Every act of violence committed by those who say they oppose Trump is actually an act supportive of Trump.
In my town, Portland, Oregon, there is a fresh murder and the victim has been tentatively identified as wearing the identifiers of Patriot Prayer, an armed violent far right group supporting Trump.
In either case, Trump gains support as we close in on the final two months before the November 3 election.
History teaches us that most violence backfires and the social movements that maintain nonviolent discipline are the ones who generally win.
Looking from a more synoptic perspective, as a social movement researcher and analyst, I will simply note that history teaches us that most violence backfires and the social movements that maintain nonviolent discipline are the ones who generally win.
Conversely of course, social movements that break out into violence either delay or default victory. Dig into the history of many such movements and such trends are evident again and again.
Nonviolent discipline is not related, usually, to pacifism as a mass trait of participants. Nonviolent discipline is a result, usually, of leadership that is both strong and has decided that nonviolence is strategically wise.
When movements are factionalized or leadership is weak, we see what we see right now in the splintered and ineffective movement to stop Trump from stealing the election.
Yes, steal. From his lies about mail-in voting to his minions like Brian Kemp in Georgia purging voting roles of likely Democrat voters to an ongoing dirty campaign that has gerrymandered many states so badly that Biden/Harris would need overwhelming numbers of votes to overcome these shenanigans, to packing the Supreme Court with far right justices who will back his mischief in the aftermath of the election to more such underhanded factors, the Trump machine is on a crime spree right now and intends to keep him in office by any means necessary. Looking at the crimes many of his top aides have confessed to or have been convicted of, we can see that the Republican party under Trump has become a mob, a criminal enterprise who will stop at nothing and stoop to anything to keep Donald Trump in power.
Obligingly, those who oppose Trump have shown little to no discipline and have excused window breakers, arsonists, stone-throwers, and even attackers identified with their own ranks. They seem to think that this is excusable, and perhaps it is, in a world that is run along the ethical lines of, for example, the Just War doctrine, with its jus ad bellum, its conditions that justify war.
But Trump’s opponents have not come close to unity in understanding the sometimes substantial gap between justification of actions and effectiveness of actions. Justifying such conduct does not equate with winning a campaign and, in this case, equates with losing.
Indeed, this is why conduct that alienates the public and energizes Trump’s base has prompted agents provocateurs to engage in destructive acts in the name of opposing Trump because the actual outcome of such behavior strongly favors Trump.
It is usually very difficult to prove such infiltration and destructive actions. It could be police agents, operatives of far-right groups, or simply individual “superpatriots” who realize that committing destructive actions in the name of hating Trump or hating his supporters will have the opposite effect. History gives us numerous examples of this false flag phenomenon, yet even raising the possibility generates vituperative defensive outrage from those most likely to support such lowlife provocation.
In the end, the opposition to Trump will either unite and learn nonviolent discipline or it is quite likely to fail to stop the death spiral of our democracy.
Tom Hastings is co-coordinator of the undergraduate program in Conflict Resolution at Portland State University. He is a former member of the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), former co-chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and is on the boards of both the IPRA Foundation and the Oregon Peace Institute, as well as the Academic Advisory Council of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. He is Founding Director of PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, and has written several books and many articles about nonviolence and other peace and conflict topics. He is a former Plowshares resister, a nonviolence trainer, a founding member of two Catholic Worker communities, and currently lives in Whitefeather Peace House.
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