There is a palpable fear on the left that each new spasm of rioting and violence in the streets will drive more people away from their side. While Joe Biden himself is not tossing bricks and setting fire to police cars, his Democratic Party is the home of those who would excuse the rioters while Republicans are more likely to condemn street violence. It is natural that people who oppose anarchy in their cities and towns might consider voting for the candidate who does the same.
One line of thinking from the leftists now holds that the real way to stop violence in the streets is to elect Democrats, who will surely be better at calming the far-left mobs by giving them at least part of what they want. To be sure, the mob would be gratified by Donald Trump leaving office, but giving in to violent demands never makes the threat go away. Instead, it proves that violence works and leads to more of it. A mob is never satisfied.
The Only Way to Stop the Left Is to Elect Them?
Shadi Hamid of The Atlantic explained this theory last month when he wrote:
A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning — even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.
This month in the same publication, Yascha Mounk wrote that people who are tired of illiberal leftism should vote for Biden. “[A] Biden victory would make it easier, not harder, to push back against antifa types who think engaging in violent tactics to resist the Trump administration is justifiable,” Mounk said. “So long as citizens can contest political injustice at the ballot box, there can be no excuse for burning down government buildings.”
Neither Hamid nor Mounk is saying explicitly that the only way to stop left-wing violence is to vote for left-wing candidates, but they’re not not saying it, either. Giving in to fear and conceding to the rioters sounds, for some tremulous voters, like a way out of the problem.
Paying the Dane-Geld Never Works
We have known for a long time that such concessions rarely, if ever, succeed. Rudyard Kipling wrote about it in his 1911 poem “Dane-Geld.” In it, he retold the historical events of nine centuries earlier, when Viking raiders came to pillage England.
Rather than get murdered and robbed, King Æthelred proposed to just give the Danes money (called the “Dane-geld”) so they would go away. The Danes agreed — and then came back every year for more. Kipling described the exchange:
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
‘We invaded you last night —
We are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.’
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!
It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
‘Though we know we should defeat you,
We have not the time to meet you,
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.’
Then, as now, human reactions are pretty predictable. If you make something profitable, more people will do it. The Vikings were presented with an easy win: just show up and get money, no need to risk life and limb. For Æthelred, paying them off was the easy short-term fix.
The problem, however, was not solved, and the Vikings kept coming. Eventually, their king, Canute, conquered England and held it until his death.
Americans Must Vote for What Is Good and Right
Delivering votes and policy victories to a mob out of fear is little different. If some voters actually want to defund the police and to enshrine Ibram X. Kendi’s Orwellian Department of Anti-Racism in the Constitution, or want any other far-left idea to come to pass, then by all means, they should vote for lefty candidates. But if other, more reasonable voters think that giving in to rioters will pacify the streets of Portland once more, they are surely mistaken. The Dane never left for long, and neither will Antifa, not if their violence is rewarded.
Kipling explained why we should act out of conviction, not cowardice:
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation
In the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —
‘We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!’
A nation that votes out of fear is lost. Americans have not done so in the past, and we should not start now. That is true not only because it will not work, but because it is wrong.
This republic endures when people vote based on what they think will be right and good for all of us. Americans don’t pay tribute. Once we do, this grand experiment in republican self-government will be headed for failure.