Monday, November 20 , 2017, 4:40 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Ted Rall: Want Real Political Change?

Tired of Trump? Members of Congress can impeach him. But they won't do anything unless you actually do something.

Doing something does not mean signing an online petition. Donating to Bernie Sanders' Our Revolution is nice, but your cash can't depose the oligarchs.

Doing something does not mean voting Democratic; both parties are beholden to corporations who demand business as usual.

It doesn't even mean supporting progressive Democrats in primaries against incumbent corporate Democrats; incumbents almost always win.

Doing something effective requires you to become a clear and present danger to the system and the people who run it.

Doing something that might change the fundamental nature of the system requires you to risk prison, injury and death.

Doing something demands that you operate outside the system.

By itself, filling the streets with people and signs and chants isn't enough. Tame street protests are doomed to failure.

If you file for a parade permit or let the police pen you up in a ridiculous "free speech zone" or promise that you'll be nonviolent no matter what, your street protest will be drowned out by the clinking of glasses and the popping of Champagne corks in the salons of the ruling classes.

It won't matter whether you go home quietly or leave screaming in a paddy wagon.

Many congressional Republicans still support the president. They'll only change their minds if they face irresistible political pressure. Others would be open to supporting Trump's removal if a groundswell of public opinion provided them with the requisite political cover.

The vast majority of Americans think Trump is doing a lousy job — and that includes many people who voted for him. Forty percent favor impeachment — and that number will continue to grow.

The urban protests of the 1960s and 1970s were unsettling and frequently disintegrated into disturbing acts of violence, as seen during the running street battles between activists and the Chicago police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the shootings of students by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State.

In recent years, lefties expressed pride in the fact that large protest demonstrations like the 2002-03 marches against the invasion of Iraq, the anti-Trump Women's March and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement were so studiously nonviolent that organizers deployed "peace police" to separate potential troublemakers from the cops.

It is no coincidence that the American Left hasn't won a major policy victory. Without pressure from the Left, the country has steadily moved right.

"We could have large-scale marches for every year of Trump's presidency. It would do nothing!" says Micah White, best known for his role in Occupy Wall Street. Street protests have been ritualized, stripped of their drama and thus defanged.

The Left has embraced a cartoonish militant pacifism that goes far beyond Gandhi. Violence hasn't disappeared. Now the authorities have a monopoly on violence. They operate with impunity against dispossessed people. The authorities have militarized local police forces. They've murdered people of color and spied on our emails and phone calls.

Street marches in the U.S. have become empty exercises, unguided support groups to make leftists feel better about themselves because they're not alone. But that's not how they started.

Historically, street protests were scary. They were carried out by angry mobs. There weren't any speeches; these were riots. Drunken people ran around breaking and stealing things.

What makes violence a useful tactic is that it isn't necessary to kill anyone or break anything every time you want something. You don't need actual violence to exert pressure against your enemy — you need the credible threat of violence.

What makes that threat credible is the memory of a fairly recent act of actual violence. 

Consider the Unite The Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. There weren't very many racist attendees — fewer than a thousand.

But they showed up with weapons, including assault rifles. One murdered a woman with his car and injured others.

That violence gives the next alt-right rally a credible threat of violence and guarantees that the event will be taken seriously by the authorities and thoroughly covered by the news media.

I am not suggesting that progressives show up to their next anti-Trump march toting weapons, or that leftists should kill or injure anyone. That's not who we are or what we're about. We oppose Trump and the capitalist system precisely because they are violent and we loathe violence.

My message is subtle: March peacefully. But don't follow the rules.

Don't apply for parade permits. Don't stay on the sidewalks when the police tell you to. And don't promise not to break anything.

Be wild.

Power never yields unless it's scared.

Ted Rall is the author of Bernie, a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography Trump, comes out July 19 and is now available for pre-order. Click here to contact him, and follow him on Twitter: @TedRall. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >