AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman
Late last week, a Californian man, Nicholas Roske, was arrested outside the house of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and charged with attempted assassination. While Roske thankfully failed to follow through on the act, he was motivated by anger over the leaked Supreme Court decision, which would have reversed Roe v. Wade. With the final and official version of that decision set to be released within the next two weeks, the muted reaction to Roske’s arrest in the media and among the wider public should serve as a warning. Millions of Americans, especially on the left, are angry and ready for a fight. They have been incited by rhetoric from Democratic elected officials and voices in the media who have attempted to shift the blame for their failures to address any of the problems facing their voters to institutions that are supposedly blocking Democrats from doing so, including the Supreme Court. While the left-wing criticisms of the Electoral College, the Senate, and the Court have not explicitly called for violence, the suggestion that those institutions are the reason for inaction on student loans, inflation, immigration, crime, and a host of other issues risks repeating the error of Henry II of England when he uttered the infamous phrase “Will not someone rid me of this turbulent Priest?,” only to see Archbishop Thomas a Beckett murdered as a result. In the America of 2022, such rhetoric is playing with fire.
This is not to suggest that overturning Roe v. Wade will cause mass riots by supporters of abortion who will burn down buildings over allowing states to restrict abortion to 15 weeks rather than 18. After all, though the summer riots in 2020 were ostensibly caused by the death of George Floyd, the reality was that Floyd’s death was only a trigger, not the cause. Americans had been subjected to months of lockdown, unable to attend school, go to work, or in some jurisdictions, even walk their dogs outside or take their children to playgrounds for more than 30 minutes a day. That had created a growing sense of frustration while at the same time exposing people to online echo chambers, which constantly spread the message that extreme action was both justified and effective.
Americans, especially younger Americans, are, if anything, even more frustrated now. Gas prices and inflation are rising ever higher. The economy seems to be headed into a slowdown. Those who invested in cryptocurrency have seen their assets wiped out. Meanwhile, the Biden administration, which entered office with impossible expectations, has failed to deliver action on even the most basic concerns. Having been told they would see their student loans canceled, that eviction moratoriums would be extended, that money would rain down from the sky, Biden voters have received nothing. With an impending red wave about to sweep Republicans into Congressional majorities, perhaps for a generation in the Senate, there is little prospect of this changing.
For those younger Americans and liberals who have been “mugged by reality” and recognized that the error lay in their own expectations for Biden, this is a learning experience. It has led many of them to reconsider their own views and flirt with facilitating that red wave by voting Republican. They are more numerous than anyone could have imagined in January of 2021. Yet there are millions of left-wing Americans for whom such self-examination, even in the wake of an actual collapse of their own financial and social position, is too much to ask for or expect. For them, like Germans after their defeat in World War I, the answer must be not that they were wrong but rather that they were betrayed.
The attacks on the legitimacy of every institution by mainstream Democrats, whether the Electoral College, Senate or Supreme Court, may have been intended as tactical moves without the expectation it would lead to action, much less violent action. But something that was originally designed to pressure Republicans and judges to make concessions has transformed into an effort by Democrats to give their angry voters a scapegoat to blame for why their loans have not been repaid, why crime is rising, gas prices are up, and Biden cannot do anything about it. It is because of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is responsible for violent crime and school shootings. The Supreme Court is responsible for the failures of the healthcare system. The Supreme Court is why we can’t protect you from eviction or forgive your loans. The corollary is obvious even if it is unstated: If only someone got rid of the Supreme Court, then all of these problems would go away.
The net result is to create an environment in which countless left-wing activists believe both that nothing can be accomplished within the current political system peacefully and that if they engage in violent action, they have a chance of accomplishing change. When combined with how many may feel they have nothing to lose, especially if they face loan repayments at the same time they must pay more for gas, face eviction, and lost heavily in the crypto crash, you have a recipe for unrest.
It is here where the reaction to Roske’s arrest is as disturbing as his actions. His actions are a precedent for others to follow and suggest the possibility of riots or other unrest following the release of the ruling. It is hard to see how this will help Democrats. The 2020 riots were a political disaster, probably costing them two dozen House seats and three in the Senate. But too many Republicans have become used to the ease with which the GOP can sit back, watch Biden or Democrat-induced disasters, and reap the benefits while doing nothing.
The bigger worry, however, is the reaction to this attempted assassination, or rather the lack thereof. That House Democrats held up legislation to provide security for Supreme Court Justices and their families implies there is a substantial voting base that has mixed feelings about Roske’s actions.
In this, we are reminded of the concept discussed in previous columns for AMAC Newsline on “Rule or Ruin” – the idea that if Democrats cannot dominate American society and political institutions, they will set out to destroy them. Even if this approach was adopted tactically to aid with the ruling, the same rhetoric risks locking Democratic officials into a pursuit of ruin when they face a loss of power.
We already see rhetoric from New York Governor Kathy Hochul that she will have to use all means necessary to “protect the lives of New Yorkers” from the Supreme Court if they overturn the state’s gun laws. What happens when Democratic governors normalize accusing Supreme Court Justices and Republican legislators in Washington of “murder” for opposing gun control, restricting abortion, or cutting welfare? Will they be trapped into not only not condemning but not punishing those who act on it? Even if they don’t wish to, they risk being outflanked from the left by primary challenges which will accuse them of persecuting “resistance fighters against oppression,” using their own words against them.
Over the last two years, we have proceeded from rhetorical delegitimization to rhetorical threats, to accusations of “murder” and threats of physical violence. It is a trend that, if not reversed, soon threatens disaster.
Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.