Tensions among Democrats are about progressive ends, not violent means

Tensions among Democrats are about progressive ends, not violent means
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The Washington Post’s coverage of the insurrectionist violence in Portland, Ore., is classic. 

Reporters Marissa J. Lang and Kimberly Kindy acknowledge that those behind the violence, which has continued for months, are of the “far-left and anarchist” persuasion. But, though those individuals are engaged in “destructive tactics” and “vandalism,” and “burned an American flag” while confronting police (and some “threw large rocks” at federal officers, according to prosecutors), these insurrectionists cannot, of course, be described as “insurrectionists.” The media-Democratic complex reserves that designation for the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — and for Republican politicians who are said to have abetted them by supporting the former president’s effort to overturn the election. 

The lefties are not even to be labeled “rioters” — although, if you stick with the report long enough, you’ll eventually learn that prosecutors have alleged that at least four individuals “participated in a riot.” Militants of the hard-left are merely “crowds” of “demonstrators.”

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Close to the top, there is this not-to-be-missed paragraph: “Some activists are carrying their destructive tactics into a new administration to voice rejection of centrist ideologies they believe will do little to address existential worries over climate change, economic inequality, foreign wars and racism. The vandalizing of the Oregon Democratic Party headquarters by extreme-left demonstrators on Inauguration Day has split Portland liberals, and federal agents’ launching of tear gas at crowds that descended on the city’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters produced scenes reminiscent of similar summer standoffs ordered by President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE.”

Sorry, but there are no “centrist ideologies.” There is an American center, inhabited by the vast majority of our citizens who are not animated by political ideology. They focus on their families, their communities and their everyday lives — stability, tranquility and opportunity.  

The American center does not think “climate change, economic inequality, foreign wars and racism” are “existential worries.” In the lives of most people, they are not anything close to that. 

Climate change is a long-term challenge to be met mostly by technological advance, not authoritarian policy. Economic inequality is a leftwing obsession — most Americans are concerned about whether they’re doing well enough; they don’t begrudge the prosperity of others. We don’t have any foreign wars; we have a diminishing number of troops stationed overseas trying either to keep the peace or to prevent anti-American elements from using ungovernable territories as safe havens for attacks against our homeland and our interests. And there is less racism in the United States today than at any time in history — “systemic racism” is a political fiction peddled by grifters whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating the notion that it’s still 1950. 

In addressing tensions between insurrectionist and nonviolent post-American progressives, the Post inadvertently stumbles on the left’s real problem. “Portland is going to continue to be a microcosm of the political divides, especially among the left, that we’re seeing across the country,” the paper quotes James Osfink, a progressive activist, as opining. “The idea that middle-of-the-road Democrats can say with a straight face that we need to take things slowly or do things in a very deliberate way rubs a lot of people the wrong way.”

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The implication, obviously, is that “middle-of-the-road Democrats” actually agree with the direction in which the insurrectionist left wants to take the country. We are to believe their sole objection is to militancy, to the use of violence to speed up the works. But that is not true.

Take climate change, which apparently is to be the Biden administration’s cri de cœur. Unless you are a pinhead, it is very easy to grasp that centrists who identify as Democrats, or who are not affiliated with a party but vote for Democrats, may be concerned about climate but are deeply opposed to where the progressive activists and hard-left insurrectionists want to take the country under the guise of climate’s being an “existential crisis.”  

The distinction is not about pace. To be sure, centrist Democrats and independents have more confidence than conservatives like me do that government regulation can address climate challenges effectively. What they mainly want, though, are sensible policies that reduce emissions and promote public health over the long haul. They don’t want to shock the system. Even less do they want a post-American central authority, politically unaccountable to them, dictating policies that curtail their property rights and stifle their financial prospects.  

This is not just a disagreement about means. It is about ends — about the substance of the “change” that progressives forever invoke but studiously leave undefined and ambiguous. 

Washington Democrats, very much including President Biden, want the centrists — the rank-and-file Democrats and independents across the country — to believe they, too, are centrists. Yet, they want the insurrectionist left to believe their only quibble is with violent tactics, not with post-American progressive objectives.

Both things cannot be true. The future prospects of Republicans hinge on their capacity to explain that fact and to devise proposals that exploit it. Good politics, sure, but more importantly, it would be good for the country.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, a contributing editor at National Review, and a Fox News contributor. His latest book is “Ball of Collusion.” Follow him on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy.