If Democrats are having trouble reconciling social and racial justice with maintaining order, Republicans still can’t believe their gift from heaven.
“Are you trying to get Trump re-elected?” The employee of a vandalized pizza parlor in Kenosha County, Wisconsin yells at the protesters. The windows have become a carpet of thousands of pieces of glass. “I have a family to support!” He snaps at them. A shy young voice off-camera replies: “These people do not represent our movement.” “Well, I’m sorry, but they are part … They are with you,” adds the pizza man, as if to say: it is what it is.
This is just one specific scene in Kenosha County, where police fired seven shots in the back last weekend at an African-American, Jacob Blake, who has since been handcuffed to a hospital bed. The incident sparked protests very similar to those of the early summer: a series of demonstrations dusted with looting and violent assaults, which have so far left two dead by the hands of a 17-year-old teenager.
But something seems to have changed in public opinion. A Marquette Law School poll shows a decline in Wisconsin’s support for racial protests. In mid-June, two out of three citizens supported the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Now that support has dropped to one in two: especially among the white population. As can be the case of the irritated pizza man. The survey was also completed before this new wave of turmoil.
A lot has happened since America’s big cities took to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd. What was at first a cry of outrage and racial justice, branched out. Peaceful marches were led by rashes of violence. Many policemen attacked unarmed protesters, sometimes from behind or when they were on the ground. But there were also protesters who attacked the police: they overflowed it with bottles, Molotov cocktails and fireworks. In New York alone, in the first four days of protests, some fifty of police cars were wrecked.
The Democratic Dilemma
The new generations of American journalists graduated from the universities where critical racial theory prevails, which perceives the world as a sordid war between races and genders, imposed a very particular coverage of the events. Those who gave space to conservative perspectives, such as the New York Times’ opinion chief, were forced to resign; others burned in the flames of social networks, such as David Shor, the Democratic analyst who warned about the political cost that violence could have in an election.
Throughout the country, companies, mayors, the media, universities and foundations reiterated their commitment to racial equality and promised all kinds of measures. Sometimes they were not enough, as at the Chicago Poetry Foundation, where the council was forced to resign for having been too lukewarm in its denunciation of “black genocide” by the hands of the police. The demolition of statues of historical figures, from Christopher Columbus to George Washington to Ulysses Grant, the general who defeated the slavers (but who had once owned a slave), opened the news as the protests and looting continued.
The riots put the Democrats in a difficult situation. To begin with, these took place in their cities: Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis or Atlanta, which forced them to make a balance between denouncing racism and police brutality, and maintaining peace and public order. In Portland, one of the busiest places, Mayor Ted Wheeler tried to speak to protesters. He went up with a megaphone to a monument full of graffiti and answered their questions.
In New York, Bill de Blasio agreed to cut the police department’s budget by almost 20% and prohibited officers from immobilizing suspects by placing their legs on their chest or back. The agents, visibly tired for having been the object of derision and now for these measures that limited them in their work, fell into a kind of silent strike: they stopped acting with the same zeal, as one of them acknowledged.
As a result, crime has skyrocketed in these big cities. Here in New York, the number of homicides has grown by almost 90% in August, as have the shootings. At the same time, the arrests have gone down. Now you take a walk along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and you can see small candle altars on the sidewalks, in memory of the young people who every two or three days are killed.
If Democrats are struggling to reconcile these realities, Republicans still can’t believe the gift that has fallen from the sky: at Trump’s full disadvantage in the polls, images of hooded Marxists intimidating innocent pedestrians, American flags burning on Fifth Avenue, businessmen kneeling, calls to “abolish the police” and countless videos of shops looted and burned stores are a golden resource for conservatives.
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson serves up a selection of the nation’s worst mismatches every day and blames them squarely on Joe Biden. The strategy may be working: Tucker Carlson has become the leader of ‘prime time’ and the most-watched television show in US history, despite a boycott by some advertisers for his extremist content.
This week, Carlson suggested that Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who killed two protesters who were apparently pursuing him with his rifle, did so to “maintain order.” These were his words: “Are we really surprised that looting and burning have accelerated to murder? How impressed are we that the 17-year-olds with rifles have decided they have to keep order because no one else does?
A gift for republicans
The Republican strategy, and its like-minded media, work to blame the Democrats for the chaos and violence that for three months have dominated the neighbourhoods of different cities. US President Donald Trump, who accepted the nomination for the position on Thursday with a speech in front of the White House, has once again embraced the conservative mantra ‘law and order’, as did Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon or the segregationist George Wallace. Blaming Democrats for being weak in the face of chaos has been a recurring strategy since the 1960s.
Candidate Joe Biden knows this, and that’s why he organized a plural and moderate Democratic convention, where Republicans Colin Powell and John Kasich had much more space than the party’s young socialist star, Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who only spoke 90 seconds. Still, Fox employees dived between conferences and debates around the convention and rescued the best extremist pearls, reinforcing their campaign message.
The Democrat’s environment, according to Axios, is concerned about the Wisconsin poll and the possible effect of violence and riots among voters. In recent days, in the wake of Wisconsin and Trump’s speech, the media focus seems to have been placed there: where it benefits the president the most. Republicans invited the head of a New York police union and the widow of one of the officers killed during the riots to speak at their convention.
After the president’s speech, attendees were incredulous on the streets of Washington. Senator Rand Paul had to be escorted amid the mob’s insults. A couple was followed over several blocks by a herd of masked men threatening them and recording them with their mobile phones.
The columnist Andrew Sullivan, who this summer, according to his testimony, left his post from ‘New York Magazine’ due to pressure from his more radical colleagues, warned this Friday about the collapse of the political center. “let’s be frank about this and call this by its name: this is very Weimar,” he wrote, referring to the German republic destroyed by fanaticism. “Armed street gangs of far right and far left are at war on the streets. Tribalism is intensifying in every nook and cranny of the culture. The establishment right and mainstream left tolerate their respective extremes because they hate each other so much.”
David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s top advisers, has warned Joe Biden’s team of danger. “mission has been to shift the focus from COVID and 10% unemployment to “law and order, ” Axelrod wrote on Twitter. “To be blunt, the timing of unrest in Kenosha has been a gift to him in that project.”
Campaigns turn on the things you plan on but often the things you can’t. @realDonaldTrump’s RNC mission has been to shift the focus from COVID and 10% unemployment to “law and order.”
To be blunt, the timing of unrest in Kenosha has been a gift to him in that project.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 28, 2020