Editor’s note: This is the 12th part in Frontpage Mag’s series on Racist Mayors. (See previous parts below this article). Stay tuned for more installments.
Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland is one of those sinewy male types who look as though they could live to be 100. His biography states that he loves any type of physical challenge: swimming laps, running half marathons, participating in triathlons and Iron Man contests. Not only that, but the 6 foot 59-year-old has climbed and reached the summit of Mount Everest and doesn’t let being mayor keep him from taking quick swims in Portland’s Willamette River. His picturesque Oregonian boyhood included hiking, camping and climbing local peaks, further proof, as if any was needed, that his favorite sort of challenge is the one-on-one variety— or doing things his way.
Wheeler’s fondness for no-contact athletics indicates a loner personality, so it comes as no surprise when in December 2018, just one year into his first term as mayor, Willamette Week, Portland’s newspaper, noted: “No man is an island, but Ted Wheeler looks marooned.” Of course he looks marooned. When you look a little deeper into the man’s bio, you realize that this a man who thinks he can do it all by himself, from climbing Everest to tackling triathlons, so it’s quite unlikely that he’s going to ask for help from teammates that do not exist.
Wheeler was Oregon’s state treasurer from 2010 to 2016 prior to running for mayor. This experience caused him to be called a “pragmatic executive who challenges the status quo when the politics are on his side.” (Read this sentence twice for full effect.) As state treasurer, he supported a reform of the state’s retirement system and went against his fellow Democrats when he challenged plans for a new Interstate 5 bridge.
Fast forward to 2021, when Wheeler’s mayoral “marathon” had reached a crisis point with critics pointing out that he was “trying to do too much, and do it on his own terms.”
During his first year as mayor, the Willamette reported on the existence of “Extremist groups [that] regularly brawled in Portland streets at the behest of Joey Gibson, an unemployed Washington real estate broker who leads a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer.” The news insinuated that Patriot Prayer was a serious threat to urban peace and tranquility when in fact it was mostly a paper tiger with a “right wing extremist’ label stuck on it by so called antifascist groups who were really fascists themselves. In 2020 this fact would be made plainly clear when the so called anti fascists held the city hostage for the better part of a year, subjecting it to nightly riots and wide scale destruction.
The most dramatic confrontation between Patriot Prayer and the left occurred on August 29, 2020 when a miles-long caravan of what the media termed “far right activists” entered Portland to confront BLM and Antifa thugs who were destroying downtown Portland. During that melee, Antifa activist Michael Reinoehl shot and killed Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a caravan participant. Reinoehl was later shot and killed by Portland police when he drew a gun while resisting arrest.
Portland, the first U.S. city to lose its mind after the death of George Floyd, became the protest-riot role model for other cities across the nation. Prior to the Floyd riots there had been lighter skirmishes (and talk of skirmishes) in Portland between Patriot Prayer groups and left wing protesters that “frightened the city, frustrated downtown business owners and seemed to baffle the mayor—who tried repeatedly to bar Gibson’s group from gathering.”
“The mayor did nothing to create these protests, but he seems ill-equipped to address them,” the newspaper cautioned in 2017.
This may have had something to do with Portland’s so called “polite political way,” or its more or less relaxed attitude of letting “everything be” until the Apocalyptic 11th hour.
The period after Danielson’s murder was perhaps the darkest time for Wheeler. That’s when he found himself in the murky mist of a Faustian bargain he had made with leftists. He felt an obligation to coddle them and not go out of his way to offend them. Many Democratic mayors across the nation behaved in a similar manner but none gave them as much leeway as Wheeler.
Portland is politically ‘woke’ in the extreme. One only has to check the city’s website, especially Meet the Mayor’s Team, to get a sense of the orthodoxy. Under each staff member’s name you’ll find a list of their preferred pronouns. Ironically, out of the entire staff of 22, only one staffer deviates from traditional gender roles, listing themselves as they/them/theirs, suggesting that the rule for the whole was made for the sake of one. A few staff members, however, in a display of common sense, ignore the pronoun category altogether by allowing only their names to indicate their biological gender.
“There was the hope he [Wheeler] would be the grown-up in the room,” Jim Pasero, a conservative political consultant, told the Willamette in 2018. “I think he strategically, when he got elected, decided to take a deep dive into the progressive end of the pool. But he is an MBA and a state treasurer, so I’m not sure it was a natural fit for him.”
As mayor, Wheeler kept police from shutting down an Antifa blockade of federal immigration officers. He ignored the exponential growth of homeless camps throughout the city. Portland Downtown Clean & Safe, the city’s 7-day a week cleaning crew, reported that in Wheeler’s second year as mayor 39,000 hypodermic needles were picked up throughout the city, a marked increase from previous years. As a mayoral candidate, Wheeler promised a tenant’s bill of rights, radical police reform that included the “demilitarization” of the department and the addition of body cameras on officers. Wheeler’s ambitious leftist “marathon” also included plans to provide bed shelters for every homeless person in the city (Wheeler would later insist that he never meant that every homeless person would be sheltered.)
When running for mayor, Wheeler wanted very much to win the hearts and minds of the city’s progressive community.
By October 2020, after the brunt of the George Floyd riots kept Portland burning for weeks, the National Police Association headlined a story: “Ted Wheeler Never Lets an Opportunity Pass to Put Portland in Danger.” For five days during the worst of the riots the mayor was absolutely silent. Then, in September 2020, when the U’S. Marshals Service deputized members of the Oregon State Police, in effect allowing them to charge rioters with arrest under the federal imprint ( guaranteeing stiffer penalties), yet Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt refused to prosecute rioters. Wheeler, rather than raise a voice in protest, kept silent. What had been the proper legal course of action in US cities when it came to convicting rioters was now discarded like Wheeler’s old running shoes because George Floyd riots were somehow different. The latest activist slogan said it all: “No justice, no peace.”
While Wheeler condemned the violence in Portland during the worst of the riots, his words of condemnation never translated into action. Each condemnation, in fact, seemed to spew another cycle of burnings and lawlessness, so that many began to ask: What is Ted Wheeler waiting for? Wheeler was waiting for the crisis to pass, for the Antifa, BLM and the dressed- in- black Ninja gas mask wearing street thugs to grow bored and go home, even though it seemed like they were winning the race.
In his naiveté, Wheeler did not realize (or want to admit) that Left Progressive movements tend to become more radical as time goes by and then, like a dog eating its own tail, turn back on those followers who don’t “catch up” in a cannibalistic frenzy. Wheeler suddenly felt himself caught in the backlash.
In June 2021 The New York Times ran a story—“After Nearly a Year of Unrest, Portland Leaders Peruse a Crackdown”– about a Portland resident who toured the city everyday in tears at what the rioters had destroyed. The article told the story of how the Oregon Historical Society had its windows smashed two times by rioters who then wrote “No More History” on the building’s walls.
“Portland was a beautiful city,” said Ms. Carter, who was the first Black woman elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly and is now retired. “Now you walk around and see all the graffiti, buildings being boarded up. I get sick to my stomach. And I get angry.” (New York Times)
An Antifa-sympathizing activist community group responded to the concern over the Oregon Historical Society by saying how the activists (rioters) “were intent on saving lives, while city leaders are focused on saving windows.”
In August 2020, Mayor Wheeler, had finally fed up with the daily violence and burnings, gave a televised speech imploring the leftist rioters in the city to take stock of their actions.
“Many of the residents of our mostly white city,” he said, “have exercised their free speech rights to peacefully protest structural racism in a way that makes me proud to be a Portlander, but these crises have also created an opening for violent extremists, to do harm to our city, to scare our downtown employers late at night, to reek havoc in any effort to drain city resources, not in an effort to reinvest them….Rising up to destroy structural racism is a noble cause, pulling people from their vehicles and beating them in the streets is a horrific violent crime…”
Wheeler called on all city residents to start talking about ending the violence, to “virtually link arms” while remembering that “We can do better.” This oatmeal milquetoast plea, however, did not win the heart of rioters. His admission that, “I take personal responsibility for not being here earlier, not finding ways to address these important issues,” is an ‘oft repeated political form of address and apology, a kind of Pepto bismol cure all to make sure you still stay in the public’s good graces.
It was, as they say, a “Kumbaya” moment and coming long after the horses had already left the stable, but not long before the mayor himself would begin to be a target for the cannibalistically-inclined street lefties. The mayor’s television address also put into perspective his first worry when he took office in 2017: that an obscure right wing group called Prayer Patriots posed an extremely dangerous threat for the city, a laughable comparison that today seems very close to insane.
Once the mania for rioting and burning takes hold, it’s there for the long haul. Portland’s violent protests continued long after the George Floyd protests in other cities died out, and despite the mayor’s having committed $12 million to Black and Brown communities, previously slated for the police department. “I’m also directing all City bureaus in my portfolio to develop strategies to better serve Black communities,” the mayor is quoted as saying on the city’s Racial Justice site.
Wheeler has been confronted several times in restaurants by disgruntled leftists. Eater magazine reported that while dining out at a Northwest Bamboo Sushi location, he was accosted by a protestor shouting, “You gas children in their homes,” a reference to Portland police using tear gas on Black Lives Matter protesters. One time the mayor was forced to pepper-spray a stranger when the latter insisted he was violating social distancing rules. In January 2021 a group of protesters interrupted the mayor’s meal at Café Nell.
The Oregonian in June 2021 reported on a Total Recall campaign organized by activists who fault the mayor for the city’s “police response during months of racial justice protests.” (The city’s police response, if anything, was too little too late.) The newspaper quoted Athul Acharya, a civil rights attorney with the ACLU of Oregon, who stated: “Portlanders deserve better than a mayor who spent the summer tear-gassing his own residents.”
The mayor has also had to deal with leftists who have smashed windows and set fires inside his condo building.
But isn’t this what you get when you make a Faustian deal with the left?
Wheeler, who was re-elected for another term in November 2020, describes the people attacking him and engaging in criminal destruction as “middle-age to young white men…who should be arrested, investigated and prosecuted.”
“They want to burn, they want to bash, they want to intimidate, they want to assault,” the Washington Post reported Wheeler saying in April 2021. ‘Our job is to unmask them, arrest them and prosecute them,’ he said, asking the public to contact the police and provide them with information about the rioters, write down their license plate numbers or film them when they commit acts of vandalism.”
Sadly, Ted Wheeler’s epiphany has come too late.
“Wheeler, the über-progressive, who made a national reputation last year by apologizing for vandals and rioters he said were merely exercising their right to protest against an unjust America. Now he’s had an epiphany, after his indulgence has made parts of Portland a battle zone, The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2021.
Is a racist mayor still a racist mayor even after he sees the light?
Other Parts of the Series:
Part I: Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot.
Part 2: LA’s Eric Garcetti.
Part 3: DC’s Muriel Bowser.
Part 4: KC’s Quinton Lucas.
Part 5: SF’s London Breed.
Part 6: Philly’s Jim Kenney.
Part 7: St. Louis’ Tishaura Jones.
Part 8: Jackson’s Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
Part 9: Seattle’s Jenny Durkan.
Part 10: Minneapolis’s Jacob Frey.
Part 11: Charlottesville’s Nikuyah Walker.
Part 13: Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Part 14: NYC’s Bill de Blasio.