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Biden, Harris flummoxed by BLM violence


The Democratic candidates can’t figure out how to respond to the looting, arson and vandalism that seem to accompany so many Black Lives Matter demonstrations in our cities. Meanwhile, the polls are tightening, as Trump’s fear-mongering is convincing more and more voters that if Democrats are in charge, the riots will hit their home towns.

Trump’s message is a simple one: law and order. Biden-Harris have a more complicated, nuanced message; the problem is that nuance never works in elections. Biden-Harris have, first, to convince voters that they’re not pro-violence, as Trump portrays them to be. At the same time, they dare not turn off the millions of BLM protesters who are convinced that they’re on the side of the angels in pushing for civil rights. These two things, unfortunately, are largely incompatible.

This is why Biden is hedging on whether or not to visit Kenosha. His left wing demands it, and furthermore, that he meet with Jacob Blake’s family and make a declaration statement in favor of Black Lives Matter and, perhaps indirectly, against cops. But this is occurring against a backdrop of decreasing support for the BLM movement and increasing support for cops, because of all the violence and anti-police rhetoric that accompany BLM demonstrations. Americans no longer can tell the difference between “BLM” on the one hand, and the looting and arson, on the other. For that matter, BLM people can no longer say, with a straight face, that they condemn the violence, because the truth is, actions speak louder than words. If they march in any numbers, then they must know that there will be looting and violence. This is an uncomfortable truth for them but it is, sadly, real. Thus, Biden’s hesitation to go to Kenosha. He’s caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea.

Trump, meanwhile, purrs contentedly away. He knows this is his round. His internal polls, no doubt, veer heavily in his favor in swing districts and states; his Republican advisors see this as his path to victory. And as long as the violence continues—which is to say, as long as BLM protesters march in Portland, Minneapolis, Oakland and other cities—Biden’s lead will continue to erode. The situation is precisely as Portland’s police chief, who is Black, portrayed it: “The violence ‘is not forwarding the goals that are going to lead to better outcomes for people of color.’”

I’ve been saying this for months. In fact, I said it ten years ago, during the old Occupy days, when I warned that the violence was accomplishing nothing but to turn decent people into Republicans. Nothing could be clearer than that Trump welcomes the violence; indeed, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I can conceive of a situation wherein he and his people are deliberately provoking the left into anarchistic acts of pillaging and vandalism. Every smashed window—every Kill All Cops graffiti—is another hundred voters deciding to overcome their disgust with Trump as a person and vote for him anyway.

This election season is an emotional roller coaster for many of us. My candidate is up one day, down the next. I keep my finger to the political winds but they’re constantly shifting. With the latest rounds of violence and the tightening of the polls, not to mention a fear you can feel emanating from Democrats, things are starting to feel to me exactly the way they did four years ago. In September, 2016, I realized that Trump was going to win. He continued to lag Hillary in the polls, but I could feel it in my bones. And I was right. I have that same feeling in my bones now, and it makes me angry—not at Trump, who’s beneath my contempt, but at the morons in the streets—not just the looters and thieves, but the “peaceful” ones, who are hypocrites, at best, and colluders, at worst. Every damn BLM march in America needs to stop now. No more should be planned. The movement has achieved quite as much as it’s possible to get; to go on in this way would be madness. The Left needs to abandon a tactic that has had its day and is no longer functioning as intended. It needs, in other words, to make what military planners call a strategic retreat. And it needs to do so now, before BLM violence can inflict more damage to the Democratic cause.

  1. Steve–
    I am surprised that this pointed suggestion did not draw comments as I believe it to run directly to the weak underbelly of the Biden candidacy. It is important, dare I say vital, not to cede the law and order argument to Trump, who after all is a well-known liar and law-breaker.

    But to do that, Biden et al, must come out forcefully for an end to the senseless violence that accompanies legitimate protest. Yes, it is a nuanced position, but it is a necessary one. Bill Clinton claimed it in his “Sister Souljah” moment while speaking to a black audience.

    Biden and Harris need to find a way to do it as well. I do not share your view that the protest need to stop, but I do think that they have got to be better managed, which means taking the leadership away from the street organizers and giving it to community leaders.

    But really has to end is the burning, looting, shooting. Kenosha did us a favor by being able to mostly enforce its curfew. Oakland, your and my home bases, will find that a harder nut to crack, and thus the need for Biden to absolutely wall himself off from the violence. I see your point, but I am hoping that Biden-Harris can emulate the success that Clinton had in making his point that progress is possible without signing on to the worst behaviors of those who wish to see things change.

  2. Thanks Charlie. If you heard Biden’s great speech this morning, you know that he explicitly condemned the violence and looting in the strongest possible terms. It was (speaking of Clinton) a Sistah Souljah moment. Gov. Newsom needs to do the same. It’s never easy criticizing members of your own party (assuming the protesters are Democrats), but it has to be done. As for ending the protests, unless the “peaceful” demonstrators themselves are willing to stop the anarchists–and they’re not–then the only way to stop the violence is to stop the protests, or at least let them shrivel into insignificance in the coming weeks. I know that’s not going to happen, but I’ll do whatever I can to at least make the peaceful protesters worry that they’re aiding and abetting violence.

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