This past weekend we got a preview of what is to come in Washington, D.C. this weekend on the one year anniversary of the deadly alt-right “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last year.
Four people were arrested late Saturday as scores of right-wing and anti-fascist demonstrators squared off in Portland, Oregon, where four people were injured in similar rallies on June 30. Right-wing protesters and opponents square off in Portland:
Police tried to keep the two sides apart as protesters chanted and hurled insults at each other. Authorities set up a security perimeter around a waterfront park and officers frisked attendees and confiscated flag poles and other potential weapons.
Clashes after similar protests in Portland in June sent four people including a police officer to the hospital.
Among the right-wing marchers, some of whom wore body armor and carried shields, were members of the Patriot Prayer group founded by Joey Gibson, a conservative Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate in November’s midterm elections. [Will he get Donald Trump’s endorsement?]
They were opposed by [antifa] counter-protesters, some dressed in black with face masks, who shouted anti-Nazi slogans.
Last August, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for “Unite the Right,” a rally to put the power of white nationalists on full display. A year after that event resulted in chaos and violence, groups plan to hold another “white civil rights rally” in Washington, DC.
But a broad coalition of organizers representing anti-racist, anti-fascist, and socialist groups say that when Unite the Right 2 participants arrive in DC, they will be met with significant resistance throughout the weekend.
On the morning of August 12, Shut It Down DC, a coalition of local organizations working to plan counterprotests and other events against Unite the Right, will hold a “Still Here, Still Strong” Rally in DC’s Freedom Plaza. Counterprotesters also plan to be present at the actual Unite the Right event, which takes place later that afternoon in Lafayette Square [directly north of the White House on H Street]. Two days before these events, organizers will hold a six-hour “action camp” to train those planning to protest on Sunday.
Will their “Dear Leader” come out of the White House to greet them and to tell them what “very fine people” they are? Will he address their rally?
After the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed as she protested against the first Unite the Right; the brutal assault of DeAndre Harris, who was beaten by white supremacists in Charlottesville and faced criminal charges for defending a counterprotester; and other incidents of violence in the year since, organizers say the impacts of the first Unite the Right rally are still being felt today.
“Last year, our lives were changed,” says Makia Green, an organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, one of the groups in the Shut It Down DC coalition. During the August 12 rally, “we want to make sure that we stand against that hate,” she adds.
Counterprotesters view Unite the Right 2 as a chance to push back against emboldened white supremacy
As Vox’s Jane Coaston notes, Unite the Right 2 comes after a flurry of setbacks for the alt-right and many of its most prominent members. “The movement has largely been broken — by the law, by widespread disapproval, and mostly by their own actions,” Coaston explains. “Unite the Right 2 could represent its last stand.”
As counterprotest organizers have prepared for the upcoming events, they’ve been dealt some unexpected setbacks. On July 31, Shut It Down DC’s “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” event page was included in a purge of Facebook accounts thought to be displaying behavior similar to recent Russian misinformation campaigns. A new event page was posted soon after the first one was taken down, but members of the Shut It Down coalition argue that the page removal and initial media reports of the Facebook purge has hurt their cause by suggesting that their work was illegitimate or the result of a Russian influence.
Nonetheless, hundreds of counterprotesters are expected to show up to face down alt-right rallygoers. “White supremacists are still organizing, and they’re coming to DC,” Green says. “We need to stay focused on how that is impacting our communities.”
Well, we now know what the cable news jockeys will be covering this weekend, and “Dear Leader” will be tweeting about. Will it be Charlottesville the sequel?
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post points out, Republicans make Trump’s racist and incendiary language possible:
Republicans’ favorite tactic these days in defending President Trump’s indefensible statements is to pretend he didn’t mean what he said. He really insults all athletes, not just African Americans. No, he really meant to demonize just some of the press. It’s not the language I would use. I didn’t see/read/hear the statement.
No, really, that’s what they’ve been saying.
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Since becoming president, the “low IQ” insult has been directed with alarming frequency at African Americans (and when not African Americans, women have been on the receiving end of insults about intelligence). He does this to bond with his white-grievance crowd. It’s not a dog whistle but a bullhorn. Blunt protests that the GOP isn’t anti-black, but so long as the overwhelmingly white party does not call out the race-monger-in-chief, people will perceive it as such.
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Any criticism from Republicans on Trump’s antidemocratic and increasingly inflammatory language? Chirping birds. Republicans tolerate. They evade questions. They thereby normalize.
So we are treated to the previously unimaginable sight of supposedly “patriotic loyal Americans” at Trump’s “hillbilly Nuremberg rallies” professing their love for mother Russia because their “Dear Leader” is a Russian asset of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s Republican Party, explained in one photo:
Sometimes there are images that so perfectly encapsulate a moment in time that all you can do is marvel. They’re the kinds of things that will show up in history textbooks, the kind of thing that high school students will look at when they’re trying to understand a previous era.
I think Cleveland.com reporter Jeremy Pelzer has taken just one of those images: a photo of two men at a Trump rally in Ohio on Saturday night wearing shirts that say “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”
These men, named James T. Alicie and Richard M. Birchfield, are a perfect encapsulation of the way Donald Trump has transformed the Republican Party in his image — abandoning its traditional positions on issues ranging from Russia to trade in favor of Trump’s positions on these issues. The photo is also an extremely clear way of understanding how deep hatred of Democrats is warping the Republican Party, part of a phenomenon political scientists call “negative partisanship.”
There’s a reason Smith’s tweet got retweeted nearly 9,000 times and why the original photo was on the front page of Reddit. The idea that Republicans would be willing to side with Russia — which is widely believed to have meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump get elected — seems like a parody of the way Republicans think. Yet here it is, printed on a T-shirt spotted at a Trump rally.
This attitude — hatred of the other party above all else — is at the heart of so-called “negative partisanship,” a concept that Georgetown University’s Jonathan Ladd defines as “the tendency to vote for a party not mainly because you like it, but because you are repulsed by the other major party.” [Colloquially known as “tribalism.”] This phenomenon, he explains, is why Republican leaders and voters were able to get past their policy disagreements with Trump and vote for him: They’d rather have a Republican in office, however unorthodox and unqualified, than any kind of Democrat.
The crucial feature about negative partisanship is that it isn’t really about policy; it’s about identity [tribalism]. Negative partisanship becomes really powerful, political scientists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster write, when “supporters of each party perceive supporters of the opposing party as very different from themselves in terms of their social characteristics and fundamental values.” The other party is your cultural enemy, hostile to people “like you,” and therefore must be defeated at all costs — even if, as in this instance, it means siding with a foreign power.
When negative partisanship is strong, Republicans are willing to believe the worst about Democrats — and rationalize away any sins committed by Republicans. Hence why, over the course of four years, you go from Republican voters enthusiastically backing Mitt Romney — who called Russia America’s “No. 1 geopolitical enemy” — to the vast majority of them supporting Donald Trump through the Russia scandal.
You can see this effect in the polling. Since Trump’s rise, the percentage of Republicans reporting favorable views of Vladimir Putin has roughly tripled:
You might also note that Democrats have developed a more negative view of Putin over time. That’s because they’re no less prone to negative partisanship, intrinsically, than Republicans.
The vast majority of them will almost certainly support whomever the Democratic Party nominates for president in 2020, be it a relative centrist like former Vice President Joe Biden or a literal socialist like Sen. Bernie Sanders — because they hate Trump so profoundly that they’ll vote for anyone to replace him.
It’s more about fighting fascism than Trump. He is just the manifestation of the cancer in the GOP which has been metastasizing for decades. This is much bigger than just one man.
But no Democrat is currently the subject of an FBI investigation into alleged collusion with a hostile foreign power to affect a US election. Under these circumstances, the partisan stars have aligned such that Republicans are dismissing what’s shaping up to be the biggest political scandal since Watergate — and embracing Vladimir Putin even as he’s already begun to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.
Let’s hope that no one is seriously injured or killed this weekend in Washington, D.C. Our Twitter-troll-in-chief will certainly have a distraction from the Manafort trial and the Russia investigation to tweet about. We may find out just how far he is willing to go to rally his xenophobic white nationalist racist base.
And has anyone seen white nationalist White House adviser Stephen Miller this week? Look for him in the crowd this weekend.