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March 13, 2016


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This resembles a milder cycle of protests and occasional violence than we saw during the late 1960s. Some of the violence then was also tied to political figures. The Democratic Convention in 68 with Daley. The Reagan response to protesters in Berkeley. The Wallace campaign in 68 (and the assassination attempt in 72).
The events in Baltimore and Ferguson make it appear the cycle of protests and violence was already starting before the election. Trump rallies just make inviting targets for protesters and dangerous ones given the audience at such rallies. Absent Trump I have no doubt frustration and anger would boil over somewhere else eventually.

Consider Trump's rhetoric. Or the actions of his campaign staff. Or that no other GOP campaign has been marked by continual violent incidents. I have no idea where you get the idea that "Absent Trump I have no doubt frustration and anger would boil over somewhere else eventually."

Other GOP campaigns are receiving less publicity. Why would protester seek them out in large numbers? Rubio and Kasich have had some protests but they have smaller events with fewer draws for protesters seeking publicity.

Political violence has been on the upswing prior to Trump. Why would I view him as more than an agitant in an already potentially violent environment. In 2012 the National Immigrant Youth Alliance occupied the Obama campaign’s Denver office for six days. In 2014/2015 riots occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore. I believe all these events occurred prior to Trump. Absent Trump why wouldn't the frustration and anger boil over with some other agitant. Whether an incident with police that incites riots, a campus protest or a political stunt gone wrong, I think violence is inevitable. Trump is just goading those most agitated on the left and the right to act on their frustrations now instead of later.

That's ... strange.

Let me get this right. You're saying: Trump is behaving irresponsibly by encouraging people to "act on their frustrations," only he's not really responsible, because violence was going to happen anyway at some point at some other place for some other reason. Which you know because Ferguson and 1968, even though the level of violence in 2016 is much less than in 1968, so we shouldn't worry. Plus, Governor Reagan.

Huh? Sorry, still not tracking.

My point is that some low level of political violence is likely given our social environment (social media organizing lowers the threshold for group action and increases the rewards) but the conditions are just not there for violence to escalate very far. The demographic situation that fed political violence in the 60s isn't there anymore.

The fear and focus on Trump seems overblown to me. He can provide a good setting for people looking for trouble to find it but not many people are looking for trouble anymore.

I'm not wringing my pearls yet, but I'm a little concerned. If this is how things look in March, where will we be this summer?

Doug M.

Many liberals were not that dismayed by Trump
This is one of those things where I know people who were saying this online, but in real life, everyone I know is either horrified and frightened by Trump, or they love and support him.

Dave, you're still not clear. If few people are looking for trouble today, but trouble is breaking out at Trump rallies, then it would seem that Trump is the cause.

Apologies, but you seem to be making the point for me. So I'm more confused than before.

There are rebuttals to the argument that you don't seem to making. After all, as you say, background tensions are remarkably low. The civil disturbances in Ferguson and Baltimore were small by recent standards. The Black Lives Matter movement is entirely nonviolent. The demonstrations at Trump rallies are entirely within the modern American norm. (Consider 2004 and 2008 or what regularly happens at Ted Cruz campaign events.) It would be remarkably contrary to fact to claim that Trump appeared during a particularly febrile moment for anyone other than Trump supporters.

Luckily, you're not arguing the above. Although you do sometimes seem to be implying the above before immediately walking it back.

Unluckily, I can't tell what you're arguing, except that you want us to stop worrying about the implications of Trump's incitement of violence on the way he would govern. You also seem to be arguing that the demonstrators are at fault for demonstrating peacefully at Trump rallies, but I'm fairly certain that's not your intention.

P.S. For the effect of social media, you can find my opinion here. It would take a lot of serious social science to show that social media matters.

Trump rallies bring together people who are unlikely to otherwise ever interact. The protesters and the supporters may as well be fully distinct social classes. I think particularly disruptive or obscene protests are not well advised at a Trump rally no matter how peaceful. In this I think protesters have every right to not be harmed no matter how obscene or disruptive they become. I think for some of them creating a violent response is a desired outcome and they are at a setting where that is more achievable.

You pick up on my sense that this is not totally created by Trump. In my part of the country the broad outlines of his message are so popular (he personally is limiting appeal) that I have a sense that candidates somewhat like him are going to be a recurring feature. He is not so much conjuring a phenomenon as appealing to a large ignored constituency with showmanship. He isn't popularizing or legitimizing views or attitudes here. He is simply reflecting them. That is why I'm a bit nonplussed about him. I assume the view is a bit more troubling elsewhere, where views like Trump's are not often openly promoted.

I don't find a Trump presidency to be plausible but even with one, I doubt the darker predictions. His own constituency will turn on him most viciously when he fails to meet their economic demands.

Dave, you should rethink this: "I think for some of them creating a violent response is a desired outcome and they are at a setting where that is more achievable."

It's generally bad form to throw out something so provocative without any evidence.

Let me go further, Dave. There are people who worry that Trump will provoke opponents into wanting violence:



But that is a worry for the future.

One usually needs something better than routine obscene gestures before arguing that the current protestors have been trying to get themselves pushed, shoved, and sucker-punched.

Think hard about why similar "provocations" at Ted Cruz rallies don't end in violence.

I doubt the protester that rushed the stage in Dayton was not expecting a violent response. Why would it be so provocative to suggest some peaceful protesters view a violent response as not entirely negative?

Do you think Trump rallies don't also attract the WTO type protesters? Those types have certainly been open about getting a response as the goal.



If you believe that elections are about policies and platforms, then a priori violence at rallies is a distraction and a diminishment of the election process. It's hard to understand how a candidate's condoning someone being beaten up is in any way an endorsement of an anti-NAFTA policy.

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