In the Time of Trump, the Democrats’ Crucible: RFK or Bill Ayers?

 

In our two-party dominated system, politics shift; sometimes subtly, sometimes seismically. What either side believes today, the other side may espouse tomorrow. The Republican Party once supported tariffs and isolationism; the Democrats once supported free trade and internationalism. Driven by changing attitudes amongst the electorate that were expressed through the God-given, constitutionally recognized rights to freely speak, assemble, and petition government for the redress of grievances, over time the parties either discarded or adopted these and other issues in their respective pursuits of a governing coalition.

What never shifted was both parties’ shared America’s political paradigm, namely that ours is an exceptional nation where constructive change was best – and solely – advanced through peaceable means.

This hard-earned lesson, ingrained during the fiery crucible of civil war, nonetheless has been tested at times in the 20th Century: turn-of-the-century Anarchism; the 1930s fascist and communist movements, which claimed to be politically transcendent to a failed old order that wrought the Great Depression; and the 1960s left- and right-wing radicalism. All these fevered, fringe movements refused — indeed, in many instances espoused — violence, including assassinations, bombings, rioting, burning, and looting. These right and left radical movements also shared a contempt for America’s free republic, which was decried as antiquated and/or oppressive and imperialist.

But William Butler Yeats was wrong. The center did hold. All these violent radical challenges failed because they were abhorred and rejected by the American people; an abhorrence respected and reflected by their Democratic and Republican parties and representatives. (Unlike, importantly, many non-violent social movements; thank you, Dr. King.) Indeed, though today many think either party will condone anything for a vote, during past trying times of singular import was each party’s willingness to condemn violence perpetrated by those who purported to align with its goals.

Continuing its lineage from Lincoln through William F. Buckley, Jr. and others who denounced the John Birch Society, during the peaceful Tea Party protests, Republicans of all stripes consistently demanded that they stay that way. Doing its job, the media facilitated the GOP’s rejection of political violence and lawlessness by putting elected and party officials on the record in opposition to it; and further by attending Tea Party protests to detect and report on any instances of it.

Yet, prior to and through the present protests over President Trump, there has been a rise in political violence and lawlessness by the left; and in such violence and lawlessness, the desired effects of intimidation and the silencing of opponents. The strategy is as old and unforgiveable as sin itself: denounce your opponent to justify your violence.

In an immediate instance, Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech at the University of California, Berkeley, was barred and marred by violence. In sad fact, this violence occurred after a craven university administration cancelled Yiannopoulous’ speech. Last time I checked, free speech was still a constitutional right, yet there has been, at best, an ominous silence from the Democratic Party (and the media) regarding it. At worst, there have ensued attempts to explain away the indefensible or deflect the blame to Anarchist Black Bloc brigands or — honest to God — right-wing provocateurs.

This failure to condemn political violence and lawlessness is not only injurious to Americans. It is a crucible for the Democratic Party, which stands on the brink of forsaking its history and heroes; and the politically shared paradigm that America is an exceptional nation wherein change must be achieved through peaceable means.

It is not too late, since many of today’s Democratic leaders are children of the 1960s, when their party and America also confronted opposing views of achieving change. From the radical left, the Weather Underground’s Bill Ayers embodied, espoused, justified, and practiced the demand for political violence: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at.”

Yet, on the evening of April 4, 1968 — the day of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination — a Democratic Senator who had felt the agony of political violence hitting home, spoke out against the madness of the times and Ayers:

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.… What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.… (L)et’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

In two months, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. In 1974, Bill Ayers dedicated his tract, Prairie Fire, to Sirhan Sirhan (and other practitioners of political violence).

But while the unapologetic Ayers, who felt he may not have done enough and still refuses to renounce political violence, went on to prosper at taxpayers’ expense as a university professor in a country that he said made him want to puke, RFK won the day and the decades throughout the good and the “difficult times” that followed. The American political paradigm where change must be achieved through peaceable means — be they protests, petitions, speeches and, above all, elections — has held, thanks to Democrats and Republicans.

In these difficult times, if the peaceable American political paradigm holds again now depends on the Democratic Party’s answer to the question: “Are you the party of RFK or Bill Ayers?”

Pray they, again, choose wisely.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Larry Koler Inactive

    Very nice article. Thanks, Mr. McCotter.

    It is the Democratic Party that is in trouble here. They are trying to project things onto the Republicans and blame Trump especially. But, they are the ones in trouble and in a state of rebellion with the tenets of this country. They don’t like our founding fathers nor our founding principles, they don’t like free speech, they don’t like our electoral college system, they don’t respect this country.

    They need to get adults into the leadership stat.

    • #1
    • February 6, 2017, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  2. Larry3435 Member

    Thank you for your thoughts Rep. McCotter. I was unaware that you were a contributor. If that is new, then welcome.

    • #2
    • February 6, 2017, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  3. I. M. Fine Lincoln

    We are always so much the wiser when we pause to look back before we go forward. Thank you, Rep. McCotter.

    Robert F. Kennedy, from “The Mindless Menace of Violence,” a speech delivered on April 5th 1968 (City Club of Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio), the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination:

    “What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by his assassin’s bullet.

    No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

    Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

    But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

    • #3
    • February 6, 2017, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  4. Front Seat Cat Member

    What you described that “we need”, used to be the mantra of the Left – self-titled The “Progressive” Party. They have proven to be all talk – Love Trumps Hate – give me a break. You are right – that university missed the golden opportunity that our Constitution provides when Milo came to town. They could have given him a platform and then picked him apart like a birdseed cone in the middle of winter. He would have had to defend his ideas. How many countries would give anything to have that much? They are going the way of extremism – and in the process, losing freedom of speech themselves.

    • #4
    • February 6, 2017, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  5. Aaron Miller Member

    Larry Koler (View Comment):
    It is the Democratic Party that is in trouble here. [….]

    That is largely but not wholly the truth. As Democrats persist in lawlessness, demonization, misinformation, bullying, and other evils — especially as they escalate such cruel tactics — a growing portion of Republican voters acquire a thirst for furious revenge.

    What lasting changes Republicans accomplish in these next few years (generally without the luxury of bipartisan agreement) and how the Left responds both in and beyond government will shape expectations for years to come. If Republicans fail or Democrats react in unceasing cruelty and unjust discrimination, many on the Right will prefer “winning” to playing by the rules. They will embrace similar lawlessness and cruelty.

    Already, schadenfreude has become a respectable passtime on the Right. Vague threats of violence, though not yet manifested, are common. Our children are lied to in schools and twisted by hideous fantasies in entertainment media. Corporations ally to ostracize cultural traditionalists and promote absurdities.

    If the vehicles of political and cultural change seem to be stolen from the Right, ever more will reject those mediums entirely and turn to notions of war or careless revenge.

    • #5
    • February 6, 2017, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. Larry Koler Inactive

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):
    It is the Democratic Party that is in trouble here. [….]

    That is largely but not wholly the truth. As Democrats persist in lawlessness, demonization, misinformation, bullying, and other evils — especially as they escalate such cruel tactics — a growing portion of Republican voters acquire a thirst for furious revenge.

    What lasting changes Republicans accomplish in these next few years (generally without the luxury of bipartisan agreement) and how the Left responds both in and beyond government will shape expectations for years to come. If Republicans fail or Democrats react in unceasing cruelty and unjust discrimination, many on the Right will prefer “winning” to playing by the rules. They will embrace similar lawlessness and cruelty.

    Already, schadenfreude has become a respectable passtime on the Right. Vague threats of violence, though not yet manifested, are common. Our children are lied to in schools and twisted by hideous fantasies in entertainment media. Corporations ally to ostracize cultural traditionalists and promote absurdities.

    If the vehicles of political and cultural change seem to be stolen from the Right, ever more will reject those mediums entirely and turn to notions of war or careless revenge.

    The battle is finally engaged and it’s way overdue. We can’t be afraid about casualties when the country’s very soul is at stake. The media is the problem and I have believed this for years and years. They need to be battled and it has to be done now — no more delays and fearful worries.

    • #6
    • February 6, 2017, at 6:47 PM PDT
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  7. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Thaddeus McCotter: Yet, on the evening of April 4, 1968 — the day of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination — a Democratic Senator who had felt the agony of political violence hitting home, spoke out against the madness of the times and Ayers:

    I’ve been wondering for a few days now what is wrong with the Democratic leadership. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders ought to be making speeches demanding that protesters who support their values stop the violence, arson, trespassing, and vandalism. Besides being morally wrong, they aren’t winning people to their side.

    Mr. McCotter, I hope we see more of you around here.

    • #7
    • February 6, 2017, at 7:40 PM PDT
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  8. I Walton Member

    Good article. The Democratic party, our schools and our media have been taken over by the Ayers generation, the nihilists, neo marxists, fascists. The isms they espouse are PR, tactical thrusts. Their arguments mean nothing to them so they can denounce their enemies, us, for doing what they did the day before. Violence is no longer their main tactic, nor are arguments, it is now the quiet use of power at all levels of government and in our media and educational establishments, foundations, because they controlled them. They use violence whether they are behind it or not, to justify federalization of law and order, expanded authorities, to silence opposition when necessary. Our response should be less Federalism not more, less money not more. We must dismantle their funding while we have the power and authority to do so. We must understand that they are totalitarian fascists. Rules for Radicals is their book and it is straight from 1920 fascist tactics. It’s all tactics, everywhere always whatever enhances their power whatever weakens their enemies. If there are any liberals left in the Democratic party we need to identify them and try to separate them from the progressives, the totalitarians, the Ayers, Clintons, Obamas that run the party.

    • #8
    • February 7, 2017, at 5:47 AM PDT
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  9. Ekosj Inactive

     

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    “…The battle is finally engaged and it’s way overdue. We can’t be afraid about casualties when the country’s very soul is at stake.”

    We had better be worried because one of those casualties might well be our nation’s soul!

    • #9
    • February 7, 2017, at 6:43 AM PDT
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  10. Larry Koler Inactive

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    “…The battle is finally engaged and it’s way overdue. We can’t be afraid about casualties when the country’s very soul is at stake.”

    We had better be worried because one of those casualties might well be our nation’s soul!

    It turns out that bodies as well as souls are important.

    • #10
    • February 7, 2017, at 2:01 PM PDT
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  11. Ekosj Inactive

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    “…The battle is finally engaged and it’s way overdue. We can’t be afraid about casualties when the country’s very soul is at stake.”

    We had better be worried because one of those casualties might well be our nation’s soul!

    It turns out that bodies as well as souls are important.

    Actually, it doesn’t turn out that way at all …

    “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? ”

    • #11
    • February 8, 2017, at 4:25 AM PDT
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  12. Larry Koler Inactive

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    “…The battle is finally engaged and it’s way overdue. We can’t be afraid about casualties when the country’s very soul is at stake.”

    We had better be worried because one of those casualties might well be our nation’s soul!

    It turns out that bodies as well as souls are important.

    Actually, it doesn’t turn out that way at all …

    “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? ”

    I think we are in agreement here. I didn’t say that bodies were more important.

    Either way, my original point is that we are called upon to fight evil even if we take casualties. Aaron is right to point out the dangers associated with going into battle but my thinking is that the time is now and we are being called to action NOW and to not let down the side that is willing to take the fight against the political enemies.

    • #12
    • February 8, 2017, at 7:52 AM PDT
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