On his first day of work, Portland, Ore. mayor Ted Wheeler rode his bike to the office. It was a bold, symbolic move for a city mayor, but fairly predictable in a town such as Portland, parts of which look and feel like CHOP all the time: a seedy college campus, overrun and occupied by pale, homeless anarchists with penchants for funky haircuts, NPR, and Chuck Palahniuk’s fiction.
However, I can imagine young progressives from other parts of the country were titillated at the prospect of a mayor biking into such an environment. How hip! Here, finally, was a radical man of the State — our State, not the evil, fascist one — who shares our Millennial outlook on climate change. Not only did he believe that to cycle is to save the world, he acted on it, too.
My first very minor compliment to Ted Wheeler is that he biked to work aware of the possible and ultimately realized risks of doing so: He broke his ribs in a 2017 bicycle accident.
Wednesday night’s symbolic move was a different story, however. The PR stunt — like President Trump’s Bible brandishing in early June — backfired.
A true man-in-the-arena stud, Wheeler rushed into the throng of protesters and rioters gathering in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. He stood alongside the progressive masses in solidarity, pumping a black power fist and rallying his supporters.
“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” he said. “We’re on the front line here in Portland.”
But his little wartime speech didn’t draw the response he had hoped for. In fact, there were hecklers in the crowd, booing the beloved mayor.
Later on, Wheeler got closer to the courthouse, where federal agents had set up a line of defense between the building and the mob. Several Portland citizens were asking him hardball questions when the tear-gas canisters started flying.
Good thing Wheeler came prepared — with a private-security team, of course, and his own safety googles. But apparently, it was the sort of protective eyewear one gets in a high-school chemistry lab, worthless against the gas variety used by federal agents. Wheeler emerged from the confrontation tear-eyed, flushed, and sweaty.
To worsen matters, the protesters and rioters then turned on him. As Wheeler was escorted back to the mayoral office, they screamed in his face, thrashing at the security guards. The revolution seems to be eating its own — right on schedule.
So my second very minor compliment to Ted Wheeler is: At least he took some risk by directly facing the effects of his woeful, incompetent, and dangerous leadership as the mayor of Portland. He’s a man with skin in the game — to a certain extent — though no less idiotic.
Other mayors around the country, perhaps Lori Lightfoot and Bill de Blasio, could learn a thing or two from him. They too ought to take some risk and step out into the neighborhoods that have long suffered under progressive leadership.
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