the GOP should’ve thought more about the consequences of what they were pushing when they acted that way.

Dominic Straiton

15th June 2020 at 6:33 pm

if you dont understand opposition built since George II and Frederick then you you really have no clue what your talking about.Trump didnt even get a 100 days of grace afforded to every other modern President.

Jerry Owen

15th June 2020 at 10:58 pm

Denial of reality, not a great look.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.