Trump has taken to advertising scenes of mayhem (some of which did not occur in the United States) as part of his reelection messaging. Worse, The Post reports, “Trump’s conservative supporters, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have seized on Rittenhouse as a figure of sympathy, suggesting that he acted legally and in self-defense. The president on Sunday appeared to offer his support by liking a tweet from a self-described former liberal activist who cited Rittenhouse as a reason to vote for Trump.” That’s right, the president of the United States praises an accused White killer and refuses to condemn the unprovoked shooting of an unarmed Black man. His convention also invited a White couple indicted for brandishing weapons against Black Lives Matters marchers to speak at the event last week. In making these statements, Trump and his campaign are clearly identifying with and encouraging White vigilantes and racists.
Trump has managed to flummox even his chief of staff Mark Meadows, who described Black Lives Matter protesters in an interview on Sunday as “people that every single night conduct violent acts, and it is in Democrat cities. You want to talk about Donald Trump’s America. Most of Donald Trump’s America is peaceful.” Trump is president of the whole country (although you’d never know it from listening to him), so is the country under Trump violently out of control, or has Trump enforced “law and order”? It cannot be both.
Trump wants to go to Kenosha on Tuesday. You can understand why that would not be a good idea. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, pleaded for Trump to not to show his face: “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together,” Evers wrote in a letter to the president. Wisconsin’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes chimed in: “[Republicans] centered an entire convention around creating more animosity and creating more division around what’s going on in Kenosha.” He added, “So I don’t know how given any of the previous statements that the president made, that he intends to come here to be helpful, and we absolutely don’t need that right now.”
Trump’s visit now poses a real risk. Even if he shows up and mouths the right words, there is a good possibility he will, as officials worry, trigger more violent clashes, thereby lending credibility to his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, that he lacks the capacity to heal the country and bring about the “order” part of “law and order.”
Trump is incapable of performing even the rudimentary actions presidents perform in times of crisis or conflict. As of Sunday, he still had not called the family of Jacob Blake, the African American man whom Kenosha police shot seven times in the back. Whether it is George Floyd’s funeral or the anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville rally, Trump refuses to appear. Quite simply, he is a large part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part of the heightened tensions and uptick in violent clashes with police.
Trump is responsible for keeping peace in a country he seeks to goad into violence (thereby getting more footage for his ads). That’s the contradiction at the heart of Trump’s argument: He cannot stir up white supremacy animus and claim to be an effective president for the whole country. Then again, he has abandoned Americans outside his cult. He may regret that when it comes time to count votes in swing states.
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