“Here’s What Happened the Last Time the Left Got Nasty,” is the title of David Greenberg’s Politico piece which briefly delves into some of the left’s highlights.
Just a few years later, though, America’s political culture had changed dramatically. Despite the movement’s historic achievements—and the success of liberals in securing scores of other major reforms—young radicals grew impatient with the pace of change, especially in Vietnam. Peaceful protests continued, but growing numbers of militants now styled themselves revolutionaries and adopted tactics to match. Groups like the Weather Underground preached and carried out violence, including lethal violence, which was deemed “as American as cherry pie” by H. Rap Brown, rendering ironic the name of the group he’d come to lead, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (Brown, who now goes by Jamil Al-Amin, is currently serving a life sentence for murder.)
Most activists stopped short of planting bombs and shooting police officers. But many still blew past the boundaries of what nearly everyone considered legitimate protest. Demonstrators not only directed chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” at President Lyndon Johnson; they also accosted officials of his administration when they set out in public. In 1967, when Secretary of State Dean Rusk tried to attend a banquet of the Foreign Policy Association in New York, a radical group called Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers (often called “the Motherfuckers” for short) threw eggs, rocks and bags of cows’ blood, though Rusk slipped into the hotel unscathed. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was spat upon in an airport and called a baby killer; on a visit to Harvard, a hostile mob encircled his car and rocked it back and forth until police spirited him to safety via a tunnel. Antiwar radicals even tried to set fire to McNamara’s Colorado vacation home—twice. A few years later, after he’d left government, someone tried to throw him off the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.
There are a number of similar pieces out there from which I’ll dissent in a very specific way.
The left never stopped being nasty.
Extremes were reached in the 70s because the left felt empowered to abandon any pretense of decency and sanity. And it felt empowered to do so because it drew a covert and not so covert support from less extreme figures on the left.
The same pattern has repeated itself.
Lefty nastiness reaches a peak during a Republican administration. Whether it’s Nixon, Reagan, Bush or Trump; when the left is out of power, it’s also out for blood.
When the left is in power, it’s able to cloak its nastiness in bureaucracy and policy. When it’s out of power, the “youth” that were expecting jobs in the political state go on a rampage. But violence is inherent to the left. It may be the violence of street riots or government thugs breaking down your door. It may be the violence of the Weathermen or Mueller, of Elian’s abduction or assaults on Trump supporters, but it is all one thing.
The left is a revolutionary movement. Its goal is to destroy the existing order and remake society in its own image.
It may pursue those ends politically or violently, but those are tactical differences. The tactical differences between the political left and the terrorist left, like the differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, or Hitler and the “moderates” of the Nazi Party and the “extremists” are outward and contextual.
The left is always nasty. It is always violent. It sometimes controls itself to a certain degree. Other times it doesn’t.