Thus do the forces of change undercut themselves again.
It's isn't real; there will be no Uprising; in days or weeks it will all calm back down again and we will be stuck with the same problems and the same sordid politics we had last month and last year and last decade. And in the ordinary course of American politics, one thing you can count on is that voters hate riots.
It was riots, as much as anything else, that brought an end to the great wave of Civil Rights progress in the early 1960s:
The battle over civil rights did accelerate the regional realignment of the parties; racial backlash did help the G.O.P. make gains in the once-Democratic South. But what ultimately doomed the old liberal majority wasn’t just support for civil rights; that was on the ballot in 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the heart of the old Confederacy but Lyndon Johnson won everywhere else. Rather, liberalism unraveled amid the subsequent nationwide wave of crime, unrest and disorder, which liberal mandarins and liberal machine politicians alike were unable to successfully manage or contain.If you're a conspiracy theorist you probably think that this is all plotted by the Illuminati. The powers that be get worried about progress for poor folks or black folks and send some agents provocateurs out dressed as cops to beat up or shoot unarmed people until a protest starts, then get the police to harass the protesters and block their marches until what started peacefully descends into violence. Then, presto, they can then pose as defenders of order and civilization. Hell, there might even be something to this. From what I've seen it really looks like some cops are trying to provoke a battle.
The riots of the ’60s, from Watts to Washington, D.C., were only part of this story; the wider surge of murder, battery and theft probably mattered as much to realignment. But there is a striking pattern of evidence, teased out in the research of the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow, showing how peaceful civil rights protests helped Democrats win white votes, and then violence pushed white voters toward Republicans.
Looking at data from the civil rights era, Wasow argues that “proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines” — enough to tip the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Nixon. More broadly, in news coverage and public opinion from those years, nonviolent protests (especially in the face of segregationist violence) increased support for civil rights, while violent protests tipped public opinion away from the protesters, and toward a stronger desire for what Nixon called law and order, and Wasow calls “social control.”
The thing is, it works, reliably. Trump's approval rating is up three points in a week. If he were as clever and ruthless as Nixon, he could ride this all the way to re-election.
Every brick thrown at police and every fire set is a vote to keep conservatives in power forever.
It isn't that I don't understand why people riot; I understand it perfectly. But it is still a disaster for the cause of a liberal world. It doesn't matter what the police did; peaceful protesters should still not fight back. Nothing helped the passage of the Civil Rights Act more than television footage of southern cops brutally attacking people who refused to offer them violence in return. King was right. Gandhi was right. Violence is the tool of oppressors, and more violence always begets more oppression.
At the hard edge they want to "heighten the contradictions." The communists and the fascists love riots. They want everyone to believe that ordinary democratic politics can never make things better, that violence is the only real choice.
But in America there is another choice: the slow boring of the hard boards of democracy.