John took issue with my hypothesis here yesterday that the rioting under way could redound to Trump’s advantage, and his case is perfectly reasonable: Trump has been deprived of the main trump (heh) cards of incumbency, which are peace and prosperity. I agree that things look very tough for Trump right now, but one thing we know about him for certain by now is that he is a tough, relentless person, and he’s barely started with a serious attack on Biden, who in many ways is an even more vulnerable political target than Hillary was. Between Trump and Biden, which would you more associate with “status quo”? Trump may be the incumbent, but never has there been an incumbent less attached to, or defined by, the status quo than him. “Status quo” may as well be Biden’s middle name, which is why he seems to suffer rigor mortis. This will not be lost on a lot of voters.
Among other things, let’s remember that Biden is and will be a candidate of gun control. What’s happening right now? There are lots of stories around today of long lines to get into gun stores—as long as two hours in the photo nearby from Long Island that appeared on Twitter. The share prices of gun manufacturers are rising on Wall Street.
This is of course “anecdotal,” but ask yourself if the weak responses of the Democrats in the face of the current scene make swing voters more likely to vote for them in November. The supine disposition of people like Bill de Blasio in favor of the left’s racism uber alles mentality contrasts sharply with how many leading liberals reacted to the initial riots of the 1960s. Edward Banfield noted in his classic 1969 book The Unheavenly City:
Opinion leaders and publicists did not at this time  see the riots as manifestation of deep unrest or anger on the part of Negroes. Roy Wilkins, the executive director of the NAACP, said the riots and “brazen looting” had “brought shame upon the civil rights movement of a whole people”: the suspicion was widespread, he added, that “people have been paid to start and keep them going.” CORE director James Farmer and Urban League Director Whitney Young, Jr., agreed this was a possibility. Young thought the riots would benefit Communist and right-wing groups by “sowing confusion and creating hostility between whites and Negroes.” . . .
Most civil rights leaders dismissed the idea that the riots were conscious protests.
Hard to find anyone in the “civil rights community” today who would say this.
But let’s look closer at some of the data, starting with this chart of aggregated public opinion trends from the Wasow article I referenced yesterday (you may need to enlarge it see clearly):
The interesting thing to see here is the rise public sentiment that civil rights was the “most important problem” in 1964, which was the crescendo of the civil rights movement’s long campaign of peaceful protests (the violence that did occur during that time period came from southern Democrats like DNC national committee member Bull Connor, whose state-sponsored violence against blacks increased public sympathy for civil rights progress) and the political drive to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But then you can see public sentiment shifted very rapidly to “social control” (which you can read as “law and order”) after urban rioting began to explode in the mid-1960s. It makes for an interesting thought experiment to wonder how LBJ’s Great Society might have fared in the absence of the urban unrest (also the Vietnam War), and it is still often overlooked that Democrats went from receiving 61 percent of the presidential vote in 1964 to barely 40 percent four years later—one of the largest party falloffs ever over one cycle. (And then by the 1970s the economic dysfunctions took the top spot of public concern.)
The broader point here is that peaceful protest and conventional political activism worked to gain public sympathy and results, but that the civil rights movement squandered this hard-won public sympathy when it indulged the “riot-as-legitimate-response” mentality that is the dominant attitude of the left once again. And thus the left is likewise squandering public sympathy and support for a serious look at police practices and governance (though I suspect that’s exactly what the far left wants).
Additional research data (passed along with all of my usual caveats) come from a recent online posting from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in a article entitled “The activist’s dilemma: Extreme protest actions reduce popular support for social movements.” The abstract is stiffer than usual, and the complete article is behind a paywall, so instead I’ll share some of the news writeup about it that appeared on PsycNet, the more accessible site of the American Psychological Association:
New research indicates that extreme protest tactics tend to undermine a movement’s popular support in the United States by alienating both neutral observers and supporters . . .
The researchers conducted six experiments with 3,399 participants in total, in which they assessed how different types of protest behaviors influenced support for a variety of progressive and conservative social causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-abortion movement. They found that more extreme behaviors — such as the use of inflammatory rhetoric, blocking traffic, and vandalism — consistently resulted in reduced support for social movements.
This was true even when participants were already politically or socially sympathetic to the social movement. “We found extreme anti-Trump protest actions actually led people to not only dislike the movement and support the cause less, but to be willing to support Trump more,” Feinberg said. “It was almost like a backlash.”
The new study is in line with research that analyzed all mass uprisings around the world between 1945-2014, finding that nonviolent campaigns were more successful at bringing about large-scale political transformation than violent campaigns.
A backlash, you say? Who’da thunk it.