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

Urban unrest impacting more than an election

Getty Images

When incivility runs amok in any town or city in America, it impacts all of us, even when the turbulence is taking place thousands of miles away.

That’s why the unrest in urban America is emerging as the biggest swing issue in an election where the nation’s silent majority — publicly quieted by the “cancel culture” — grows more determined to stop the destruction that follows disorder.

As the embers smolder on yet another night of disturbing violence in Portland, Ore., it’s hard not to attribute this decimation to failed Democratic leadership in America’s major cities.

Drive today around parts of Baltimore or Seattle or San Francisco or Detroit and you’re confronted with despair, poverty, and the broken spirits that come from broken promises.

Democrats have ruled city hall in these four cities since the 1960s. In Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis you have to go back even further to spot a GOP mayor; in Atlanta, try the 1870s (Republican Nedom Angier, a doctor, teacher and gold rush prospector, served for all of two years).

Republicans are questioning whether Democrats would run the nation as they have the cities. It’s a legitimate gripe. Yet there’s a deeper and more frightening truth in play that Portland has revealed: Can any of this be stopped — by anyone — short of marshalled troops and martial law?

Consider Portland’s Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler, the scion of a wealthy Oregon lumber family, whose life story includes not only a climb up the political ladder but one up Mount Everest as well.

Known for fiscal moderation (balanced budgets, public investment success) and social activism (pro-choice, gun control, judicial and police reform), Wheeler went from being Portland progressives’ love child to being pitchforked by the mob as the poster child for all that’s wrong.

In short order, he was denied a request for help from the National Guard (Democrat Governor Kate Brown shamed him for even asking)!

His prediction that the violence had run its course proved patently naïve and premature.

When Wheeler joined arms with the inciters in front of a federal courthouse under siege, his attempt at solidarity resulted in him being tear-gassed, cussed out, and rustled out. The scene was captured on smartphones by demonstrators smart enough to know how to use it for effect.

His biggest offense? When the mob tried to set a police precinct on fire with people trapped inside, Wheeler called it “attempted murder.”

Then the mob called on him, at home, screaming threats that he better resign, or else.

The “or else” is a suddenly ascendant opponent in the 2020 Portland mayor’s race, Sarah Iannarone, who says the Portland protests are justified. Iannarone, riding the rage and rancor of the streets, openly supports the antifa movement that favors “direct action” over policy reform. If she beats Ted Wheeler in the sprint to November, it’ll be a long winter of discontent in a city awash with it.

Here are the takeaways.

For Portland, rated one of the least diverse major cities in America, this is not about the real tragedy of George Floyd, or racial inequality, but about fomenting a revolution of radical change in the way the city – and all who live there – operates.

For the rest of America’s cities, large and small (cue Kenosha), there’s an even bigger choice ahead: Elect mayors who are long on rage and short on remedies, or opt for skilled leaders who can deliver basic services, keep job creators in business, and maintain the peace.

Mayor Wheeler tried to have it both ways. Now he finds himself hurtling down a one-way street to irrelevance if not dismissal.

All of this is impacting the presidential race, which — in part — has become a showdown between appeasing chaos and restoring order.

The harrowers on the left want this to be a referendum on a pandemic, a party and a president; instead, as violent unrest continues unabated, the head is giving way to the soul, where emotion and instinct dwell.

No wonder Joe Biden is trying to mitigate the political damage he fears from Portland and Seattle, St. Louis and Kenosha. Joe knows voting is emotional, that we use our minds to justify our feelings.

An increasing majority aren’t feeling good about what they’re seeing in these Democratic strongholds and what they’re hearing from those compelled to defend it.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist and columnist. He is a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington D.C. He is also the first Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3

Tags 2020 election Anti-fascists antifa coronavirus pandemic Donald Trump Joe Biden Kate Brown Law and order Oregon Portland Portland protests silent majority ted wheeler urban unrest violent protests

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video