If there’s anything we should have learned from last year’s Baltimore riot, it’s that civic leaders do their communities a grave disservice when they give undue legitimacy to their demonstrations. Americans have the right to protest, but elected officials have a duty to calm the passions of the people – not inflame them.
That doesn’t mean people like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should tell the protesters to go home and suck it up, necessarily. No one’s looking for an authoritarian approach to dissent. But a word or two about giving President-elect Trump a chance? A suggestion that protesters should respect the results of the election? A reminder that they should oppose Trump by mobilizing politically, not clog up the streets of the city? Yeah, that kind of message would be appropriate right now.
But de Blasio took a different approach.
“We have to recognize that all over this country, the more disruption that’s caused peacefully, the more it will change the trajectory of things,” said de Blasio in a radio interview. De Blasio said that the protesters were justified, considering that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote – a dangerously un-democratic sentiment.
It’s all-too-easy for peaceful dissent to turn ugly, as we’ve already seen in Portland and other cities. To avoid such a disaster in New York, de Blasio owes it to the citizenry to take off his partisan hat for a while and emphasize public safety. The vast majority of New Yorkers – many of whom did not vote for Trump – just want to get back to their lives and jobs. De Blasio should avoid fanning the flames and make it a priority to return to business as usual.
“We need to hold Trump accountable for anything he does that encourages hate and division,” the mayor said. “The more extreme he is, the more people fight back, the more it takes away his power.”
But see, what could be more “extreme” than American citizens denying the results of the election? That’s a denial of reality itself, and it should not be encouraged – certainly not by officials who seem to have confused their elected positions with TV punditry.
Fact is, you can’t call for “unity” one minute and then encourage protests the next. Trump didn’t take the White House in a coup; he was elected by 60 million Americans. The voices of those Americans don’t deserve to be de-legitimized by Mayor de Blasio, even if he disagrees with everything they stand for.