Over the past several years, public discourse in the United States has seen a lot of new lows. It saw another one this month when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to federal officers in Portland, Oregon as “stormtroopers,” that is, Nazi Brownshirts.
In a tweet on July 18 and in subsequent remarks, Pelosi accused the federal forces deployed to Portland of “kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti.”
Pelosi’s allegations would cause a political earthquake—if they were true. But they aren’t true. And the fact that she slandered federal officers as Nazis is a deeply disturbing testament to where the Democratic Party—of which she is the senior elected official—stands today and what its intentions are.
For the past two months, the progressive city of Portland in the progressive state of Oregon, has been the scene of chaos and rioting. The liberal media have misleadingly characterized the riots as “peaceful demonstrations.”
Night after night, hundreds of “peaceful demonstrators” have vandalized and destroyed stores and other businesses, transforming downtown Portland into a war zone. Over the past five weeks, the focal point of the violence has been the federal courthouse.
“Peaceful protesters” from Antifa and other radical groups have been attacking the federal courthouse in Portland with incendiary devices including pipe bombs and commercial grade fireworks. Federal officers charged with guarding the courthouse have been blinded with lasers and attacked with stones, metal balls shot from slingshots, bricks and two-by-fours, among other things.
The rioters are backed in their efforts by city and state officials as well as national Democrats, who have castigated federal forces protecting the courthouse as “occupiers,” the “Gestapo” and of course, “stormtroopers.”
As for the alleged “kidnapping” of peaceful protesters, local journalist Andy Ngo explained this week that Pelosi’s statement channeled Antifa propaganda.
Ngo told Fox News, “That’s an Antifa talking point that is being repeated by sympathetic media.”
He explained that federal officers charged with protecting federal property are using plainclothes agents in unmarked vehicles to peacefully apprehend leaders of the violence. This is a routine, entirely legal tactic which Ngo explained is only being castigated now is because “it is quite effective.”
On the face of it, as Democratic politicians, Pelosi and her colleagues in Congress and Oregon should support the federal forces trying to end the riots. After all, like New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, Portland is a Democratic city. The businesses being destroyed are owned by their voters.
So why are Pelosi and her partisan colleagues and their media adjuncts instead depicting the rioters rendering downtown Portland a war zone as “peaceful protesters” and slandering the law enforcement officers defending federal property as Nazis?
The obvious answer is politics. The Democrats support the rioters because as they see things, the longer chaos reigns in the streets of America’s cities, the better their chances of defeating President Donald Trump in November.
The Democrats have a number of resources that the Republicans lack and the riots bring them all to bear.
They have fanatical progressive activists angry that Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee but willing to burn America.
They have wall-to-wall support from the media, from NBC to The New York Times to Facebook and Twitter.
The Democrats have limitless funds to maintain the violence and mayhem indefinitely. This week, Alexander Soros, George Soros’ son, announced that the family foundation has earmarked another quarter billion dollars to Black Lives Matter. And the Soroses are not alone.
The Trump-Russia collusion narrative largely disintegrated under the weight of evidence and the absurd impeachment process over the past several months. And with its decline the Democrats began casting about for a new cause.
They found it with the coronavirus pandemic. In one fell swoop, the virus from China swept away Trump’s fast-growing economy with record low unemployment across all ethnic and racial groups.
With schools abruptly closed and jobs abruptly lost, the optimistic America of 2019 became the destabilized, poor, frustrated and insecure America of 2020.
Yet, despite the best efforts of the commentators, support for Trump was not falling apart, at least not enough to ensure an electoral victory for Joe Biden. And Americans were beginning to figure out a way through, as the rising stock market indexes indicated.
But then came the riots. The proximate cause of the riots and protests was the police killing of George Floyd. But their context was the pandemic and the elections in November. The riots gave the Democrats a way to galvanize their radical progressive base (on the streets, in Congress and in the media) around their favorite issues—race and identity politics.
For the Democrats, the best part of the riots is that unlike the pandemic, for demonstrators and their media flacks, it is easy to make the case that Trump is to blame.
Trump’s in charge and America is burning. Trump’s to blame. Trump’s in charge and there is racism in America. Trump’s to blame.
If Trump quells the riots, he will be guilty of police brutality (with stormtroopers)—thus proving the point. If he fails to quell the riots, he is an ineffective boob. And so, with a bottomless pit of money, the riots will continue, at least so long as the Democrats feel they benefit from them and haven’t figured out something else to do.
The demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that have been going on for weeks outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, with satellite demonstrations in Tel Aviv, serve a similar function in Israel. Like their American counterparts, the Israeli demonstrations are massively and sympathetically covered by the media, and enthusiastically supported by politicians from leftist parties. Like their American counterparts, they are disruptive and incredibly loud.
The Israeli protesters aren’t as violent as their American peers, but their messages of hatred of Netanyahu are violent and there have been some violent incidents, which seem to be growing, over the past week or so. Certainly, the number of death threats against Netanyahu and his family published by leftists on social media has grown steeply over the past several weeks.
The protests in Israel serve the same purpose for their Israeli organizers as the American ones do for their organizers. The demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are being conducted to incite hatred of Netanyahu as the enemy of the people and to instill the sense that the country is spinning out of control.
Just as Pelosi and her colleagues demonize law enforcement officers trying to restore order and safety in places like Portland, Seattle and Chicago, the media and Netanyahu’s opponents in Knesset condemn the police for any effort to arrest demonstrators. If federal officers are “stormtroopers,” the police outside the Prime Minister’s Residence are the “personal protection force for the Netanyahu family.”
There are stark differences between the U.S. and Israeli left, which point less to the goals of the protests than to the threat they pose to the long-term stability of both societies. The main difference is the ideological nature of the two lefts.
The American left has an ideological/religious bent. Progressivism, the creed of the American left, is a hybrid of political rather than economic communism and totalitarian messianism. It is anti-American and anti-Semitic. And while its popularity has grown, it doesn’t enjoy the support of anything close to a majority of Americans.
In Israel, in contrast, the left is post-religious and ideologically bankrupt. Its two gods—peace and surrender—came crashing down 20 and 15 years ago, respectively. The failure of the Camp David peace summit in July 2000 and the start of the Palestinian terror war in September 2000 killed the religion of peace. The left’s “unilateral withdrawal” god was shattered when months after Israel expelled its citizens from Gaza and handed the area over to the PLO in August 2005, Hamas seized power and embarked on a war against Israel that has yet to end.
Although bereft of an ideological message to sell the public, the left in Israel has considerable power. Its control over Israel’s deep state—including the entire legal system—is far more comprehensive than the American left’s control over its state apparatuses.
The Israeli left controls most media organs, the universities and cultural institutions. It has limitless funding from foreign governments and private foundations in Europe and the United States.
And the Israeli left has demonstrators who are willing to cause mayhem to promote hatred of Netanyahu.
Like their American counterparts, the demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are happening in the context of the pandemic. The demonstrators have hitched a ride on the economic distress the pandemic has induced. They also benefit from the closure of the public sphere.
With the bars and nightclubs shut down—and all travel abroad blocked until further notice—young people looking for a way to get together have only one option. The anti-Netanyahu demonstrations are the only parties in the country.
No matter who wins in November, it’s hard to see how the situation in the United States will stabilize and how order will be restored. The rise of progressive politicians at the expense of moderate Democrats indicates the radicalization of the American left is not a flash in the pan. One electoral cycle won’t fix what has been broken incrementally over five decades.
In Israel, in the absence of an ideological left, the main and most tangible danger posed by the demonstrations is that one of the incited protesters will try to kill Netanyahu and his family. Threats to assassinate the prime minister and his wife and children have proliferated on social media as the massively and sympathetically covered protests have grown more incendiary.
But as far as Israeli society as a whole is concerned, so long as Netanyahu and his family remain safe, the protests are not likely to gain much traction. The public on both the right and the left are more moderate than they were 25 years ago. Netanyahu’s public resilience—despite the left’s 25-year campaign to destroy him—is proof of the limits of the left’s power.
There are many conservative commentators on the right side of America’s unbridgeable political divide that believe the U.S. public will respond at the ballot box to the violence in their streets by reelecting Trump. Author Victor Davis Hanson wrote this week about the coming “counter-revolution.”
In Israel’s case, elections, and counter-revolutions, while necessary to enact the reforms required to rein in the deep state and restore Israel’s democratic order, probably won’t be needed to end the demonstrations. How many people will choose to stand outside screaming once the pubs reopen?