Thursday, August 27, 2020

Trump and LAW and ORDER

The first three nights of the Republican convention have been devoted to convincing any viewers who are swing voters that everything they know about Donald Trump is wrong. In fact, we’ve been told ad nauseam, Trump respects women and would never bad-mouth minorities. He’s built a vibrant economy and conquered the pandemic. And if any of that comes as a surprise, the fault lies with the media, which have missed these stories or twisted them beyond recognition.

We’ve also learned that only Trump’s re-election will guarantee your safety and the preservation of Western civilization. As Mike Pence put it in his speech last night, "You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America." Indeed, Pence continued, Biden would so utterly change the nation that when voters go to the polls, "the choice is whether America remains America" (a line that’s been voiced several times over the past three nights).

But reality has been knocking on the convention’s door, at times loud enough to have shouted down the script.

Try though the Republicans may—and Pence made a run at it last night—it will be hard to convince anyone but Trump’s staunchest supporters that he has dealt well with the pandemic. It will be almost as hard to persuade Americans that the economy is a success story at a moment when more businesses are failing than at any time since the 1930s. To get around this annoying detail, some speakers (Lara Trump, on Wednesday) have actually cited the unemployment statistics from last February as though they were the figures for last week.

Several speakers, including embattled Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, have praised Trump for the aid he provided to Iowa after its devastating derecho and flooding earlier this month, which Ernst termed a "once-in-a-hundred-year storm." As the evening wore on, later speakers, including Pence, offered prayers for Louisiana and Texas, which were about to be ravaged by another once-a-century hurricane. Meanwhile, Northern California continues to burn down in yet another wave of hundred-year fires, which now occur annually.

The prayers and the thanks are all well and good, but three of the convention’s four evenings have come and gone, and not a single speaker has so much as mentioned climate change, much less a climate crisis. At least a dozen of them have attacked Biden and the Democrats for being controlled by "environmental extremists," though literally as they speak, environmental extremes threaten to burn down and wash away whole sections of the land they profess to love.

Then there’s the seemingly ineradicable plague of police violence against African Americans. Another "officer-involved" shooting erupted this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, unleashing both completely necessary protests and outbursts of rage, in turn countered by the armed legions of the Trumpian right. On day three of the Republican counter-reality show, police arrested a 17-year-old zealot, who’d stood in the front row at a recent Trump rally, for shooting and killing two of the Kenosha protesters.
It’s clear that Republicans came into the convention determined to position Biden and the Democrats as either indifferent to or encouraging of the outbreaks of property destruction and defiance of police that a number of cities have experienced. Pence doubled down on that message last night, while choosing not to note the police violence that sets off the protests, and the gun-toting militias, white nationalists, and other flotsam that have come out of the woodwork as Trump has summoned them forth. Not only have the Republicans failed to acknowledge the existence of these forces of disorder, but Pence shifted the blame for the deliberate killing of a police officer in Oakland earlier this year from the actual assailant—a Boogaloo Boy, among the most dangerous of armed right-wing lunatics—to the left-wing protests which, the Boogalooer believed, would bring out a cop he could kill.

The militias, the Charlottesville neo-Nazis, the Kenosha killer, the QAnon Republican congressional nominee whom Trump has praised, the woman whom the Republicans pulled from their convention speaker list at the last minute on Tuesday when her anti-Semitic tweets were discovered—they’re the natural excrescence of Donald Trump’s presidency, and may well be on alert to show up at polling places to keep the wrong people from voting if Trump needs them this November.

The law-and-order president is really the prince of disorder, and the evidence of that disorder—both the right’s and that of the self-subverting enrag├ęs—has provided the loudest knocks on the convention’s doors this week. The Republicans welcome the property destruction disorder, and magnify it into a national threat, even though, as I wrote earlier this week, the ratio of small businesses Trump has destroyed by his incompetent handling of the pandemic to small businesses destroyed by rioters is roughly 10,000 to 1.

Down by nine or ten points to Biden in the polls, however, Trump’s embrace of law and order is one of the few ways he believes he can claw his way to an Electoral College victory. He has counted from the start on white racial anxiety. That’s what he and his fellow Republicans mean when they say the election is about whether America will remain America—that is, with whites still in control, and safe behind the walls he’s erecting to keep out other races, whose numbers will someday surpass the whites’. But that demographic threat is too abstract by itself to turn the election in his favor; the protests and the anger in the streets present a seemingly more immediate and palpable threat, even if the overwhelming majority of Americans view them only on television or social media. They’re the grist for Trump’s law-and-order mill.

You can be certain that grist is going to be part of tonight’s script. Trump will proclaim, as he did four years ago, that our country stands on a precipice and only he can save it. He will, as Pence hilariously stated last night, "Make America Great Again, Again." Outside, the waters rise and fires rage, the pandemic continues to kill, and the Trumpian right is armed and dangerous. None of that, of course, will be in the script.

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