Should Progressives Be Inspired by the DC Rioters?

Last week, Michael Moore asked an important question on OpEdNews. He wondered “Why Are We Not Uprising?” His revolutionary issue was the lack of single-payer healthcare so relentlessly highlighted by the worldwide covid-19 pandemic. Why no revolution, he asked, when so many are dying from clearly remediable causes – when the vast majority of Americans want single-payer?

Response to Moore’s article showed that he had indeed touched a revolutionary chord.

But then last Wednesday, when an actual uprising took place, everyone, it seemed, wanted to join hands across the proverbial aisle separating left and right. They jointly lamented the shocking breakdown of law and order. (The “Risings” Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti provide an example of that shared reaction.)

Think about it, everyone said: the rioters actually “desecrated” the Capitol Building’ “sacred” space! They broke some windows. They took selfies of themselves standing at the podium of the House of Representatives. They ransacked poor Nancy Pelosi’s office! They forced Mitch McConnell and Co. to run for their lives.

Washington policemen responded with a wink and a nod.

The horror of it all!

Something similar (with important differences) happened this summer, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators took to the streets. Theirs’ was a largely peaceful uprising in the spirit of Martin Luther King. But then, agents provocateurs (and perhaps some demonstrators themselves) had the temerity to break into and loot Wal-Mart’s “sacred” precincts. Windows were smashed; fires were set.

That time, police responded with an iron fist. Demonstrators were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested.

Yes of course, there were those important differences between the two insurrections just cited. The DC protagonists were Trump supporters and right-wing fanatics. Their issue was election fraud. The cause of the BLM demonstrators was police brutality directed towards black and brown people.

Despite those distinctions however, don’t you see what’s happening? Michael Moore’s wish has come true! The first phase of the revolution is unfolding before our very eyes. But even its protagonists don’t recognize its portent and promise.

That’s because they’ve been hoodwinked into seeing each other as the enemy. Rather than joining forces against their common overlords, they’re punching down. The rightists think their enemy are blacks and immigrants whose numbers are rapidly changing U.S. demographics. Meanwhile, leftist demonstrators are the very ones mistakenly vilified by the rightists and their sympathizers among the police.

The empowering solution is for all of us to see the common revolutionary terrain on which we’re standing, namely:

  • Citizen anger, be it left or right is entirely justified
  • Both what happened In DC this week and in streets across the country (and world) last summer are the initial stirrings of a widespread working-class revolution.
  • Michael Moore is right. He’d agree, I think, that the real violence in question here is not breaking windows or setting fires. It’s a system that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic refuses (despite agreement between Democratic and Republican majorities) to refund our taxpayer dollars in the form of single-payer healthcare and guaranteed income for workers displaced by forces beyond our control.
  • That’s our money they’re not returning to us in this emergency!
  • Everyone can also agree with Trump supporters that our election system is entirely fraudulent. Voting machines are completely questionable; they should be replaced by paper ballots. Campaign contributions are nothing but legalized bribery. Voter suppression’s many forms (from unnecessary ID laws to the dismantling of the U.S. post office) are a sad fact of American life. Gerrymandering is hideously anti-democratic. So is the Electoral College. The list of fraudulence goes on.
  • Pelosi and McConnell do not represent us, but their donors. Following the example of our Founders (cf. Jefferson on this!), we should force them all to flee for their lives from outraged citizens and their pitchforks whether the attack comes from the right or the left.
  • The offices of our mis-representatives deserve to be ransacked.
  • Ordinary people should seize congressional podia and make their voices heard.
  • The police too are working class people misled into identifying fellow workers as the enemy while defending their own natural enemies.

I’m currently reading Barack Obama’s autobiography, The Promised Land. It’s an account of a well-meaning ambitious young black man whose rise to the pinnacle of political power gradually but inexorably transforms him into the servant of a class he initially identified as inimical to the interests of the people he wanted to help. It’s the story of an imperceptibly slow cooptation, early-onset blindness, and betrayal of ideals and common sense in favor of power, profit and prestige.

A similar cooptation threatens all of us at this pre-revolutionary moment. It will succeed if we allow our overlords to sell us a narrative that covers up the workers’ revolution that has the Pelosis and McConnells of the world frightened out of their wits. Like young Mr. Obama, we’re overlooking how the rich and powerful are blinding us to our common cause as wage-earning Americans.

Michael Moore (and the rest of us) should take note.