Andrew Sullivan on violent protests and the election

I’m not sure whether access to Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish is still free, but you can try by clicking on the screenshot below (I have a paid subscription, which I think is money well spent). It’s only $50 per year, and if it’s not free I can use only very short quotes, which I will start doing. Today, however, I’ll quote Sullivan at some length, though not excessively.

Sulilivan’s thesis is one that I’ve broached before: violent protests racking many cities, and the apparent reluctance of leading Democrats (including Biden) to criticize them publicly, is a “trap” that could play into the hands of Trump.  Now perhaps you’ll contest the claim that the Democrats are reluctant to criticize violent protests, but my impression is that these “crickets” are a real thing. Sure, Biden has lamely criticized them once, but not often, and the denunciation of violence was not even a feature of the Democratic convention.  Well, you can say, that denunciation would have been a downer, but then the same lack of response has been characteristic of the major Left-wing media, including the Washington Post and the New York Times. The reason, of course, is that to emphasize the violence might look as if you’re criticizing black people, even though a lot of the violence was committed by whites. Indeed, some columnists at these venues have seemed to endorse, or at least excuse, violent protests.

In contrast, Trump and the Republicans constantly mention the violence. They know exactly what effect this emphasis has, for most Americans, white, black, Hispanic, or other, don’t like disorder and destruction, don’t think that protestors have the right to destroy property, loot, and set fires, and, most of all, don’t want the threat of violence against their property.  Emphasizing the dangers of violence, and the failure of Democrats to both call it out or do anything about it, gives the Republicans a “law and order” advantage in troubled times. (To be sure, reaction by Democratic mayors has been mixed. In Portland the city administration is totally lame on the nightly threats. In contrast, in Chicago our gay black mayor, Lori Lightfoot, a staunch antiracist if ever there was one, has condemned violence in no uncertain terms and said that if you’re caught engaging in it, or looting, you’ll go to jail.)

My own view, for the gazillionth time, is that violence by protestors is never justified in demonstrations for a political cause, no matter what the cause. That’s for two reasons. First, if you’re trying to move people by moral suasion, you hurt your cause by looting, rioting, and setting fires. This isn’t just speculation: there’s evidence from both U.S. election results and international surveys showing that violence is much less effective than peaceful protest in affecting elections or overthrowing dictators.

Sullivan agrees with me on this issue (in fact, I suspect he left New York Magazine because they wouldn’t publish his weekly column when he discussed violent protests). He doesn’t mince words, and I’ll give a few quotes from his latest piece:

In the current chaos, I’ve come to appreciate Marcus Aurelius’s maxim that “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” And I have to say I’m horribly conflicted on some issues. I’m supportive of attempts to interrogate the sins of the past, in particular the gruesome legacy of slavery and segregation, and their persistent impact on the present. And in that sense, I’m a supporter of the motives of the good folks involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. But I’m equally repelled by the insistent attempt by BLM and its ideological founders to malign and dismiss the huge progress we’ve made, to re-describe the American experiment in freedom as one utterly defined by racism, and to call the most tolerant country on the planet, with unprecedented demographic diversity, a form of “white supremacy”. I’m tired of hearing Kamala Harris say, as she did yesterday: “The reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human.” This is what Trump has long defended as “truthful hyperbole” — which is a euphemism for a lie.

But here’s one thing I have absolutely no conflict about. Rioting and lawlessness is evil. And any civil authority that permits, condones or dismisses violence, looting and mayhem in the streets disqualifies itself from any legitimacy. This comes first. If one party supports everything I believe in but doesn’t believe in maintaining law and order all the time and everywhere, I’ll back a party that does. In that sense, I’m a one-issue voter, because without order, there is no room for any other issue. Disorder always and everywhere begets more disorder; the minute the authorities appear to permit such violence, it is destined to grow. And if liberals do not defend order, fascists will.

. . . The pattern is textbook, if you learn anything from history: an economic crisis resulting in mass unemployment; the pent-up psychological disorders a long period of lockdown can and will unleash; a failure of nerve on the part of liberals to defend the values and institutions of liberal democracy, and of conservatives to keep their own ranks free of raw demagogues and bigots. But critically: a growing sense of disorder and violence and rioting as simply the background noise; and a sense that authorities do not have the strength or the stomach to restore order. What most people want in that kind of nerve-wracking instability is a figure who will come in and stamp it out. In Trump, we have someone who would happily trample any liberal democratic norm to do it. And the left seems to be all but begging him to do it — if only to prove them right.

. . . But Biden, let’s face it, is weak and a party man to his core, and has surrendered to the far left at almost every single turn — from abortion to immigration to race. You’d be a fool I think, to believe he could resist their fanaticism in office, or that if he does, he won’t be toast in a struggle to succeed him. He remains the only choice in this election. But on the central question of civil order, he blew it last week and so did the Dems. Biden needs a gesture of real Sister Souljah clarity to put daylight between him and the violent left. He has indeed condemned the riots, with caveats. But at some point, the caveats have to go. And the sooner the better.

I am afraid that the Democratic party will be taken over by “progressives” who are unwilling to compromise, hate Israel, don’t care much about violence if it’s committed in the right cause, and so on, though progressives have some reasonable stands, too, like fighting for universal healthcare. (But that’s also the view of mainstream liberal Democrats.) It’s just too easy to surrender to the extremists, as have the major liberal media and many university administrations, rather than be called a bigot or racist.

As for Sullivan’s fears, and mine, that downplaying or ignoring violence will help Trump, well, I hope we’re wrong. The latest FiveThirtyEight polls do show that Biden’s maintaining roughly a ten-point lead, which is heartening. And this still holds after the Republican Convention. But it’s early days yet. . .

Here are the data:




  1. Historian
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Sullivan says that “if law and order are what this election is about, they will lose it.” Here we have an utterance from another bloviating pundit, whose only evidence for this utterance is a few anecdotes. This is not to say that Sullivan may not turn out to be correct, although why candidates win or lose close elections is always subject to debate. There is still no consensus of why the 2016 election turned out as it did. Certainly, the images of rioting and looting will not help Biden, but to what extent it will hurt him and whether they most cost him the election is unknown. Biden would undoubtedly be helped by establishment African-Americans to forthrightly condemn the violence. It is a mistake that they do not so. But, whether it is a fatal mistake for Biden remains to be seen.

    Sullivan goes on to say: “A long time ago, I was mocked for saying that I believed that the election of Donald Trump was an extinction-level event for liberal democracy. But this is where we are. There is no place for liberal debate or dissent, just competing mobs deploying propaganda, intimidation and mutual racial hatred. Norms are trashed, from the shameful cooptation of national monuments for partisan purposes, to violating the privacy and peace of ordinary citizens because they are not in the ranks of agitators. Liberals are now illiberal; conservatives are revolutionaries.”

    Here we have a classic case of false equivalence, reflecting Sullivan’s inherent conservatism. Would Sullivan really have us believe that rioters in the streets, as opposed to legitimate and peaceful protesters, are somehow an equal threat to democracy as the Trump cult, which he admits that exists? In real numbers, the rioters that destroy private property are small in size and have no ideological agenda, despite the right wing trolls trying to dupe moderates and liberals into believing that their real goal is to impose socialism, which the trolls would have us believe is one short step from communism. No, there is only one threat to liberal democracy. It is the Trump cult and its takeover of the Republican Party.

    • Historian
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      By the way, if one wants to get a much more analytical understand of what is going on in society and politics then nobody can beat Tom Edsall of the NYT. Week after week, his columns consist NOT of revealing to the world his gut feels, but rather summarize what leading academic researchers have to say through their scholarly papers and their email exchanges with him. For example, his latest column deals with Trump’s threat to democracy. One of his conclusions is that “the most important issue driving Trump’s ascendance, however, has not been the economy but race.”

      If people want to think that Sullivan is some fount of wisdom that is their right. To me, his is just one of a thousand pundits that assert opinions, nothing more. If they are wrong, which is often the case, they move quickly on to their next opinion and, as usual, state it with absolute certainty.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        I wanted to read the article, but behind a paywall…

        • Simon Hayward
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          Use a “private” window – in Safari or Firefox- or equivalent in another browser. Should open fine.

          • sugould
            Posted August 31, 2020 at 12:35 am | Permalink

            Thank you for that tip! I was out of my allotted “free issues,” too.

          • sugould
            Posted August 31, 2020 at 12:35 am | Permalink

            Thank you for that tip! I was out of my allotted “free issues,” too.

            • sugould
              Posted August 31, 2020 at 12:35 am | Permalink

              NO idea why that cloned itself. O well.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          Or you could get a subscription, cheapskate. 🙂

          The NYT has a special introductory rate of four bucks a month for a year. You can find that between your couch cushions. I did. 🙂

          • Mark R.
            Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

            Fair point. I have too many subs at this point to even keep up w/ the reading. Jerry’s so damn prolific, who has time for newspapers?

      • wetherjeff
        Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        I usually agree with Sullivan’s columns, at least in general. However, the more I read his work, the more I see his religion poking up all over the place. Yes rioting is bad, it’s unjustifiable and inexcusable but ‘evil’? This sort of thing, and much more, makes me feel that religion plays a bigger role in his politics and societal outlook than he admits. His writing is excellent and I think that goes some way to making his ideas sound more reasonable than if they came from someone else. I’m finding it harder to accept his arguments when many of his views are obviously based on a ridiculous delusion, and on the dogma of a church that continues to do so much harm. How can anyone support a church which faciltated Nazi war criminals in reaching their safe havens in South America? I might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater here, but I find it hard to see past this sort of thing.
        Switching subjects, I don’t know how widely travelled he is, but labelling the USA as the world’s most tolerant country is ridiculous. The most diverse possibly, but tolerant? Definitely not.

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      The Republican definition of socialism is, “Anything which displays a shred of concern for another person.”

      And, where does anyone get off talking about “law and order” who ignores subpoenas, violates the Hatch act, and ignores court orders?

      The problem is partially that media show small acts of violence because they get hits and clicks. Trump and his cabal can hide it when they yank kids out of their parents’ arms at the border and throw them into cages, so even though it’s still happening, despite court orders to stop, there’s no coverage.


      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        The Trump defenders would just claim that they are just resisting the false efforts of the Dems and their Deep State. It’s all pretty easy to justify in their minds. Even if one doesn’t buy into the conspiracy, it’s all just palace intrigue that requires a constitutional law degree to untangle. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this kind of criminality doesn’t affect the guy on the street like what’s happening as part of the protests.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        When Republicans in general — and Donald Trump in particular — rail about “law and order,” it’s strictly street crime they’ve got in mind. They’ve no interest in going after white-collar criminals; doing so would thin the herd of their donor class.

        Hell, anybody here remember “Casino Jack” Abramoff and “Kenny Boy” Lay of Enron fame? Or the K-Street revolving door meant to ensure Karl Rove’s dream of a hundred-year Republican Reich?

        It’s the same old swamp Trump risibly promised to drain. He’s just filled it with his own gators and snakes.

    • Patrick
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      > There is still no consensus of why the 2016 election turned out as it did.

      One reason for the lack of consensus is that many Democrats don’t really understand one of the major reasons why Trump won: A lot of people absolutely despise and distrust Hillary Clinton. I have a number of friends outside of the east and west coast bubbles who get this viscerally. Aside from Bernie Sanders, it is hard to imagine anyone worse the Democrats could have picked. Trump was the worst possible candidate the Republicans could have chosen (and there are lot of frankly depressing reasons for his populism being as powerful as it was), but the Democrats managed to find someone who generated an even more powerful antipathy.

      Biden seems to understand the need to appeal to more than just committed Democrats and he has the advantage that people now know just how unsuited Trump is to the office. Many other Democrats I speak with still don’t understand why Clinton lost, though, and it is going to cost them support until they internalize the fact that there are good people in the U.S. with different priorities and different views on how to achieve the goals nearly everyone agrees on.

      Sure, there are many other contributing factors to the 2016 result, but the primary one is how many people intensely dislike Hillary Clinton.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Trump was the worst possible candidate the Republicans could have chosen (and there are lot of frankly depressing reasons for his populism being as powerful as it was), but the Democrats managed to find someone who generated an even more powerful antipathy.

        Close, but no cigar: Hillary Clinton was the second least popular candidate ever to run as a major-party US presidential candidate, right after the first most unpopular, Donald Trump — whom (as you may recall) she defeated by nearly 3 million ballots in the popular vote.

        As for there “still [being] no consensus of why the 2016 election turned out as it did” — there’s a consensus in at least one very practical sense: Donald Trump got more electoral votes, 46 of them that put him over the top spread across three rust-belt states he won by a combined total of fewer than 78,000 votes (of about 14 million cast in those states).

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I read the article because it was free, however I wouldn’t pay for it. Sullivan seems more concerned about the far left or providing advice to Biden than anything else. At times he seems closer to jumping on the Trump train but mostly he is in fear of the left and wants someone to do something about it. Maybe instead of advice for Biden he should run for office.

    • wetherjeff
      Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      I just commented further up regarding my problems with Sullivan’s religiosity. For completeness I was going to add another comment along the lines of yours here. There is no need – you have just artculated my thoughts more succinctly than I could. I agree 100%.

  3. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    The Chabad Jewish Center of the University of Delaware was set on fire last week. In response, Joe Biden summoned the ferocity to say this was “deeply disturbing”. Delaware officials dismissed the notion that anti-semitism might possibly be involved, because other buildings were set on fire too.

    Speaking of which, Chabad centers in two Boston suburbs were set ablaze in the spring of 2019. And a Chabad center in Portland suffered a mysterious fire, of unknown origin, just recently. Apparently, Chabad locations are subject to mysterious outbreaks of fire. Perhaps this syndrome is similar to the health problem suffered by Russian dissidents, a mysterious susceptibility to coma and organ failure after drinking tea.

    • Historian
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Do you have a point here?

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Clearly the point is that Biden has only produced weak responses to violent protests. He must be afraid of losing the far Left. I think he would have to do a lot to lose them and should do more to condemn the violence. He’s more at risk of losing the centrists that don’t like Trump than the far Left.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Left-wing Antisemitism usually takes the form of marching in support of feckless boycotts.

      Right-wing Antisemitism more often takes the form of using an AR-15 to shoot up a schul.

  4. KD33
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Well, I strongly disagree with Sullivan’s view of Biden. But do agree that the protest violence is not being commented upon enough by Dems. Note: commented upon. They are not in power and cannot actually do anything about it. That’s the perversity of the situation: this is happening under Trump et al’s watch. When they did send in the armed forces it was a disaster for them. My main issue is Black Lives Matter is little more than a slogan so far. Where is the leadership from activists on this point: denouncing violence, getting out the vote (there is some effort there), pushing for independent oversight of police depts., involvement in local politics.
    As for Sullivan, I find him definitely worth reading, but batting more like .500, not 1.000. I am satisfied reading PCC’s synopses.

    • Patrick
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Most of the cities experiencing the worst violence are run by Democrats. They most certainly could do something about it.

      I disagree with Sullivan in that I don’t think this is enough to swing the race to Trump, but it is going to make it a closer race than it should be.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Sullivan’s view of Biden that he’s a weak party guy, I don’t buy. I think he has the makings of a social change president. We shall see.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        “Weak party guy” seems a bit, well, strong. But Biden seems more of a political animal than Obama. With Obama, it was easier to see what he stood for. Biden’s opinions seem more triangulated in the Bill Clinton manner. Right now, we might hope for someone more inspiring but, on the other hand, perhaps someone like Biden is what we need right now as he will smooth things over in ways that will make all sides happier. I see Sullivan’s piece as suggesting Biden adjust his triangulation a bit when it comes to the violence issue.

  5. Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Just FYI, I got the article via email for free. I suspect they will notify me just before they start requiring payment.

    This was one of the best things by Sullivan I’ve read, perhaps because of its urgent message that I hope the Dems listen to. In fact, there have been many such calls in the last week so there’s no way that Biden isn’t aware of this trap.

    So far Biden’s response has been weak. AFAIK, he’s only stated that violence is unacceptable and counter-productive. I would like to see him go further and call out BLM leaders, and anyone else, who have hinted that looting is ok. I would also like him to pointedly acknowledge that much progress against racism has been made. He can add that there’s much more work to do, of course. It would be particularly good to hear this from Harris too.

    • Historian
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Biden’s response will remain tepid until establishment African-American leaders condemn the looting. He cannot risk alienating them. As I stated in comment #1, it is a mistake for these leaders not to do so. But, how big a mistake it is, remains to be seen.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        I understand Biden’s fear but I think he’s making a big mistake if he can’t figure out how to navigate his way through this. It shouldn’t be that hard for Biden to condemn violence AND call out those on both sides that call for it. He could take more of a lead on how exactly the police should be reformed. It’s a local issue and he has no authority but it’s not like he’ll be seen as usurping Trump’s authority. Showing real leadership in this right now should be a no-brainer.

        • Jim Danielson
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. Real leadership is extremely unlikely to hurt and is almost certainly going to help.

  6. Daniel Rosa
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    In spite of his occasional support of the Democratic Party, Andrew Sullivan is, basically, a right-winger. His opinions regarding the Democratic Party can be resumed very succinctly with two words: concern trolling.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I disagree; he hates Trump and is going to vote for Biden. As for as I can determine, he’s moved toward the center.

      I don’t know what you mean by “concern trolling”; he doesn’t want Trump to win. He’s not a troll.

      • Daniel Rosa
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        He may not want Pol Potus to win, but he sure wants his brand of conservatism to keep ruling the land! If he can’t get it with the republicans, he’ll try to get it from the democrats.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Trump has no brand of “conservatism.” Indeed, he’s undercut traditional conservatism — the conservatism of Calvin Coolidge, of William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, of Ronald Reagan; the conservatism that at least paid lip-service to small government, balanced budgets, strong international alliances, resistance to Russian expansionism, etc. — at every turn.

          What Donald Trump purveys is a brand of white-nationalist populism — one that he, himself believes in only superficially, if, indeed, he believes in it at all. It’s merely a grifter’s gimmick in the biggest, boldest long con of a life full of long cons.

          Trump believes in nothing, save the aggrandizement of one Donald John Trump.

          • Daniel Rosa
            Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            Quoting William Gibson: “In Trump, Fox has given the GOP base an unprecedentedly pure hit of their product. Having tasted such purity, the Republican base won’t willingly go back to any stepped-on product, cut with whatever non-batshit adulterants.”

            • Posted August 30, 2020 at 6:35 am | Permalink

              Trump is like a mirror: he gives the Republicans what he thinks they want. The only thing of concern to Trump is Trump. He reflects what the GOP wants because that way, they’ll support him.

  7. Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan is an idiot. It is sad to note, given my angst at criticizing homosexuals, given what they have to deal with already, but I surmise his weird permutations on reality are as a result of his Catholicism and differential sexual orientation in an era when it was more of a stigma and may have warped his views on many issues.

    The issue at hand, days or weeks of illegal looting and violence spawned out of decades of illegal police brutality needs a bit of honest focus. I distinctly remember him being hideously wrong on Iraq, coming out of his “fog of war” only AFTER the torture got hot. There’s no statute of limitations for war crimes and yet he hasn’t used his lofty perch to remind the public with near as much enthusiasm as needed be done. And now where are we exactly? Lawless Republicanism turned to torturing American.

    I knew there were no WMDs in Iraq and so did anybody else with half a brain. His Iraqishness was a disqualifying issue for me and he was subsequently dropped from my list of favored “not completely bat-shit-insane or immoral conservative types” long ago. I thought he repented by slithering away from blogging in shame.

    Trump’s Actual Promotion of out-of-control Public Violence used to scare us into not voting for a future fantasy Biden Administration with out-of-control public violence is as lame as “Don’t test for Covid or you will get Covid and make my numbers look bad.” Quarter million dead by November. People are gonna get violent in wartime my brother.

    None of this happens in a world where Trump is not in office. To the extent that it is happening now, it is greatly encouraged and engineered by Trump and cheered by Trumpians. He is their Mango Colored False Messiah. These Christian Nationalist freaks need to be purged. Violently if necessary. They will be certain to glom onto your dire warnings and Sullivan’s fears with their well-placed agent provocateurs, even in the otherwise peaceful protests which are guaranteed to be perpetuated, one assassinated Black man at a time. A knee to the neck from as many angles and for as many minutes as necessary to ensure we get enraged, and then here’s six or seven bullets in the back of an unarmed Black father while the kids are in the back seat, just to fan the flames. We will see in November if we will be able to end the violence that is now baked into the Republican “Platform”. In the meantime, expect no less violence than these fascist pigs can muster.

    Maybe I’m a bit jaded? Me and Kamala both share matriculation from an HBCU, it’s just that she’s a young Black woman and I’m a retired old white guy. There must be at least three of us over sixty white guys who graduated from Jackson State University or maybe I am sui generis?

    In the meantime, any attempt at comparative analysis of reaction by the public to the planned and calculated Trump administration violence is lame, and encouraged by Putin. Have you somehow missed unarmed black fathers being murdered wholesale? Seventeen year old white home-schooled God slobbering Trumptards driven to the scene of their crimes by Mommy?

    Fuck all. This is simple. Voting Blue No Matter Who Joe Screwed.

    In numbers too big to rig.

    #honestMessiah The Character America has been missing

    Sent from my iPad


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      No, Sullivan is not an idiot. Please tone down your invective, including the “Fuck all” at the end. And if you call for violence one more time, as in “These Christian Nationalist freaks need to be purged. Violently if necessary”, I’ll ban you. We’ll have no calls for violence on this site.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      “Sullivan is an idiot.”

      Isn’t it fortunate for you that he (so far) is not a participant poster in this thread. Otherwise, it seems that a consideration of the “Roolz” governing discourse here would be relevant.

      ” . . . given my angst at criticizing homosexuals . . . .”

      Why are you mentioning this? What possible bearing does it have on the subject at hand?

    • Ruth
      Posted August 30, 2020 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      You wrote:
      “I distinctly remember him being hideously wrong on Iraq, coming out of his “fog of war” only AFTER the torture got hot. There’s no statute of limitations for war crimes and yet he hasn’t used his lofty perch to remind the public with near as much enthusiasm as needed be done.”

      All also true about Biden, for whom apparently you are going to vote.
      Biden and H. Clinton were also either hideously wrong or hideously cynical about Libya. And they duped Putin, who made the mistake of believing them that the operation was only about protecting the civilians in Benghazi and didn’t oppose it in the security council, when it was really about toppling Gaddafi, no matter what the cost, including lynchings and genocidal massacres of black Libyans by the racist rebels. Including destabilization of Mali with all the weapons going around and Gaddafi no longer there to control the desert tribes.

      Your post is an illustration of the insane Weimar-like polarization and hatred on both sides that Sullivan describes.

  8. Greg Geisler
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I think Sullivan goes a bit overboard. I agree that Dems need to be more vocal about the violence and property damage but I think that the majority of Americans understand that the media and Trump’s demagoguery have amplified the severity of these riots. This isn’t Watts or 1982 LA level destruction.

    The much greater concern is the massive election fraud and voter suppression that is happening now and will continue through November. The question is not “can Joe Biden win?” but rather whether our votes will even be counted. The RNC is investing tens of millions of dollars already in voter suppression. What’s happening with the Post Office is trivial when compared to issues of suppression and of vulnerabilities with electronic voting machines and scanners. What we saw in the Atlanta primaries was a test-run for November. 80% of the US voting systems are from two vendors, both of which are Republican-controlled and donate money to Republican candidates. Many of the machines have WIFI or modems and remote access software installed. The electronic pollbooks (like those used in the Atlanta debacle) can be accessed via WIFI and voter data can be altered. You don’t need to be a programmer to simply change a number in an address or transpose a couple letters in someone’s name to render their registration invalid. The e-pollbooks, ballot marking devices, and ballot scanners can ALL be easily compromised and have been in past and in recent elections. Voting rights advocates have pleaded for paper backups too little or no avail.

    I’ve rambled on for too long and could go on for pages but if you are interested in more of the disturbing details follow @jennycohn1 on twitter or visit her webpage where all of her research is aggregated here:
    View at

    She has reached out to Congress and the MSM for years and they refuse to give her a voice because they don’t want the American public to hear these things for fear that it will create voter apathy.

    Also, watch the HBO documentary Kill Chain.

    Lastly, to increase the probablility of your vote actually counting in Novemeber:
    1. Make sure you are registered. Even if you know you already are, check frequently.
    2. If you are voting by mail, hand deliver it to a dropbox versus putting it in a mailbox.
    3. If you are voting at the polls, request a hand-marked paper ballot and use a ballpoint pen to fill it out. If at all possible, avoid using a ballot-marking device.
    4. Obtain a sample ballot before the election to take to the polls as a reference.
    5. Share this info with friends and family.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I think Sullivan goes a bit overboard.

      Yeah, he seemed a bit overheated.

      Maybe before posting this one, Andrew should’ve followed the advice my grandmother used to give me before I did something rash: “Have a sit in the shade for a spell first, son.” 🙂

  9. Roo
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I actually still think Biden will eke out a win, but what is problematic is what comes after. At the beginning of the year, my thought (which is just my opinion, so for whatever that’s worth,) is that Biden would have enjoyed fairly strong support from moderates and Independents. But now? He is stepping into a world on fire, sometimes literally. He will be backed into a corner when it comes to moderates and Independents who are:

    – Increasingly alarmed by the pace at which society seems to be breaking down (I live in the most suburby suburb of suburbs, and even here people are seeing graffiti gang signs appearing in gated communities as gangs from local cities start to feel emboldened. I’m already hearing people talk about moving further out into the country. Apparently in the South neighborhood militias are a thing in some areas. I mean really, it starts to sound like The Purge.)

    – Increasingly angry about the attitude that it’s ok to treat the police like trash. I realize this is hard to grok if you have ‘etherized’ the police and they seem like a sort of faceless authoritarian bloc, but for the sake of understanding how other voters feel, imagine for a second that the way the police are treated was applied to a group that you empathize with. That type of thing can be incredibly incendiary.

    – Still suffering from all the malaise associated with Covid.

    I think we have set up a dangerous dynamic. Any time there is a police involved shooting caught on film, we can expect riots, fires, and looting. Even when there is not, police are going to be walking on eggshells and not making as many arrests because that threat is hanging over their heads. There is not really any direction that Biden can turn on that without royally p*ssing off a large portion of voters. I see him ending up with a Republican House and Senate unless he pulls off some extremely innovative solutions (which, if that’s the case, will probably be something like a surveillance state, with a camera on every corner, kind of snuck in with friendly terms like “the no contact policing initiative” proven to “reduce police shootings by almost 80%.” Which will technically be true, because we’ll be living in a panopticon, but whatever I guess. I’m kinda resigned to that at this point.)

    • Roo
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      ‘otherized’, not ‘etherized’, ha ha. Dang spell check.

      • Max Blancke
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Yesterday, I was watching a video of a bunch of people gleefully trying to pull cops out of patrol cars. They were laughing while doing it.
        The narrative of the cops as dangerous and short-tempered authoritarians is pretty hard to maintain in an environment where people can throw things at or dump water on cops with no fear for personal safety at all.

        I guess, for me at least, one of the most maddening things about current far left politics is the strong belief in so many things that are obviously not true.

        • Roo
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          Rep. John Deberry recently mentioned people throwing human waste at his nephew who’s a police officer. It’s really disheartening to hear these kinds of things.

          I think the issue right now is that both political parties act like individual units so there is little to no meaningful dissent or debate among either group. I mean there is some, of course, but that Overton Window shrank hard and fast. It used to be the Right and Left were a counterbalance to each other but now they’re not really connected enough to do that, and they haven’t developed strong in-group counterbalances yet. They may in time, but at the moment, there is a religious-like feel to the narratives being floated. They’re more tribal signifiers than anything, ways of telling people that you’re a trustworthy and loyal member of this or that party.

  10. John Dmytrenko
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This really isn’t good. I oppose violent protests as well and don’t see anything positive emerging from it. I think a lot of these folks have a fantasy that they are participating in a revolution. I think a lot of the younger people have useless college degrees and are participating in some of these protests simply because they don’t have decent jobs.
    Another thing that has me worried is the latent tendency for white nationalism to emerge on the right. In the midst of social media amplifying the moronic and sometimes deeply disturbing examples occurring in these protests it is easier for some of the centrist voters to forget how extreme some of Trump’s speeches are. He will openly pander to white supremacists or suggest that Biden would “hurt god”. While some of the more moderate Republicans may not love all of this, they still don’t mind voting for him.
    There are also some centrist thinkers that not only don’t want Trump, they don’t want Biden. I am thinking of some of the folks in the Intellectual Dark Web. Bret Weinstein has started something called the Articles of Unity to push for another candidate other than Biden. His brother Eric likes the idea. Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan have both given reasons for preferring Trump. I don’t know if Rogan has changed his stance recently, but at the time Biden won the primary he preferred Trump. Rogan has more than a few fans. Hell, a lot of the things he says I actually like. I don’t follow Rubin closely and what I have seen of him makes me think he is overrated. I have paid attention to some of Rogan’s, Eric’s, and Bret’s criticisms of the left and I think a lot of them are fair, but let’s not get so intellectually edgy that we keep the freak that we have.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    If this is a trap for the Democrats, it’s one of their own making. Democrats since at least the Sixties have been ambivalent about crime, trapped in their own structural explanantion, which sees the criminal as a victim. When faced with urban unrest, their reaction is to see it as justified, and to reduce police pressure. As for the polls, national polls are useless, because we don’t vote nationally, we vote by State. “FiveThirtyEight” doesn’t show Electoral totals. That’s why I prefer “RealClearPolitics”, which does. In the battleground states Biden’s lead (where he isn’t trailing) is less than five-and-a-half points, which is not a meaningful nor comfortable lead. A lot of outlets seem to be whistling past the graveyard with their view of the polls, but there all still plenty of pieces warning that this is a real horse-race.

  12. John Donohue
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    “…if you’re trying to move people by moral suasion, you hurt your cause by looting, rioting, and setting fires.”

    The violence is not confined to those actions. It is vastly wider, consisting of hateful personal verbal attacks and direct intimidation in the personal and civic space of others. Such as this video of BLM assaulting a person who won’t join their slogan screaming:

    That is not suasion.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      “Such as this video of BLM assaulting a person who won’t join their slogan screaming:”

      She was a Rock of Gibraltar in that incident, facing off a troop of peer pressuring middle school human primates. The sense of entitlement is breath-taking. IIRC, she stated that she herself had marched in not a few BLM protests. She was determined not to be ORDERED around by anyone. (I contemplate the reaction of Nazis to someone declining to give the salute.)

      As Hitch said words-to-the-effect in another context, compulsory love is an oxymoron and immoral.

  13. Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I expect, sometime before the election, Biden will have a Sister Souljah moment, where he denounces some of the more extreme words or actions of the activists.

  14. Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve recently began watching random videos placed on YouTube by David Hoffman, a film maker. He’s very eclectic. Mostly interviews, some have been illuminating to a degree which would astound the most jaded among us.

    This one, , has several high ranking police executives giving opinions on the unrest in the Sixties they had to contend with. I was gobsmacked by some of their statements.

    I’m not going to give more details so as to not prejudice anyone watching. I’m not shilling here, I just wanted to bring some views from another time that illustrates that there’s nothing new under the sun. Damn it, did it anyway.

  15. David L Jorling
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the lack of a strong response to the riots is playing into Trump’s hands. Nowhere is that more evident than in Portland. Here is an Oregon Public Broadcasting article about the Mayor. It is clear that he is in way over his head.

    Slightly off topic, ABC news has a neat interactive electoral map, where you can click on the state (not the slidebar on the right) and predict the outcome.

    Here is my first effort:

    I think the GOP flips NV as they are spending a ton of money there, and Clinton won it by a bit over 20K votes. Biden flips PA and MI. In order for Biden to win, he will need to flip AZ, WI or FL. This race may come down to FL again.

    As for the polls, the race will tighten. In WI, for example, Biden is ahead by about 4 points. This time in 2016, Clinton was ahead by more than 10.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think Trump will prevail in ANY state he failed to win in 2016. The only two he’s ever even been thought to have had any chance of picking up are Nevada and Minnesota.

      Nevada is a tough state to predict, since such little public polling is done there. Nevertheless, FiveThirtyEight currently has Biden leading Nevada by 7.6% and ranks him better than a 3-to-1 favorite in its election forecast. In Minnesota, Biden is up by 5.4% and is a 7-to-3 favorite.

      Assuming Biden wins the states Hillary won in 2016, he will still need to pick up additional electoral votes, of course. As it stands at this moment, Biden is up 6.5% in Pennsylvania and is ranked a 7-to-3 favorite. Biden’s numbers in Michigan are even a bit stronger, up 7.1% and again a 7-to-3 favorite — numbers strong enough that the Trump campaign is reported to have stopped pouring television ad money into the Michigan.

      If Biden wins all the Hillary states and picks up those two (PA and MI), all he needs to reach the winning 270 electoral vote margin would be to win just one of the following four states: Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, or North Carolina. As it stands, Biden is favored in the first three, and the fourth is rated a toss-up.

  16. pablo
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Since 2016, I no longer trust polls. The formerly reliable 538 gave Clinton a 75 percent chance of winning.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Of course, a 75% chance of Clinton winning still gave Trump a 25% chance. I don’t see this as a basis for your objection.

      • Filippo
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        “Of course, a 75% chance of Clinton winning still gave Trump a 25% chance. I don’t see this as a basis for your objection.”

        What if any percentage point would you deem a basis for objection?

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          If Trump had been given no chance then I would object if he’d won. I object to some polling because they ask ambiguous questions. Others perhaps because they sample poorly.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          I flipped a coin once and it came up heads. Yet some stupid statistician told me before the flip that there was a 50% chance it would be tails.

          I’ll never trust those dopes again.


          • rickflick
            Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            You obviously failed to pray. There’s nothing like a sincere, devout, petition to get whatever you want.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t trust statisticians anymore. They say that rolling anything but a 1 with a six-sided die would be a 83 percent chance, but it was still a 1” 😁

    • Posted August 30, 2020 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      75% is worse odds than surviving one round of Russian Roulette, yet I bet you won’t be playing that at any point in the near future.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Biden needs a gesture of real Sister Souljah clarity to put daylight between him and the violent left.

    I suppose Sullivan is using it as a metonymous shorthand of sorts, but I’m surprised to see him refer to l’affaire “Sister Souljah” — in which Bill Clinton denounced the rap singer of that name during his 1992 campaign — as a moment of “clarity.” It was, to the contrary, a moment of high political cynicism, employed by Clinton to distance himself from Jesse Jackson in order to pacifying nervous white voters, precisely the type of Clintonian political cynicism of which Sullivan himself has long been such a vocal critic.

    In its way, his “Sister Souljah” moment was as cynical, though not nearly as morally repugnant, as Bubba’s making a big show of leaving the Democratic primary trail a few months earlier during the ’92 campaign to return to the Arkansas governor’s mansion to oversee the execution of a brain-damaged black inmate by the name of Ricky Ray Rector — a ploy designed both to show that Clinton couldn’t be outflanked by rightwingers in his alacrity for capital punishment and to divert attention from the then-burgeoning scandal of his affair with Gennifer-with-a-“G” Flowers.

    Bill Clinton’s ability to pull off such cynical political expediency with aplomb made him an effective campaigner — perhaps the most effective Democratic campaigner of the modern era — but it hardly established him as a paragon of moral clarity.

    As much as anyone, I’d like to see Joe Biden have an honest conversation with the American people unequivocally denouncing rioting and violence, while endorsing peaceful protest. But it would defeat the purpose, for me anyway, were all he to do was ape Bill Clinton by venting manufactured outrage at a convenient symbolic target.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    The feebleness of Portland’s and Seattle’s official responses to vandalism and rioting (including murderous attacks on police) is pure gold for the Republican Party; it will help it to win congressional and state elections in every part of the country east of those two jurisdictions, quite aside from the presidential contest. The Democrats need not one but a whole series of Souljah moments to avert this outcome; let’s hope that some of the Dem candidates in flyover country can do so. Even if they do, it may not be enough. We should not be surprised if the Left manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Murderous attacks on police in Portland?

      News to this Portlander.

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted August 30, 2020 at 2:00 am | Permalink

        I used the adjective “murderous” to mean attempted as well as accomplished murder, which obviously include throwing heavy projectiles. That was certainly the case in Seattle, don’t know about Portland.

  19. Alexander
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Since Wisconsin is a swing state I have a strong suspicion that police forces have told their members that increased rioting would help to get a Republican majority in that state. This would possibly explain the shooting of Blake by these two policement, they saw a chance to cause trouble, and the fact that they cannot give a coherent explanation of what they did is very suspicious. It would also explain the strange attitude by police forces when the 17-year old with his gun tried to alert the police about his situation (after having shot one person); the police just drove on, ignoring him.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      “Since Wisconsin is a swing state I have a strong suspicion that police forces have told their members that increased rioting would help to get a Republican majority in that state.”

      I suppose that the NY Times, as is its wont, would substitute “strong suspicion” in the above with “it is unclear” in their reportage. In either case, no factual information is offered. I’m all ears for evidence.

      “This would possibly explain the shooting of Blake by these two policement, they saw a chance to cause trouble, and the fact that they cannot give a coherent explanation of what they did is very suspicious.”

      Again I’m all ears for evidence. No doubt, to “cause trouble” is part of the police officer average job description. To make a certain state politically swing a certain way is no doubt a worthy prize warranting ones self-sacrificing incarceration.

      • Alexander
        Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        I generally prefer to be suspicious over naive. What Trump does is to exploit naivete on a massive scale.

        • BJ
          Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          There’s “suspicious,” and then there’s absurd. Are you saying that Trump was the shooting officer? Are you saying that Trump has contacted all of the local police departments in all of the cities in all of the swing states and directed them to “cause trouble”? If so, why would those departments listen?

          Why would these police officers risk life in prison to “cause trouble”? Why…You know, there are a million questions I could ask to demonstrate the absurdity of what you’ve posited, none of which you could answer, but I’ll just stop here. Your conspiracy is even more ridiculous than something like the QAnon nuts. At least the start with something in reality (Jeffrey Epstein) and then make up conspiracies around it. You’ve just made up your own out of thin air.

  20. FB
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Silence about violent protests and not saying that people should never resist arrest by the police. I’m afraid we are going to see more crime and violence in the next years. Suspects already know what to do: when the cops arrive, resist, wait for the mob to show up with their cellphones, and run away. Silence could be violence, after all.

  21. nf
    Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    The betting odds in Biden’s favor (at Real Clear Politics) have narrowed from 24 points on August 4 to 4.2 points today. (The chart really is a sight to behold: )

    It’s a real race. What’s not enough appreciated is that if Trump wins it may largely be the result of a continuing rise in his share of the minority vote. In 2016, according to exit polls, Trump increased his share of the minority vote by 2-3 percentage points compared to Romney, while his share of the white vote was down slightly. There’s a fair amount of evidence that the same is happening on an even larger scale this year. Which would not be too surprising. Minorities tend to be law-and-order enthusiasts, while minority businesses are likely to have been the hardest hit by the rioting. For more on this see:

  22. Posted August 30, 2020 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    And this still holds after the Republican Convention.

    It takes a few days for current events to filter into 538’s predictions. Today, Trump is over 42% and the national gap is 8.8%, so I think he is seeing the beginnings of bump due to the RNC.

  23. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 30, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting to note the contrast between the peaceful protesters of Belarus (where the police and army are not peaceful, by the way) with the US demonstrations.

  24. Posted September 8, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    You have a very solid point of view and an interesting way of presenting your facts. So, we would like to feature you in our upcoming issue of “This Just In… Today’s Era.” Please let us know if we have your permission to quote you.

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