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 enragés—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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