In a recent podcast, the question was posed, “How could the Capitol protests happen?” It is a moving question, indeed, particularly when one considers, as I do, the Capitol building to be a sacred shrine to the principles of self-governance. (I will not say democracy, as many do, because democracy was a form of government the Founders deliberately sought to avoid. I wrote repeatedly about democracy versus representative republicanism in my election-year blog: www.publiusspeaks.org.)
Upon deeper reflection, I came to a realization. I believe the question posed in that podcast was the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking, “How could the Capitol protests not have happened?”
For a year or two leading up to President Trump’s election and for the nearly four years of his presidency, anyone who supported him and anyone who identifies as a Republican (even if Mr. Trump wasn’t their preferred candidate) has been labeled as xenophobic, racist and worse.
Even as the socioeconomic conditions of historically marginalized and oppressed people improved under the Trump administration and a conservative Congress (https://www.publiusspeaks.org/2020_08_16_archive.html), those in power on the Left (hereinafter referred to as the Left) and the media continued to contend that conservatives do not care. Instead of praising actual progress toward long-sought, shared prosperity, insults and slanders continued to be hurled toward the Right and particularly toward President Trump and anyone who dared to support him.
Adding to the injury, the insults and slanders were coming from those who make their political careers on bemoaning inequality and inequity, but who do nothing to effect any meaningful change — whose results, in fact, have been the worsening of conditions for the marginalized and the oppressed.
Because the Left’s narrative was threatened, the nation saw the mobilization of activists, purportedly promoting equality for African-Americans under the auspices of “Black Lives Matter.” With the aid of the media, the narrative was designed to say all conservatives are White, and all Whites are out to take advantage of all Blacks. They further pushed the idea that any Black who challenges this narrative is an “Uncle Tom,” and that any White who supports this narrative has rightly acknowledged his or her collective guilt in marginalization and oppression and has become “woke.”
With the power and resources of career politicians and of the media, the narrative was, and continues to be, overwhelming. If a person is told often enough he or she is good, that will become their governing belief. If a person is told often enough he or she is bad, that will become their governing belief. And so it goes that if a person is told often enough he or she is hated and oppressed, that will become their governing belief. The narrative of the Left is entirely predicated on the wicked and deeply held belief that people are fundamentally different because of the color of their skin, their gender, or any other superficial characteristic that meets their need. They even go as far to imply superiority and inferiority based on these characteristics.
What is it that causes the people to push this narrative? Power! Without the persistent and perverse issue of race-based polarization (and other forms of polarization), the Left would have no issues on which to run. I submit that the same is true for any establishment politician, including those on the Right. Absent issues based on polarization, there would be no need for a massive bureaucracy, controlling every aspect of our lives. Power is that irresistible force against which individual liberty and freedom have become eroded.
It is little wonder that the protests of the summer occurred. People, weary of the narrative, gave way to it. Despite record levels of increasing employment and decreasing unemployment, greater opportunity to choose high-performing schools, and an overall improvement in the standard of living, the Left still wanted to use and abuse the issues of race, gender, etc. In other words, words mattered more than actions and results. If one bought into this narrative, who could blame him or her for protesting?
Such is the power of the political and media establishments.
Turn now to the protest at the Capitol. For more than four years, supporters of President Trump, those who identify as Republicans and those, generally, who are conservative have been painted as hateful bigots, collectively responsible for the plight of the marginalized and oppressed. Despite the facts — the record of accomplishment in creating a more just society, as demonstrated, in part, by the employment, educational and living standards mentioned above — non-progressives, which is to say non-Democrats, which is to say conservatives, continue to be cast as villains in the tragedy that is played out daily on our national stage.
How long can people continue to be treated thusly before they protest? The narrative becomes an irresistible force for them, too. A person or a people will take unfounded abuse only so long. At some point, a reaction will be provoked.
It has been said that there is no moral equivalence between the protests of the summer and those at the Capitol. With this assertion, I would agree.
The protests of the summer took place in a manner that occupied, damaged and destroyed the neighborhoods and business districts of private citizens. Damage and destruction was wrought against all people, even against the homes and businesses of Black citizens. This type of action is precisely what our social contract is designed to guard against, which is to say a key role and responsibility of government is to protect one citizen against the aggression of another. Shockingly, the summer protests and the chaos thereto attendant were supported and heralded by politicians of the Left. They knew it to be a movement that would reinforce the narrative and, consequently, their power.
While awash in evidence to support this conclusion, one need only follow the money. Go to the “Black Lives Matters” website. Click on the “Donate” button. You may be surprised at where it takes you — not to any site dedicated to improving the lives and circumstances of Black people or even to the promotion of equality among all people, but to a fundraising site for Democrats (www.actblue.com), the very party that has been for decades replete with empty rhetoric but without substantive action.
The protests at the Capitol, as tragic as they were inevitable, were citizens directly protesting against the government. It is important to note that our social contract, specifically the First Amendment, was designed to protect the People’s right to direct protest of the government. While the means employed to achieve this end were not those which I would have chosen, they do have legitimacy in principle.
It must be noted that the loss of even one life to social, religious or political protest is one too many. Violence must never be an option. Tragically, it has been a tactic employed by both sides. This is undeniable, so let us be spared any fabricated indignation.
The bottom line, I believe, is that until we can see through the narrative of lies, which is designed to reinforce the power of the political establishment at the expense of individual sovereignty, the specter of inequality and inequity will haunt us and ultimately destroy us.
Flawed means have the effect of tarnishing the ends to be achieved. Both sets of protests are guilty of this sin. Because it is essential for a free people to engage in political speech and, yes, even political protest, let both sides — the Left and Right — learn from the summer and the Capitol. Let those on both sides employ greater civility. Finally, let each of us examine in earnest the narrative put to us by the establishment political class, putrid with corruption, and by the media, that decrepit Fourth Estate, and let us reject being used as pawns in their treacherous game.
Under what circumstances, if any, are violent protests justified, and why?
Your humble and obedient servant,