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The Book of Saul

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The Book of Saul

Saturday’s marches demonstrate how the Left has become better at protesting than winning elections. January 23, 2017
Politics and law

Saturday’s Women’s March in Washington and cities around the country seems to have been a cathartic moment for the Left. Many in the media reveled in the “explosion of energy,” the “thundering roar,” and the “stinging rebuke” to President Donald Trump represented by this supposedly spontaneous “resistance” movement. Yet, come Monday morning, Trump was still president and Republicans still held both houses of Congress. And while some Democratic governors and mayors pledge to resist Trump, Republicans have enjoyed a remarkable string of victories at the state and local levels during the last eight years. The GOP holds 33 state legislatures (to just 16 for Democrats) and 33 governorships. If Saturday demonstrated anything, it’s that the Left has become better at organizing protests than winning elections.

It’s not accidental. The new Democratic Party—the one increasingly governed by identity politics and driven by special interests—has become so intoxicated by the nostrums of Saul Alinsky and his “Rules for Radicals” that it has forgotten how to operate in a democracy, where elections count more than revolutionary theater. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of elevating a charismatic former community organizer to the presidency. President Obama was a gifted campaign strategist and an appealing personality, but he convinced his party that the Alinsky model was a viable permanent approach to governing. True, it often worked for him, but success led him to use it as a crutch, even after he assumed the world’s most powerful office. “We’re going to speak truth to power,” presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett once said when asked about media bias against Obama’s policies. As political scientist Pete Peterson pointed out, however, “[Y]ou’re the White House. You are the power.”

Obama inspired a generation of like-minded Democrats to follow him into the protest-as-politics movement. Bill de Blasio has been an elected official in New York City for 15 years now, having served on the city council and as public advocate, and now as mayor. Yet, he attends protests as if he were a powerless outsider and occasionally “invites arrest,” according to the New York Times. In a city dominated by left-leaning Democrats, getting arrested on purpose is good politics. More recently, de Blasio participated in protests in front of Trump Tower, even as chaos reigned for many of the local businesses nearby.

The posturing is wearing thin, even among political allies. In a telling piece published last week in the Washington Post, Asra Nomani, a journalist and former instructor at Brandeis and Yale, described why she, a liberal feminist, refused to participate in Saturday’s marches. “The march really isn’t a ‘women’s march.’ It’s a march for women who are anti-Trump,” she wrote, detailing the many Democratic-backed groups and former Hillary Clinton donors who were funding the protests. Nomani, a Muslim woman and the author of “The Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques,” noted that the march had made white women feel unwelcome and “obfuscated the issues of Islamic extremism.”

The inconsistencies of Saturday’s protesters went well beyond Nomani’s observations. More than one critic wondered where the hundreds of thousands of protestors were when Bill Clinton’s personal behavior toward women was exposed as abusive and exploitative. Clinton may have been an SOB, but he was apparently the Left’s SOB. That makes the outrage over Trump sound hollow.

Of Alinsky’s 13 “rules,” the one that has undermined the credibility of Democrats the most is their single-minded pursuit of Number Five: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” It’s difficult to remember a Republican president or candidate whom Democrats haven’t tried to paint as either a warmonger or an imbecile. Comedian Bill Maher said it best when he admitted that the derision heaped on George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney finally backfired in this election. “They were honorable men who we disagreed with and we should have kept it that way,” Maher said. “So we cried wolf and that was wrong.” His point? Unlike the others, Trump really is a menace. His admission had little effect. A large portion of the electorate had already stopped listening.

From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matters to this weekend’s Women’s March, the Left launched a blizzard of noteworthy protest movements during the last eight years. At the same time, Democrats suffered unprecedented electoral carnage. The party is now in its weakest position nationally since the 1920s, leaving Republicans, whether in Congress or in state capitals, to act as the chief restraining influence on a president whose agenda and governing temperament still raise doubts among reasonable people. Maybe the Democrats are not so much beneficiaries of Alinsky’s wisdom as victims of it.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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