When the World Trade Organization met in Seattle, they were met by leftist protesters who vandalized local stores, threw stink bombs, and taunted police.
There were no similar protests from rightists at the UN Convention on Climate Change which produced the Kyoto Protocol.
Earth First regularly vandalizes construction sites. PETA members splash paint on wearers of fur coats.
To the best of my knowledge, plastics manufacturers don't disrupt Sierra Club meetings.
Marches on Washington are inevitably the bailiwick of leftists, whether it is an antiwar protest or a Million Man March.
Even when the far left and far right agree, for example on the war in Iraq (true conservatives, as opposed to neocons, were against it), they object in different fashion. The left marches and carries placards vilifying George W. Bush. The right contents itself by grumbling to each other about what a moron Bush is and voting for Ron Paul.
Pat Buchanan has reported that he was told by a black preacher that if Obama were defeated, to expect civil disobedience (read: riots). After Obama's victory, Republican riots were thankfully held to a minimum.
When a conservative speaker comes to a college, he is often met by histrionic protesters who try to shout him down and prevent him from speaking. The protesters may even throw a pie in his face as a political statement. ("Civil" disobedience is rarely so.)
Liberal speakers on campus are never shouted down.
When Proposition 8 (the anti-gay-marriage amendment) passed in California recently, protesters picketed at Mormon temples all over the state. They even invaded some churches and threw condoms at the parishioners.
It's hard to imagine Mormons picketing on Castro Street had the proposition not passed.
Protests over violence run one way as well. When blacks are perceived to be the victims of injustice, leftists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will often show up to lead protest marches. This happened with Tawana Brawley, the Duke lacrosse team, and the Jena Six, among other instances.
A white being killed by a black never seems to lead to conservative protest marches through the ghetto.
Whenever a murderer is put to death, there is inevitably a candlelight vigil outside the execution chamber by people against the death penalty. (To be fair, these demonstrators are often met by pro-death penalty counterdemonstrators.)
At many protests, the participants chant inane couplets, repeating them over and over again in mantra-like fashion. ("Hell no, we won't go"; "Hey hey ho ho, Western civ[ilization] has got to go"; "No justice, no peace.") The purpose of a mantra in transcendental meditation is to empty the mind of thought; it may serve that purpose here as well.
Union activists will often picket, blocking the way of others who want to work -- or shop -- at a nonunion establishment. (This is the type of intimidation the unions hope to continue with the abolition of the secret ballot.) To my knowledge, conservatives have never picketed union shops.
Why do people take part in marches and demonstrations? Because it feels good in the same way it always feels good to let off steam. If you don't like something, then yell (or chant) about it. You'll feel better. If you're unable to see both sides of an issue, being absolutely convinced of your righteousness is a great feeling.
There is also a certain strength in numbers. If much of the evidence in your life thus far has indicated that you are not possessed of a particularly keen intelligence, it's always reassuring to know that other people have come to the same conclusion about an issue that you have. So protesting en masse gives you a sort of intellectual confidence you might not otherwise have had: those thousands of people who showed up to the rally couldn't all be wrong.
In all fairness, right-wingers have been known to march too. The American Nazi Party once held a well-publicized march in Skokie, Illinois. They were outnumbered by counterdemonstrators, but they did march. And anti-abortion activists regularly picket abortion clinics. But the vast majority of demonstrators are leftists. Chanting, marching, picketing, rioting, and looting just aren't activities one normally associates with conservatives.
There are also political differences in style of argument.
The left tends to resort to calling people names (racist, sexist, homophobic, Nazi); the right does this less. The left also likes to accuse the other side of being "haters" and "intolerant," although jeering, chanting, and rioting demonstrators would seem to be exhibiting exactly those qualities.
Liberals write books with titles like "Rush Limbaugh is a big Fat Idiot." As of yet no conservative has written a book entitled, "Al Franken is an Ugly Obnoxious Dwarf."
Democrats tend to be regularly "offended" during political discussions. This is a tactic normally used to stop any intelligent and dispassionate analysis of a subject. I've never heard a Repubican claim offense this way.
Most of the Republicans I know tend to pick positions from both sides of the aisle. Many are pro-choice and also fairly strong environmentalists. The Democrats I know rarely stray from the party line.
When a Republican -- like George W. Bush -- does a poor job, the Republicans I know don't reflexively jump to his defense, refusing to admit any wrongdoing. They'll just say, yep, he screwed up. Democrats, on the other hand, are generally less willing to admit fault on the part of their elected officials; if such is brought up, they will often respond by saying, "Oh, well what about [such and such a Republican official]?"
White liberals tend to posture in order to prove something about themselves, i.e., to show that they're "good" people, that they come down on the politically correct side of the fence, which means that they're "enlightened" and "hip." They tend to look pleased with themselves after they express an opinion, as if they expect a pat on the back. Conservatives on the other hand tend to take on a George Will-like demeanor, as if they know their position is unpopular, but they're going to say it anyway.
The Republicans I know never consider someone's political affiliation to be a bar to friendship. I regularly hear Democrats say things like, oh, I could never have a relationship with someone who wasn't a Democrat. ("Tolerance" at its finest.)
Please note that this essay is not about political positions per se. I'm against the Iraq War, I'm against whaling, I'm pro-environment, I'm pro-gay marriage, and I agree that the Republicans bear a lot of responsibility for the current economic mess. This is about the nature of protests and the people who engage in them.
This post isn't even a condemnation of all protests. The Boston Tea Party was a protest that turned into a riot with lots of vandalization, even if those terms are never applied to it. If you remember your elementary school reading, that riot was looked upon kindly by the history books. (My first reaction upon reading about it as an nine year old was, what a waste of tea; why not just take it for themselves rather than dump it in the harbor?)
Who knows, maybe it takes obstreperous and destructive people to change history. Even if you like Sam Adams beer, Adams himself -- a well known hothead -- was probably not the sort of fellow you'd have wanted to have a beer with.
When I was a teenager (during the Viet Nam war) I found it strangely contradictory that liberals tended to be impulsive, obnoxious, immature people who espoused good causes, whereas conservatives tended to be nice, polite, well-behaved types who were on the wrong side.
I've changed my mind on some of the issues.
I haven't changed my mind about the people.