Sam Seitz

I have become increasing fed up with the hypocrisy emanating from the far left. For, as they denounce Trump’s threats to incite riots if he doesn’t receive the Republican nomination, they conveniently ignore the political radicalism that they too have endorsed. It’s not that I am defending Trump. I am strongly opposed to rioting and the destruction of people’s property, and I condemn the violence that Trump knowingly incites. However, my commitment to civil discourse and peaceful disagreement is a nonpartisan one. I was equally appalled and saddened by the Baltimore riots because I thought they were misguided, counterproductive, and self-centered. Sadly, people on the far left seem to pick and choose when riots are acceptable. This is, quite obviously, absurd. The danger of people like Trump is that they will undermine the norms of civility that our country and our political system are based around. I’m horrified by his rhetoric not simply because I disagree with him (I’m a strong proponent of freedom of speech, after all) but because I’m afraid it undermines the political fabric of our country. If political disagreements are a trigger for violence, the great American experiment will fail. But this also applies to groups I agree with ideologically. In other words, one can’t pick and chose when to stand up against violence and mob rule. It cannot be a partisan thing.

I’m reminded of the French Revolution when I see leftists recoiling in horror at the madness that is Trump. During the early days of the Revolution, French liberals broadly supported the radical and often violent overthrow of the French regime. Yet, as the Reign of Terror began, many started to question the revolutionary environment they had helped to foster. As Adam Elkus puts it, “history suggests that the likes of Vox writers are the ones who tend to end up panicking and crying out for order and decency to be restored when they end up on the receiving end of political violence.” Only recently, Vox wrote of the politically redemptive nature of riots. They lauded the Baltimore riots as an unfortunate but necessary tactic to ensure that their ideological viewpoint was ascendant. Now, when the roles are reversed, and the dreaded populist right-wingers are threatening violence, it has become suddenly unacceptable to utilize violence as a means to achieve political ends.

As Elkus points out, American history is riddled with examples of political violence and extremism. The civility and norms of social conduct that our political system rests on are constantly threatened by demagogues and violent protest movements. One needs only to look at Kent State or the bloody repression of civil rights protestors to understand how easily partisan divides and grievances can end lives. By using partisan disagreements as an excuse for violence, we become no better than the Brownshirts or the Blackshirts. In sum, one cannot simply shift the rules of the game to fit partisan agendas. We are a country built on laws, but, more importantly, we are a country built on norms. Those norms are being increasingly tested now, and this shift away from civil, democratic principles portends greater instability in the future. I am very clearly a Democrat, but I consider myself a moderate who abhors hypocrisy. So, just as I have urged moderate Republicans to do, I want to publicly call out the more extremists wings of the Democratic Party for their complicity in creating the current political environment. It is an environment of strife, anger, and violence, and it is an environment that risks the stability of our democracy. I don’t think outlets like Vox are solely or even primarily responsible for Trump’s rise, but I think they must recognize that they have contributed to the cultural zeitgeist that is currently eroding our democracy.