Get Mad. Act Out. Re-Elect George Bush.

Protesters risk playing into GOP hands

It would have taken all of King's powers of Christian love, I think, not to laugh in these people's faces. King would never ever simply say, "We need to do what our conscience tells us is important to do," and somehow leave it at that. King planned his insurgencies with the strategic care of a military general, and with the characteristic obsessions of a top-drawer publicist: no risk of arrest, of violence—even when arrest or violence was welcomed, embraced for its communicative power—was ever left to chance. (Today's protesters revel in their embrace of improvisation, as if it were a good in itself.) And he never left the field of battle satisfied with mere moral victory, that his side had demonstrated more righteousness than the other. He always had a concrete political goal, that concrete goal but a step toward his continually evolving transcendent goals.

In Chicago in 1968, and in New York in 2004, these are lessons forgotten.

People get caught up in their righteousness—maybe you are—which is easy to do: Demonstrators do no more "damage" to the Great Lawn than concertgoers. The conventioneers coming to New York are getting subsidized by tax dollars because they are seen as a boon to business, even though the protesters spat upon by the city carry money that is just as green. The city has become a censor. All of these things are true.

Rae Valentine is even right, in a cosmic sense, when she says that "people understand that the so-called chaos of streets being shut down by protesters or even a window being broken is nothing compared to the day-to-day chaos and destruction of people being able to afford housing, or health care. That's where the real violence—in the system—lies."

But she is not right in the sense that matters: the political sense. "I think people understand," she says. Linger on that formulation. It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce that, magically, "people will understand." They might not understand at all. Instead, what they might understand is: "Bush is better than anarchy in the streets." It ain't fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned, there'll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next four years.

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