The Atlantic

A Template for ‘Incivility’

Today’s protesters are reviving the tactics of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s and ’70s—with similarly mixed results.
Source: AP

Political incivility has become a hot topic this week after the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, as an act of protest against the Trump administration’s policies. After the California Democrat Maxine Waters called for more pushback against Trump officials to let them know they were “not welcome anymore,” President Trump lashed out at Waters, whom he called an “extraordinarily low IQ” person, for promoting such conduct.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, anti-war activists decided to use every tool at their disposal to pressure Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to bring an end to the Vietnam War, which was costing thousands of American and Vietnamese lives every week. Today’s protesters appear to be following a similar template for their activism. But then, as now, the politics of uncivil protest proved complicated. In the short term, the use of confrontational and aggressive tactics by protesters can cause a political backlash and inspire some fellow travelers to enter into unacceptable and dangerous territory. But in the long run, uncivil protest has sometimes been the only way to move public debate in the right direction

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