I guess you could say, “Never let a good fence go to waste.”
As plans rustle for a possible American echo of the Canadian truckers’ Freedom Convoy, the U.S. Capitol Police are in conversations with the Secret Service about the possibility of reinstalling the temporary fence that has previously encircled the Capitol grounds, a symbol of contrived concern over what the next horrific wave of Trump supporters might do.
It was erected after the January 6 riot, as if freshly aggrieved violent hordes might storm the building again and again, and it was up for the “Justice for J6” rally in September, when attendees gathered to object to the glacial pace of legal proceedings for those arrested that day.
This was pure political theater, an attempt to paint conservatives as an unhinged horde that could snap loose at any moment with fresh breaches of the Capitol hallways. There was no sound basis for that belief.
But now there is the prospect of a show of political force that could play out in the days leading up to President Biden’s State of the Union address—a convoy of truckers that would express frustrations with government akin to the passions demonstrated by their Canadian brethren. Most of the subject matter so far has involved restrictive COVID policies, but there is a breeze blowing that suggests an American counterpart might expand its scope to include a variety of burdens borne by truckers and other citizens.
The Canadian convoy involved no small amount of civil disobedience and interruptions to the flow of traffic and commerce, but at no point, despite demonization from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other critics, did it cross the line into the kind of brutal violence that was coddled and underplayed when it exploded across the streets of America under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
No fence goes up without the approval of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who surely embraces the opportunity to throw shade at an American convoy before it even takes shape. If it can be portrayed as a potential menace before the wheels even roll, it is a pre-emptive PR strike designed to distract from the plentiful crises facing Biden and the Democratic party.
The American convoy concept has had a fitful birth. The original idea was to begin its journey with a disruption of traffic around the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on February 13. Those logistics could not be mobilized in time, so the days since have been spent in wistful anticipation of a procession of truckers that would arrive in Washington in time for the Biden address.
So how would our convoy play out? How might it succeed? Are there any dangers that lurk?
At first glance, the notion of an army of truckers protesting authoritarianism in a cross-country trek is inspiring to the millions of Americans who have looked on in admiration as Canadian truckers have taken their stand. Those supporters have also looked on in revulsion as Canada’s government and police forces have overreacted in word and deed, slandering the movement with Nazi imagery and threatening participants and supporters alike with crackdowns on expression and freezing of bank accounts.
The U.S. Constitution precludes some of the heavy-handed response seen in Canada, but that is no guarantee that the American left will restrain itself, rhetorically or behaviorally. It is easy to imagine the American truckers condemned as the Canadians have been, with support for them similarly denounced as domestic terrorism. That suggests the backfire may be as glorious to watch as the convoy itself, but there are figurative land mines along the route.
It will be interesting to see if American convoy support wavers when it is our roads and bridges being blocked. It is one thing to watch a traffic snarl in Ottawa, and quite another when it is our commutes and other travels impeded.
Presuming a wide latitude of forgiveness in that regard (from sympathetic Americans at least), it will also be a good idea to observe some imagery control. Let’s have everybody leave the swastikas at the house, even if the idea is to project Third Reich stigma onto others. And I’ve spent a lifetime explaining to people that confederate imagery does not necessarily connote racism, but let’s leave those flags at home as well. One of the most basic rules of winning people over is: no unforced errors. Don’t needlessly give your critics material to slam you with.
The Canadian convoy was often mislabeled as “anti-vaccine” when its main point was against mandates and government overreach. Similar mischaracterizations are a certainty if an American convoy takes shape, but those can be navigated with persistence and clarity.
As for the over-the-top attacks that will rain down from the parts of America that fear the convoy’s message of freedom and self-determination, our truckers can wear those as a badge of honor.
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