Nicholas Harrington

All opposed: The hypocrisy of those who fight Trump

Trump

Approx Reading Time-11Those who violently protest Donald Trump are merely strengthening his message, and weakening what they protect: democracy

 


This is not an article debating the merits of the Trump protests that are taking shape and blossoming across America. It is not an article in defence of Trump either. I merely want to unpack the protest tactics being used, and denounce them as the height of hypocrisy, as counterproductive, and above all, as something that should engender serious resentment in anyone who values the principles of democracy.

On Friday March 11, 2016 up to 3,000 protesters converged on the Trump rally that was due to be held at the University of Illinois in Chicago. 2,500 protesters gathered around the venue with signs, chanting and voicing their disapproval at everything the Don stands for. No one should have been surprised. Only two weeks earlier, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro had a talk, to which he was invited, shutdown by the activist student body at California State University. It’s becoming quite clear that universities in America are not public spaces and that fee-paying students feel well within their rights to prevent other fee-paying students from listening to opposing views. This climate of university censorship was foremost in the mind of Corey Lewandowski (Trump’s campaign manager) when he booked the auditorium at the most liberal campus in Illinois; in the most liberal city in America. 55 percent of enrollment is non-white. The Trump campaign new exactly what it was doing. It wanted to show America what the first amendment means to liberal activists in the twenty-first century. That’s exactly what happened. While most protesters stayed outside the venue, 500 made their way in and shut the rally down. It was all a trap set by Trump.

On Saturday March 19, protesters in Arizona parked their cars across a busy highway en-route to a Trump rally, blocking traffic for miles. Hundreds of motorists who had nothing to do with the rally were inconvenienced while dozens of Trump supporters walked the six kilometres from the roadblock to the venue.

You might think this is awesome. “Woo-hoo, protesters!”, “You showed that chump, Trump!”

I’m sorry; I disagree. I think this is a total disaster.

Firstly, the protesters don’t understand what these tactics are actually doing. You can tell they have no idea because Trump invites, encourages and relishes these kinds of actions. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was told not to send the police to the highway too quickly. Let it built up a bit…let it get bad. If the protesters understood that the person they are acting against benefits from and enjoys what they do, maybe they’d think twice.

Secondly, the protesters don’t realise they are destroying the very thing they are fighting for: democracy.

Trump protesters believe they are highlighting the fascism, authoritarianism, xenophobia and racism of Donald Trump. They think they can contain the spread of his vile message by preventing people from seeing him. They believe that when Americans see the violence, riots and chaos for which Trump is the catalyst, people will stop supporting him. I admit, I thought that at first too. I was wrong; they are wrong, and if you still think this – you’re wrong too.

Illinois had an election four days after the protests in Chicago and I thought, “there’s no way people will vote for the guy that caused so much mayhem in their city.” Wrong! Trump beat all the polls with his margin of victory in Illinois.

Illinois sanctioned, approved and rewarded Trump for his confrontation with the protesters. The voters conducted a mini-referendum and voted down the protester’s proposition. Not because of what they were saying – because of how they said it.

This is the crux of it: you can’t fight for democracy by destroying the fundamental principle upon which democracy is built. You don’t defend liberalism by attacking free speech. You don’t silence a demagogue by burning down the stage. You don’t protect society from fascism using Gestapo tactics.

What liberal activists seem not to understand is that a liberal democracy is not a totalitarian state of liberal democratic views. Liberty isn’t the freedom to hold only non-reductive views. Freedom isn’t the liberty to silence those who would take away your freedoms.

Liberal democracy has its foundations in the plurality of opinion; the right of all to express themselves politically, and the right of the majority to determine legislation on behalf of the minority. If the opinion of the majority doesn’t suit you, that’s too bad – that’s what you signed up for.

In our system of government, you have recourse to either change the opinion of the majority or petition your concerns to those in power. It is no part of any democracy that a person’s opinion can be unilaterally extinguished from the public square. If you take that position, you are worse that the evil you oppose. In addition to being sick with fascist tendencies, you are struck with a heavy dose of hypocrisy. At least Trump is a bald-faced fascist. Fascists I can handle: you can work with them. Racists I can handle: you can soften them. Bullies I can handle: you can frighten them. Hypocrites I can’t handle: their slipperiness makes it impossible. Like a bag of oily snakes, you’ll never grasp them. They’ll slither up your leg and sink their fangs into your nether regions.

The only legitimate form of protest comes at the ballot box. If you can’t beat Trump there because more people are going to vote for him than your guy – you’re in the minority now. You’ll get your turn in four years when this daemon proves what you were protesting about.

But…if after four years the people still want him – then you have no cause then, and even less cause now, to forcibly silence the majority. Every citizen has a democratic right to hear, to listen and to vote according to their reason.

No one gets to decide the legitimate political discourse for other people in society – you just don’t.

 

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  • Nicholas Harrington

    Thanks for the nice feedback Rainer.

    The fact that you have fire in your belly and want to do everything you can to stop a political candidate that you believe would destroy your country is not only your right, it is your obligation.

    It is not the ‘end’ to which i object – only the ‘means’ you might employ. That’s where I think the distinction between hypocrisy and civic action lies.

    You should start a political action group, flood the media with your message, go door to door and spread your message, protest out the front of the opposition rallies, encourage everyone one you know to vote along with you, write letters to the editor, make films, documentaries and music exposing and denouncing the opposition, arrange a mass sit-in at a public area, get business on your side etc, etc.. These are all legitimate forms of political action and the democratic process.

    But making a judgment call that you should forcibly silence the opposition by preventing their right to free speech does not support your endeavor. Firstly it might actually assist the opposition (which in the case of Trump it is), and second you are guilty of exactly the action that you say you are afraid of.. so what makes them any worse than you now?

    No one has a monopoly over the truth, nor can anyone be sure what a candidate will or will not do during their term. Regardless of whether you are right, or you are wrong, if you win an election by suppressing the voice of your political opposition, you have fundamentally changed your society. Its not a democracy anymore, and suppression/censorship becomes the new means by which political control is secured and achieved. I don’t think anyone would endorse such a transformation.

    Democracy is a tricky thing, there are risks involved, its precious, and hard to maintain – but there are certain solemn truths that once breached can never be recovered – free speech and plurality of opinion (as much as it may offend you) are two such eternal truths…

    But again if you don’t accept what I am saying, then maybe democracy isn’t the prefer political arrangement – and that’s fine too. No one says you have to live in or under a democracy. But if you do, then there are certain aspects that need to be respected to preserve its form and content.

  • Rainer the cabbie

    Great article, well written and your point is taken. Can’t fight fire with fire. Let’s all become Gandhi and sit down for a while.
    Actually, the rage against fascism inside of me says bullshit, let’s give them heaps and try to prevent another Hitler coming to this world, doing things via democracy. The people voted, endorsed and believed in Hitler after all, pity about the millions dead and chaos caused when he finally finished.
    So you reckon I’m a hypocrite for trying to stop this runaway train. Fair enough, it looks like that and does provide fuel to his campaign. But if I’m going down, I prefer to do that screaming as opposed to just sit there and pretend its all in the name of democracy.
    Four years with a madman having his finger on the button is a very long time.

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