In no presidential election since 1860 has the fear of post-election violence been so palpable. Indeed, the politically inspired violence that has plagued many of our cities in recent months marks the beginning of a new and dangerous chapter in American history: the possible dissolution of the rule of law.
The plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is among the more outrageous episodes. In cities like Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Kenosha, Louisville, and Washington, DC, threats or recourse to violence were commonplace.
This situation is untenable. In a healthy democratic system, citizens must choose public affairs and elections that are free from intimidation and coercion. This is no longer the case in America, where representative democracy is now in trouble.
The descriptions of the turn to the use of violence in democratic systems – which is unfortunately nothing new – range from the outbreak of a “mobocratic spirit” to the emergence of “militia politics”. In one of his earliest public addresses, Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Young Men Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois in response to the sudden surge in violence in Missouri and parts of the south. He spoke of people who gathered to “burn churches, devastate and rob grocery stores, throw printing machines into rivers … and hang and burn obnoxious people at will and with impunity.”
After more than 230 years of success under the same constitution, few Americans lean toward authoritarian government, either right or left.
The spread of mob action in the 1830s, reminiscent of what is happening today, was a spontaneous spasm that arose out of anger, boredom, and the opportunity to pillage and pillage. The resulting chaos, Lincoln went on, could feed itself, gain momentum, and spiral out of control until the public became disconnected from political order. The result, he warned, is that “the government cannot last”.
The “militia policy” is reminiscent of a more conscious type of activity, in which groups are formed with a clearer chain of command and firmer tactics. Historical accounts of the militias’ role in the collapse of political regimes sometimes assign more structure to these groups than they actually had in their early moments when things were in flux between mobs and full organizations.
Two notorious cases in Europe after World War I illustrate the rise of militia politics.
In Italy, the constitutional monarchy was largely unloved. Starting in 1919, disgruntled former soldiers gathered in various groups, with those from the right perpetrating street violence against socialists and groups from the left. Strikes and riots against the cost of living broke out across Italy. Mobs attacked banks and public buildings. Eventually the right came together under Benito Mussolini, a disaffected socialist. These fascist “black shirts” carried out a massive march on Rome in 1922, which resulted in Il Duce taking full control of the government in 1925. Mussolini later boasted that his revolution “restricted useless or harmful freedoms while preserving the freedoms that are essential.”
In Russia, before the Marxist revolution in October 1917, Vladimir Lenin had no power base. Even after the fall of the tsarist regime, there was no mass support for a “proletarian revolution” in the dwindling hours of the republic. But Lenin knew how to mobilize peasants, factory workers, ex-soldiers and other groups who were dissatisfied with terror. “We will ask the man, where do you stand on the question of the revolution? Are you for or against If he’s against it, we’ll put him against a wall. “He wasted no time in building up his own security force, the Cheka, to engage in” counter-revolution and sabotage “. A vicious civil war raged until 1923 when Lenin’s Red Army triumphed.
After more than 230 years of success under the same constitution, few Americans lean toward authoritarian government, either right or left. But in today’s climate with mayors and governors approving or joining the mobs and militias, and with so many citizens leaving cities to find safer havens in the suburbs or more orderly states, it is not too early to worry close.
Corporate America, sports moguls, advertisers – all seem to be focused on their immediate welfare while ignoring the social decay outside their closed communities. In an upscale version of fumbling while America is on fire, they step down to blackmail and hope that a change in national leadership will bring them a return to normal.
Mainstream media have also taken an approach to promoting the interests of their preferred political party. Instead of reporting on the disruption that was occurring in cities like Portland and Seattle, they decided to deliberately censor reality.
Incredibly, the greatest loss of property in civil unrest in the last century, the widespread destruction of local businesses, and the injuries and deaths of citizens have all been swept under the rug. Only in cases where a murder is believed to be the work of a right-wing activist, or where it is alleged that federal action initiated by President Trump was the cause of the disturbance, or where a white nationalist group is charged with a conspiracy the governor, the events are given serious attention.
For the most part, however, it is no secret that most of the recent violence in the cities has come from mobs linked to left-wing militias who are in some way linked to antifa activists and Black Lives Matter. It is perhaps to be expected that liberal political leaders in an election year will not recognize this fact, but instead, in Michelle Obama’s words, emphasize the “predominantly peaceful movement for racist solidarity.” This observation may be reassuring, but it does not prevent the extent of the actual violence that has occurred.
Nor is it denied that the disorder groups have often interfered in the larger demonstrations, using them to provide cover and, to be honest, some degree of political at least to some extent To get support.
In the Cleveland presidential debate, Joe Biden continued the same general strategy, insisting that Antifa – a self-proclaimed anti-fascist movement employing tactics that most Americans see as fascist – be viewed as an “idea” rather than an “organization” should . “This claim should allay fears of real danger for this group. Attorney General William Barr has taken the opposite view: “I have spoken to every police chief in every city where there has been serious violence and they have all identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence.”
Rule of Law or Mob Rule?
However, the main objective in investigating mobs and militias is not to decide which political disposition is most responsible for causing violence. According to the guesswork of analysts in the field, key players in America have moved from side to side over the years, as the actions of right-wing groups in Charlottesville in 2017 might show. The most important lesson to consider is beyond partiality. The US Constitution approved the establishment of the National Guard and State Defense Forces, which are committed to upholding the rule of law. The actions of these militia groups, on the other hand, represent the negation of the law.
Tragically, we have moved beyond symbolic conflicts on campus to real fighting on the streets.
Indeed, an increase in militia activity, whether left or right, along with growing belief that such activities are inevitable, weakens public confidence in the government and its ability to suppress disorder. If not resolutely opposed by legitimate political authority, it opens the door to the disintegration of public order, as events in Europe in the 1920s demonstrated.
The publicly known incident in Portland in late August, which involved partisans on both sides – in which U.S. marshals shot and killed a refugee who allegedly murdered a Trump supporter during a protest – was a distraction in the larger scheme of things. What was missing was what was most important in defending the government.
The more the militias on the right and left are embroiled in open fighting with one another, the better the chances that one of them and not the legitimate government will win. The activities of the militia groups on one side tend to promote the activities of the militia groups on the other side.
Nothing illustrates the loss of legitimate governance better than what has been openly exhibited in Portland and Seattle. The rash politicians in both cities, with the support of their governors, withdrew to use the government’s power to defend law and order, sold their police stations and caused the “retirement” of their police chiefs. They preferred to get political support from those who favored the militia forces on the left.
From the militia perspective, it has become clear that maintaining their own following can best be achieved by continuing the fight and using or threatening to use force. They gained local influence by showing that they were responsible for many roads and that they had as much or more control over parts of the city as the police. They could force local officials to de-finance the police and “reimagine” the local law enforcement system that was once considered a crime. They have intimidated and, in some cases, humiliated the politicians and shown the impact they have had on large parts of the local population.
In short, beneath the surface, the militia, not the government, ran the show.
The activities of the left militias are often linked to the left forces in universities and with those in intellectual circles who exercise the sanction of the so-called culture of annulment. Undoubtedly, in many cases, this connection is direct, given that some of the people working in the immediate political arena are themselves former or current students. Cancellation of speeches and events on university campuses by “hostile” intellectuals, sometimes through threats or the use of coercion, also included the participation of people associated with militias.
And yet, as important as it is for those who oppose these actions on campus to oppose them, it would be a mistake to believe that fighting left-wing militias by defending a speaker or protecting the right to one University event takes place materially affected.
Tragically, we have moved beyond symbolic conflicts on campus to real fighting on the streets. New forces were unleashed, much like Italy and Russia a century ago. What will the results of these presidential elections be? Will we reap the whirlwind from growing disdain for the rule of law? We should carefully ponder Lincoln’s Lyceum address, delivered in another time of violence and lawlessness: “Every man should remember that breaking the law tramples his father’s blood and the charter of his own liberty and freedom who has to tear his children apart. ”