Liberal protesters must raise the bar if they expect to have any impact
© Getty

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon last week, the Heritage Foundation was mobbed by more than 200 liberal protestors.

They stormed our lobby, chanting and banging on bucket drums, and gathered outside, holding signs and a bullhorn. They were well-organized, with facilitators in orange vests directing people where to stand, and a media team, allegedly prepared to talk to any press (though, notably, they refused to talk to our own Daily Signal).

ADVERTISEMENT

What were they protesting? It soon became clear that many of them didn’t actually know – they’d been bussed in, told they were going to “an undisclosed location.” 

 

A few of them said it was our Blueprint for Balance – our annual budget proposal – and its perceived influence over the Trump administration. (To underscore this point, one protester held a creepy looking Trump puppet.) But for most of them? It was just another paying gig. Show up, yell a lot for principles they didn’t seem to understand or care about, and then, as the philosopher king Jay-Z put it, on to the next one.

Just a few days before protestors swarmed the Heritage lobby, thousands turned out in D.C. for the Science March – allegedly, a show of support for capital-S Science. It was a concept that the marchers left largely undefined, but which we were all supposed to understand was a vague entity deserving of our unquestioning fealty, delivered en masse.

The protestors tossed around displays of their nerdiness (What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!) but had very little to offer in the way of specifics – or, I assume, any understanding of the fact that science itself, in many cases, leaps forward because of people being wrong, disagreeing, and overturning one another’s seemingly unquestionable premises. (Case in point, peer review does not a sacred principle make.)

That both these events happened within days of one another is merely coincidental, but makes one giant point about the state of the American left, the #resist movement, and the anti-Trump acolytes: All are populated by people who don’t care a whit about intelligent debate and thoughtful analysis. Rather than think, they just reflexively yell a lot at people they think oppose them.

On Tuesday, many of the protestors held signs demanding clean water in Flint, MI. (I don’t know that any of them were actually from Flint.) Somehow, it was the fault of the Heritage Foundation, and President Trump, that the residents of Flint do not yet have clean water.

Oh, really?

A thinking person would have understood these basic facts. First, the crisis in Flint occurred in 2014 – three years before Trump took office, and plenty of time for President Obama to at least begin to address the situation and hold people accountable. He didn’t. 

Second, much of the evidence has shown that the Flint crisis was allowed to occur because of negligent behavior on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. Not the Heritage Foundation. Or the Trump White House. 

Writing in Slate last week, Dr. Jeremy Samuel Faust took issue with a similar mentality among the Science marchers. Specifically, he called out the dangers inherent in the unquestioned devotion to what the physicist Richard Feynmann called “cargo cult science” – the idea that because It’s Science! it needs no further scrutiny, and we must all very publicly, and very smugly, celebrate it. 

This isn’t intellectual rigor. It’s not elevated thought. And it’s certainly not the genesis for a new “woke” political movement – or at least one that will have any impact beyond making America dumber.

What may have started out as a legitimate means of protesting for specific principles has evolved into a nebulous movement characterized only for its purpose-less virtue signaling. Being “woke” is now synonymous with, as Faust put it, “engag[ing] in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it.”

The irony here is not lost on Trump supporters, who are daily under assault by liberals for lowering the level of debate, making a mockery of our politics, and generally being portrayed as “dumb America.”

As Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan noted recently, in their now-ritualistic protesting, the left is “aping what they profess to hate. They excoriated [Trump] for lowering the bar. Now look at them. And they’re doing it because they have nothing else – not a plan, not a program, not a philosophy that can be uttered.”

If the left has any desire to make a meaningful impact in the Trump years, they need to meet ideas with ideas – not shapeless protesting for its own sake. Otherwise it’s going to be a very long – and very loud – four years. 

Rachel Bovard (@Rachel_Bovard) is the director of policy services for The Heritage Foundation (@Heritage), and a former policy director for the Senate Steering Committee.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.