I don’t like protests. The crowds, the shouting, the marching — it reminds me of what Friedrich Nietzsche said about madness being rare in individuals but the rule in groups.
When people take to the streets, it’s often a loud minority that is trying to overturn what the majority has democratically and quietly willed in the voting booth.
Not always, though. This time it’s different.
You don’t need street demonstrations when those in power respect the democratic process. When they respect the rule of law and less noisy channels of dissent.
But that’s not the case in America anymore.
Donald Trump and his sycophants continue to allege, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the November election.
They’re saying that since Trump won the election — if not the popular vote — Americans who disagree with him should just go away. Dissent, to them, is a sign of disrespect. Or worse, a betrayal.
They’re calling the media “the opposition”; truthful reporting “fake news”; and limiting reporters’ — and thus the public’s — access to the president.
They’re failing to consult relevant government agencies before making policy and purging critics from the highest ranks of the bureaucracy.
It’s not at all clear they will obey the courts. It has been reported that border agents at Dulles Airport outside Washington DC defied a federal judge and refused Muslim travelers affected by Trump’s ban their right to counsel.
If Trump loses his appeal and higher courts agree that the ban is unconstitutional, will he back down?
The fact that we’re not sure is all the prove you need that these are unusual times.
The thugs are in power, which means the once-silent majority must take to the streets.
Paul Gowder writes for the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, that the most important tool to resisting creeping authoritarianism is to refuse to succumb to “preference falsification”. That is the impulse to conceal opposition to a regime for fear of retribution.
Trump’s opponents, he argues, must have the courage to ignore threats and protest abuses now, when they’re (still) relatively mild.
A visible and loud opposition is self-reinforcing. By communicating anti-regime preferences, opponents signal that other people who might oppose the regime will have allies and also signal that those who would engage in antisocial behavior in support of the regime cannot rely on the silent support or acquiescence of their communities.
So by all means, protest. The more time Trump and his acolytes spend relitigating the last election, arguing over crowd sizes and heckling protesters and the “lying press”, the less real harm they might be able to do.