A new era of protests by the Left: recruiting voters for Trump

Summary: America’s Left has suffered large defeats in US elections, but began a new era of public protests. Occupy Wall Street, Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and others. Have they found the path back to political power, or have they turned onto a dead end road? Four more years of this and a Trump win in 2020 will provide the answer.


The New Left at work: blocking traffic as a protest tactic

Protesters Chain Themselves to Upper Level of George Washington Bridge,
Blocking Traffic”, 16 October 2016.

The Left has found a new way to alienate millions. Not quite on the scale of idiocy as the 1960’s tactics of blowing up buildings and encouraging inner city people to burn down their neighborhoods — but still an impressively counter-productive way to recruit voters for Trump. The WaPo gives a typically one-sided look at the latest tactic of the Left, “Why highways have become the center of civil rights protest“.

“‘When people disrupt highways and streets, yes, it is about disrupting business as usual,’ said Charlene Carruthers, an activist in Chicago and the national director of Black Youth Project 100. ‘It’s also about giving a visual that folks are willing to put their bodies on the line to create the kind of world we want to live in.’

“…Researchers at the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University, in a forthcoming study, counted more than 1,400 protests in nearly 300 U.S. and international cities related to the Black Lives Matter movement from November 2014 through May 2015. Half or more of the protests in that time in Saint Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., wound up shutting down transportation infrastructure. ‘We systematically show that the political protest today is now almost totally focused on transportation systems, whether it’s a road, a bridge, in some cases a tunnel — rather than buildings,’ said Mitchell Moss, the director of the center and one of the authors of the study.

“what’s different today may be the occupation of urban interstates for the purpose of bringing them to a standstill. Protesters in Selma, Moss argues, wanted to use the Edmund Pettus Bridge — on their way to Montgomery — not block it.”

Some sane voices on the Left have spoken out against this madness. Such as Wes Messamore at the Independent Voters Project: “Let’s All Agree On This: Stop Blocking Traffic for Protests!“.

“There’s a lot that American voters may be divided over, but there’s one issue that hopefully we can all get together on and embrace a nonpartisan, obvious, and sane position. Demonstrators who have been blocking traffic on streets and highways as part of your protests: please stop! Stop the madness now.

…Even when traffic obstruction doesn’t have dangerous or deadly results, it is so aimlessly destructive of people’s time and interests, so incredibly inconsiderate of other people who might even be on the same side of a political issue as the protesters. The road is not an appropriate place to protest elections and policies. People don’t drive on roads for a political purpose. When most of these protests happened, most of the people on the road were just trying to get home and be with their loved ones.

What’s happening with protests?

I wonder if American’s have lost their tolerance for mobs chanting in the street. Rather than gaining public support for an issue, protests might alienate the public. See the ease with which the government gained support for the brutal crackdowns on the Occupy camps. I don’t know why this has happened. The Left’s widespread speech suppression on US colleges — restricting conservatives’ freedom to protest, even speak (one of countless examples here) — makes their own use of mass protests look hypocritical.

Our increased tolerance for government surveillance might indicate a growing loss of support for basic civil liberties. The war on drugs has massively eroded civil liberties. The war on terror began a second stage of erosion, as tools developed for overseas use — or for use against domestic terrorists — become “normalized” and routinely used. For example, the Patriot Act allowed Federal agents to burglarize homes — quietly break in and steal whatever they believe might be evidence. They call these black bag operations “sneak and peaks“.

The next phase of mass protests: not just suppression, but prohibition

Expect to see more of these, as reported by the Detroit News.

“Republicans in the Michigan House voted late Wednesday to make it easier for courts to shut down ‘mass picketing’ demonstrations and fine protesters who block entrances to businesses, private residences or roadways. Under the legislation, which Democrats decried as unconstitutional prior to the 57-50 vote, individuals who return to a disruptive demonstration already blocked by a court could face fines of up to $1,000 a day. Unions or other organizing groups could be fined up to $10,000 each day.

“Michigan law already prohibits certain forms of mass picketing, but sponsoring Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, said a spate of recent incidents make it apparent that ‘the current penalties are not sufficient to deter already-illegal activity.’”

Protest in Iran’s 2009 “green revolution“. They failed.

2009 protest in Iran's Green revolution,

The future of protests

Protests probably still have a role in building mass movements, if done with skill and discipline. That means forsaking the trendy leaderless style — and cosplay. Or perhaps protests no longer work, replaced by sophisticated modern marketing methods and social media.

What about the recent protests?

The protests at police killings — in Ferguson, by Black Lives Matter, have had little visible political effect. Ditto for the Occupy protests. Large resources concentrated on a small area can have a useful effect — as at Standing Rick. But I doubt this will have any substantial effect on either public opinion or US policy. If so, it will have burned scarce resources on the Left for little gain. The Right has already developed an effective response: privatizing Indian land.

A small example of the Left’s bizarre thinking

See this advice from the Left about how to use babies as props in your protests still & keep them safe! Next, a look at the Left’s use of tactic that alienates millions of people, fast and easy.

Even Little Kids Are Protesting Trump”  by Maria Luisa Tucker at AlterNet.

“Here’s How to Keep Them Safe on the Frontlines.
Activist moms explain how to protest with your babies in tow.”

No, the babies are not “protesting Trump”. The article opens with a moment of good sense, and then goes bonkers.

“Martha, a Brooklyn mom and activist, wants to take her 16-month-old daughter to the Women’s March on Washington on January 21 , but her husband doesn’t like the idea. ‘He worries that my daughter could get hurt in some way: tear gas, overcrowding, etc. and that we could never forgive ourselves if something unexpected happened,’ she says. ‘I understand his point, and honestly, it makes me feel like a bad mom for wanting to go.’

…”It’s also a teaching opportunity for parents and their kids. Sarah DiGregorio, a Brooklyn cookbook author, will be bringing her 2-year-old daughter to the D.C. march. “I want to instill in her the idea that it’s important to speak up and organize, that she shouldn’t shrink from those things.”

Good luck teaching her two-year old daughter about the importance of protesting!

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about protests, about ways to reform America’s politics, and especially these…

Posts about OWS and the Tea Party: Why OWS was another futile peasants’ protest.  Lessons from the failure of OWS, and its lasting legacy.  OWS & the Tea Party are alike, both trying to save America through cosplay.  How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?

The protesters at Ferguson might have won, but chose to lose.  The protests in NYC repeat those in Ferguson, and probably will end the same – as wins for the 1%.

About the mechanics of protests

10 thoughts on “A new era of protests by the Left: recruiting voters for Trump”

  1. This is a useful article, FM. The local protestors thought it would be good to run a march down a major road during rush hour traffic during the Ferguson protests. In short, it was dramatic, but stupid. They briefly made the top of the news cycle and permanently angered thousands of drivers towards their cause. Especially the drivers whose vehicles were damaged by some overly enthusiastic protestors.

    I am in some sympathy with their cause but trapping thousands of people who just wanted to go home after a busy day is not going to win them friends or positively influence people towards their cause. I will admit that I don’t know the best ways for them to win friends and donations but I can now safely write off one protest method as not helpful. Yet the leaders of the march described it as a big success and said they plan to use the same tactic in the future. WTF?

    1. Pluto,

      That’s a useful comment, as usual. I dashed this off late last night. Building on your insight, I added a section at the start about blocking traffic as the Left’s new signature move — and moved the opening about baby protests to the end.


  2. Interesting Link from National Review.
    Babies at a Protest March? Adolescent madness. Bonkers as you say. These are not serious people are they?
    Civil Disobedience has a long and essential history in Civil Society. Clearly we have lost the historical connections and perspective recently to understand how essential it can be. And how it will always be opposed by the status quo…..by definition.
    Leaderless? Serious flaw. And what we see is a lack of rational presentation of the Problems. That is not just crazy but self defeating.
    Perhaps as you say it has been replaced by Social Media. And that is simply more atomization in a deeply connected society and world. Can that be good or promising?


  3. Thank you for an insightful article.

    As a commuter who crosses the Canada – U.S. border daily, I have encountered a number of protests that have used that location. I have observed two type of protests and this was my emotional reaction or response.

    When I encountered protesters that picketed at the side of the road without obstructing traffic, I was genuinely interested in reading their signs and I admired their commitment to sending a message. When I encountered protesters that blocked the entrance and added hours to my commute home to my family, I felt only anger and resentment. I felt I was being punished for some issue that I had nothing to do with. I took no interest in their cause, rather, I was angered enough to want to actively appose them.

  4. “The Left has found a new way to alienate millions.”

    It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
    Such things are about making them feel righteous. Actually getting the job done is secondary.

    1. marcelloi,

      “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

      That’s an intriguing idea. Blowing up buildings, burning down the inner cities, protests about violent felons getting shot by police, blocking traffic of millions of people — it’s an entire movement dedicated to alienating the public. It’s the political equivalent of suicide.

  5. Definitely count me among those that believes that, to be effective, civil disobedience should be carefully targeted and be accompanied by specific demands, or at least some realistic strategy of how one wants things to play out (maybe you want unrealistic demands so as to trigger a crackdown that will generate further sympathy, etc., but there should be some sort of gameplan, a strategy that has been thought through beforehand). This is very hard to do with the leaderless, open-source resistance that is so in vogue right now. While ideologically it sounds neat, in practice it’s much less effective. Under the current paradigm (pure speculation here, since I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of internal discussion) people just seem to adopt the first tactic that comes to mind. E.g. since we’re already protesting on a road, let’s march over to the highway and block it –the thing that requires the least amount of crowd organization to accomplish. When pressed, lists of demands sound like they are improvised on the spot.

    Leaderless resistance is useful when the cost of having leaders (as imposed by arrests & assasinations by security forces) outweighs the copious benefits of doing so. In the U.S, while there has been some repression of protest and activist leaders through the legal system such costs are miniscule compared to other environments. Certainly they do not justify a shift to a leaderless model at this stage. Frankly I think this anti-strategy is simply the result of laziness, of not putting in the long, tedious hours of organization-building required to have effectively-led protest movements. Too much instant gratification to be had elsewhere. Instead it’s social media “slacktivism” that generates associations that are a mile broad and an inch deep. File this with the “Bowling Alone” idea of the general loss of “social capital” and civil society to which Left activist groups seem no more immune than the rest.

    While direct action has its place in the toolkit, I agree that it often hurts more than it helps, and today’s activists seem to be completely ignorant of that (or not care because their participation is more a narcissistic exercise in personal branding on social media than anything else). Also, something seems to have changed in more recent left protest movements. In protests of the early 2000s, protesters were very careful to prevent violence & vandalism. While the Black Bloc folks would usually sneak off and break a few windows, violence against non-police was quite rare (and toward police was usually limited to throwing water bottles). Lately with the anti-Trump protests over the summer like San Jose, and a lot of the BLM protests we’re getting more disturbing reports of violence against bystanders, widespread looting, etc. You’ve reported. That is guaranteed to lose you the moral high ground and if you’re not trying to claim the moral high ground why the hell are you protesting!?! Is this ignorance on the part of leaders, or lack of organizational discipline? Don’t know but as you and others have pointed out it’s so wildly self-defeating it’s incredible.

  6. Very well expressed. The left has evolved far beyond its original foundations and defining concepts. The left once meant something profound about the balance beam of justice on a social scale.

    These days it is easy to see behind the puppets on the streets to the string-pullers who stand to profit. Marchers become cannon fodder for high end traders and power brokers. Pity the young children who get caught up in the madness.

    1. Alfin,

      Nicely said. Perhaps this is why Clinton’s lucrative speeches to Goldman had such a negative impact. That’s what we expect from Republicans (except for the deluded Tea Party people, protesting bankers while electing their servants) — but it might have been seen as betrayal by many Democrats.

      The election does, in a limited sense, show some degree of futility to the election. We choose between two candidates backed by the defense industry and Wall Street. There were profound differences between the candidate and their policies, but not as many as we’d like to have.

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