For the second weekend in a row, the District was racked by random protests in response to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police. A “die-in” was held at Union Station.
Today another march is scheduled from Dupont Circle to the White House, which is expected to cause major traffic delays and more “rolling street closures.”
Al Sharpton has planned another march for next weekend in D.C., which Eric Garner’s family is expected to attend. Sharpton says that will be the moment the protests go from “moment to movement.”
As ever, a favorite slogan of the protesters has been, “this is what democracy looks like!” which they chanted as they shut down a major intersection in Chinatown last night.
In the sense that democracy is mob rule, they’re not wrong. But the notion that they represent the will of the majority is belied by the thousands of commuters they’ve frustrated and inconvenienced. Protesters ought to be a lot more skeptical of the fickle beast that is democracy.
We’ve seen this movie before. America elected Richard Nixon after the nation descended into racial division toward the end of LBJ’s presidency. Nixon promised a return to normalcy, and protesters got a taste of the electorate’s status-quo bias at Kent State.
If protesters really wanted to stick it to Amerika’s oligarchic overlords, they’d block the driveways of corporate CEOs and high-level civil servants, not keep normal people from going to and from work. That they’re lying down in intersections instead suggests the protesters are more interested in performative activism than any kind of meaningful change.
The usual objection at this point is that American democracy is a sham, and protesters are calling for “direct democracy” or something, the fictitious notion that our political system can be made perfect if only all 300-plus million of us got a vote on every spending bill. Until then, the theory goes, law and order should be held hostage until changes are made.
But the dirty little secret is that the elites and the protesters operate like a protection racket against a common enemy: America’s middle class. In Ferguson, mobs smash and burn middle-class businesses, while the organs of elite media advise in columns and editorials that you’d better give them what they’re asking for.
With that in mind, protesters should beware that the middle class will only stomach so many delayed commutes. And “direct democracy,” from their perspective, would mean running the protesters over with a truck.
If that makes it sound like democracy is a vicious, zero-sum war of all against all, well, there’s a reason for that.