Last fall, journalist Andy Ngo documented 38 “days of government-sanctioned anarchy” that swept like wildfire through Portland, Oregon. Antifa, a group of black-clad, jackbooted left-wing militants, laid siege to the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office and eventually engulfed the community in chaos, all under the passive oversight of Democrat Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Antifa barricaded exits and blocked the driveway to the field office. At night they laid on the street in protest, obstructing traffic to a nearby hospital with their frail bodies. Wheeler, who doubles as police commissioner, prohibited his officers from aiding Immigration and Customs personnel begging for assistance. Some had been followed home by Antifa members, who proceeded to vandalize their property and frighten their children.
Wheeler was unmoved. “If [ICE is] looking for a bailout from this mayor,” he said, “they are looking in the wrong place.”
Everyday Oregonians, too, were left to fend for themselves. Wheeler’s reign has normalized police inaction and not just against Antifa. Downtown Portland has become a quagmire teeming with thieving drug addicts and the homeless, along with human feces and the used needles they leave behind.
During Antifa’s month-long protest, Brianna Hakes, a food-cart operator, told Ngo that “people wearing masks threatened to hurt her and burn down the cart.” Wheeler’s police never responded to frantic calls from the Hakes family. One 52-year-old local artist photographing the scene had his camera slammed into his face by protesters. Charles Williams, a 62-year-old man, was threatened with an allegedly “AIDS-infected needle” by an Antifa member. Lisa Leonard, a 53-year-old disabled woman, told Ngo “occupiers hit her on her head, disabled her electric wheelchair, and lifted her in the air when she complained about loud drumming.”
The Democratic Party has allowed itself to become the political arm of the ideological Left, using legitimate government processes to further the ideological ends of the Left—whether that means turning a blind eye to Antifa or opening our borders.
While reporting on a rally in Portland this summer, Ngo found himself once more in the breach with Antifa. “At various points I was threatened, cursed at, and blocked from walking around,” he wrote. “I ignored them. Police watched from a distance and did nothing.”
Antifa escalated. According to Ngo:
Later, a masked person approached me from behind, dumped the contents of a cup on my head, and ran away. The paper cup had an Antifa logo on it and was handed out at a “shake station” in the park. I immediately reported the incident to police. Officers told me they would not approach the suspect, who was still in sight, because that might “incite” the crowd. This is a refrain I hear every time Antifa harasses or attacks me with a Portland police eyewitness present. Policing in the city has become so feckless that neighboring county deputies are withdrawing or reducing their support for the Portland police.
At the end of April, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts announced his deputies would no longer be responding to most service calls within the city of Portland, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “I will not place you at unnecessary personal and professional risk,” he wrote in a statement to his employees. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office followed suit the same month. Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw told reporters that there is “a perception that political ideology trumps public safety here.” What gave her that idea? Ngo knows.
“Minutes later, another ‘shake’ was hurled at my face,” he writes. “It splashed under my goggles and went into an eye, which stung and obstructed my vision. Again, I reported this to police, who demurred.”
Then the mob, in proximity to police, savagely beat Ngo. They pummeled him in the face and the back of the head. He raised his arms in surrender, but that only plunged the mob into a frenzy. Rocks, eggs, more “milkshakes,” (some of which, according to the Portland police, contained caustic quick-drying cement) silly string, and pepper spray rained down on Ngo. His reward for the day was a brain bleed and a hospital stay.
Antifa’s High-Profile Apologists
Wheeler’s tacit approval of—or indifference to—Antifa’s violence is not anomalous among Democrats. David Fleetwood came to the defense of Ngo’s assailants, claiming on Twitter that there “is no evidence Antifa attacked Andy Ngo.” Fleetwood is the first vice chairman of the King County Democrats and vice chairman of the 11th Legislative District Democrats in Washington state. After reviewing footage of the attack on Ngo, Fleetwood bit down harder.
“I suppose it would be alarming for a fascist,” he sniffed. “Nobody in that video was identified. Looked staged to me.” He gets one thing right: No suspects have been identified, let alone arrested, in connection with Ngo’s beating.
Fleetwood’s defense of Antifa came in the month following an attack on an immigration detention center in his own state. Armed with a rifle and homemade “incendiary devices,” Willem Van Spronsen attacked the facility and set a vehicle on fire before being gunned down by police.
Van Spronsen was a member of an Antifa group called the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, the motto of which is: “What we need is action!” Rather than denounce and disavow Van Spronsen’s actions, the group released a statement mourning the loss of their “comrade” with a picture of their murderous namesake.
Covert and overt support for these militants from Democrats is commonplace given that Antifa, in effect, functions as a paramilitary arm of the party, akin to Mussolini’s Black Shirts. Though to be fair to Il Duce, the Black Shirts never quite enjoyed the support of the establishment they sought to overthrow. That so-called “anti-fascists” behave in such a conspicuously fascist manner has only elevated them in the eyes of the punditocracy and party faithful.
The Washington Post’s clownish Jonathan Capehart claimed Antifa’s struggle is one against that which is “rooted in America’s original sin”—that is, slavery—and therefore their antics and tactics are “not the issue. It’s white supremacists, it’s Neo-Nazis, it’s racists and bigots” that are the real issue, according to this intellectual Lilliputian. The Post’s house neoconservative, Jennifer Rubin, declared that absolution will come only when we “burn down the Republican Party.” We must, she insists, “level them because if there are survivors, if there are people who weather this storm, they will do it again.”
How might we expect left-wing militants to process and act on these words?
A whole host of CNN airheads have turned out to bootlick Antifa, including their very own “Fredo,” who has defended the group declaring them “on the side of right.” Don Lemon, in a queer turn of logic, applauded and defended Antifa as “fighting racist fascists.” Sara Sidner insisted that Antifa is merely a necessary and understandably violent response to “neo-Nazis,” therefore on the side of good. Michael Eric Dyson likened Antifa to a cancer treatment struggling to preserve “the fabric of America.”
“The radiation is tough treatment,” said Dyson of Antifa’s violent methods. “But it is meant to remove the cancer.”
W. Kamau Bell speaking at a rally that turned violent thanks to Antifa, gleefully shouted “Bye Nazis, bye!” to an ecstatic crowd. Bell had previously dedicated an episode of his show to “hanging out” with the “good guy[s]” of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club. The man who attacked the immigration detention center is visible in CNN’s trailer for the episode.
MSNBC’s anchors, too, joined the fun. Nicolle Wallace claimed the rank and file of Antifa is made up of “good people” whose violent means we should elide because, after all, they are on the “side of angels.” Chuck Todd invited Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, to explain why the group’s political violence is both necessary and “ethical.”
Bray’s little red handbook found itself in the grasp of Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who lovingly posed with the volume that calls violence during counterprotests “a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.” Rep. Debra Haaland, (D-N.M.) called Antifa thugs “peaceful protesters” on CNN. Lauren Poe, the Democrat mayor of Gainesville, Florida, has said Antifa “stands up to hate, misogyny, racism and bigotry.” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was once a member of an Antifa-aligned Facebook group, By Any Means Necessary, that was responsible for the violence that consumed his city in flame and fury ahead of a Milo Yiannopoulos speaking event.
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) generously volunteered to help fundraise for “any legal fees, as well as supplies for jail support,” for Antifa agitators arrested on assault and battery charges.
Prefiguring the Progressive Reich
“History does not repeat itself,” as Mark Twain said, “but it often rhymes.” Our present echoes the past. Angelo Codevilla has noted in these pages that contemporary war drums sound an awful lot like the ones that beat amid the fires of the Spanish Civil War. But I wonder if Germany has something to teach us.
In the aftermath of the failed 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch,” Adolf Hitler remarked that “it is not enough to overthrow the old State,” if one endeavors to seize power and maintain it. Rather, he said, “the new State must previously have been built up and be practically ready to one’s hand.”
National Socialists had from 1924 to 1933 built party institutions that paralleled official ones, cultivating their own intellectuals, activist organizations, artists, propaganda organs, and paramilitary forces. By the time Hitler rose to power in 1933, the new state already had been prefigured by party institutions; seizing power merely meant swapping out existing institutions for the party ones.
“In 1933, it was no longer a question of overthrowing a state by an act of violence,” said Hitler, “meanwhile the new State had been built up and all that there remained to do was to destroy the last remnants of the old State—and that took but a few hours.”
The Democratic Socialists of our time have walked a very similar line as the National Socialists of the past, eschewing the insurrectional path and instead undertaking a more or less legal conquest of power. The Democratic Party has allowed itself to become the political arm of the ideological Left, using legitimate government processes to further the ideological ends of the Left—whether that means turning a blind eye to Antifa or opening our borders. And because it enjoys the sweep of mainstream media and pop culture organs, it has established a cultural hegemony under which its ways and ends are justified; there is an institutionalized double standard of aggression and violence in favor of the Left.
A Republican Party concerned with finding “common ground”—out of cowardice or mutual benefit or, God help us, sincerity—always a bit more to the left is not the dog for this fight. The political Left’s strength is that it does not fear power, but seeks, seizes, and consolidates it without compromise. The Republican Party is and has long been organized on the principle of limiting and resenting power, of railing against corrupt elites—but never endeavoring to create a new elite aligned with its own principles.
The fact is that there is no limiting power in the 21st century. Power is an inevitability and a necessity. The Right can either consign itself to the politics of resentment or snatch the levers of power from the Left before they can be brought down on our necks. There is a need now more than ever for an American Right that is willing and able to bring the full spectrum of political and institutional warfare to the Democratic Party and its black-masked allies.