Monday, January 23, 2017

Congratulations to Our Side on a Job Well Done

Congratulations to our side for a job well done.  Let's face it.  Our side has a problem.  Every time we hold a demonstration, it keeps getting infiltrated with bad elements who want to riot and smash things -- or worse.  This has happened with anti-globalization protests; it happened with Occupy Wall Street; it has happened with Black Lives Matter marches; it has happened with immigrant activists protesting against Trump; it happened in the anti-Trump protests that followed the election; and it happened with Inauguration Day protests.  Very pointless it is to argue that the rioters make up a tiny fringe  minority of the protesters.  When rioters go smashing windows, setting fires, and beating police and rivals, the peaceful protesters will go unnoticed and the rioters will be the public face of the movement.  And when rioters become the public face of the movement, would-be supporters turn away and support for a crackdown grows.

But this time our side did it.  We held massive demonstrations all across the country the met peacefully and managed to be a bit vulgar, but not hateful.  And, unlike Occupy Wall Street and the Bernie Sanders campaign, which remained overwhelmingly white, the latest protests drew people of all kinds.  So what lessons can we learn from this success?  One might be that really large-scale protests can overwhelm the trouble makers with sheer numbers.  But we can't count on sustaining crowds of this side, so what else would I suggest?

Get a permit and follow it.  Come on, folks, when the Tea Party marched, they got a permit and followed its limitations, and they were highly effective.  Is it so much to ask our side to do the same? Why do you insist on blocking major traffic arterials?  Hot news flash: needlessly snarling up traffic just makes people resent you.  I hear as a defense that you have to get people's attention somehow.  To which I answer, marching on the sidewalks and meeting in parks gets people's attention just fine. The same goes for illegally camping out in public places.  Guys, that is not going to be tolerated indefinitely.  Get a permit and stick to the reasonable conditions it sets.  Rule of law and all that good stuff.

Be feminine.  Donald Trump is basically an attack of testosterone poisoning.  So are the rioters.
Pussy hats
The last thing we need is to counter one fit of testosterone poisoning with another.  Is it too much to assume that rioters and anarchists aren't attracted to events that call themselves "women's marches," and call on the participants to dress in pink and wear "pussy hats"?  Yes, granted, plenty of men participated, too,  That is fine.  We don't mind men in our marches.  We just want to keep out the kind of men who like smashing things and beating people.  A strongly feminine vibe should discourage them and, if it doesn't, maybe it can at least clearly dissociate the trouble makers from peaceful marchers. Incidentally, I would encourage immigrant rights activists and Black Lives Matter people to do the same thing.  Granted, most black victims of police brutality are male, but black men killed or wounded by police have wives, sisters, girlfriends, mothers, etc.  Encourage black women's events to protest police abuse of their men.  Try senior events also, with younger people welcome, but, again, elderly-themed events will presumably discourage the sort of young men who are out for trouble.

Humor and eccentricity are fine, if not overdone.   Rioting is a deadly serious activity.  Being a bit light and fluffy and silly can also discourage it, or at least dissociate from it.  But for the love of Mike, don't become a freak show like Occupy Wall Street.
An occasional man leading his llamas down the street in the middle of a protest is kind of cute and gets an innocent and amusing sort of attention.  A sustained freak show turns people off and mostly serves to prove that you are not normal, relatable people.  John Oliver did a charming piece on why freak shows are worse than useless.  If a man dressed up as a Viking explains why banks need to be be better regulated, it makes no difference how reasonable his words may be.  No one will hear a word he has to say; all they will see is a man dressed as a Viking.  Also, no flag burning, no masks, no general anti-Americanism.

Organize.  Outrage alone cannot sustain a movement.  Only organization can create something with real staying power and political clout.  That was the difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.  The Tea Party got organized; Occupy Wall Street treated any sort of organization as a violation of basic principle.  The result: the Tea Party took over the Republicans and much of the country; Occupy Wall Street fizzled out.

Move beyond the streets.  Once again, large scale street demonstrations are a good start, but the passion is not sustainable.  The people most likely to keep showing up are the trouble makers.  We need to move beyond marching and protesting and start doing other things.  Organize voter registration drives, calls to one's Congressmen, showing up at meetins, letter writing campaigns.  Yes, be so old-fashioned as to write a letter with paper and ink.  The more personal and individually crafted the letter, the greater an impression it will make.  Start up candidate campaigns.  And don't just rely on government, start building non-governmental organizations to fill in the gap Republicans are leaving in services.  These are less glamorous than marches and protests, less dramatic, and less grass roots feeling, but they are where real power lies and things get done.  And they are a whole lot harder for the rioters to infiltrate and start smashing.

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