George Boardman: Trump, mayors failing leadership test on urban unrest
Observations from the center stripe: Good news (?) edition
GOOD NEWS (maybe) for locals who fear an invasion of real estate-rich Bay Area residents: The average list price in San Francisco has fallen from $2.75 million in January to $1.9 million … NAUGHTY NANCY: Pelosi’s decision to flaunt San Francisco’s business closure rules makes her look like the clueless elitist many say she is … IF WE get a COVID-19 vaccine before that “special day,” I think the president should take the first shot in front of the nation … THERE’S MONEY to be made from a Trump Book of the Week Club, but you better hurry … MANY MAYORS have lost reelections because they couldn’t plow the streets after a blizzard. Democrats are hoping the coronavirus will be Trump’s blizzard … TEXTING FEELS like a conversation on the installment plan …
Nobody should be surprised that the demonstrations and looting in our big cities have risen to the civilian equivalent of DEFCON 1 with the killing of protagonists in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon.
Democrats running major cities apparently have a tough time cracking down on vandals and looters who are using genuine concern and anguish over social injustice to mask their crimes.
Looters look for the opportunity to make some fast money because the police are occupied elsewhere; look for some real “steals” on Craigslist in the near future. Antifa anarchists see this as a chance to further weaken confidence in the civil authorities who stand between order and chaos.
People who want nothing to do with any of this are asking a reasonable question: Why haven’t our leaders done anything to stop this? When officials fail to do their duty, vigilantes start to look like a reasonable antidote to the chaos.
And sure enough, armed militias with a strong whiff of racism are starting to make their presence known, with tragic consequences. An admirer of such groups was the alleged trigger man in the killing of two protesters in Wisconsin, and a follower of Patriot Prayer was the shooting victim of an Antifa follower in Portland.
All of this provides an opportunity for Donald Trump to right his heretofore listing campaign, once again stoking the fear and anger that helped him win election in 2016. Needless to say, he has seized the day.
You could see this strategy unfolding during the Republican National Convention as speaker after speaker dismissed and misconstrued protests that have occurred since the killing of George Floyd. Urban areas were described as “Democrat cities” and hotbeds of social disorder that would eventually spread into the suburbs. Suburban moms have apparently become the new soccer moms.
To drive home the point, a prime time spot was given to Mark and Patsy McCloskey, who became conservative icons of the day for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching in front of their house. (They were subsequently charged with felonies, which Trump called a “disgrace.”)
“They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities,” Patsy McCloskey told the convention. “They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family zoning. This would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into now thriving suburban neighborhoods.”
All of this is singing from the hymnal of recently departed White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, whose ability to identify alienated working class white voters helped propel Trump to victory in 2016. “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety,” she told Fox News.
Trump thrives on chaos in his running of the government and has no problem arousing the animal spirits of those who are likely to vote for him, so he didn’t have to think twice about stoking the fires. Instead of trying to calm the waters after Floyd’s killing, he tweeted: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Trump’s not choosey about where his support comes from, just so they back the Donald. When men armed with guns and automatic weapons entered the Michigan statehouse demanding an end to a stay-at-home order, Trump called them “very good people” who “want their lives back.” He also managed to find “fine people” among the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
The armed Patriot Prayer militia that organized the pro-Trump caravan to Portland that led to the death of one of the participants was hailed as “GREAT PATRIOTS” by the president. I wouldn’t be surprised if he warmed up to Proud Boys and Three Percenters as well. Then there’s his recent embrace of QAnon.
Trump has portrayed Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with killing the two demonstrators at Kenosha, as a patriot acting in self defense (nobody attacked Rittenhouse until he killed the first demonstrator), and his supporters have rallied to the cause. Several groups, including a Young Republican group at Arizona State University, have raised more than $300,000 for Rittenhouse’s legal defense.
If Trump is fanning the flames, it is still the responsibility of local officials to put out the fires, but Democrats are working themselves into a tough spot because of their inability — or is it reluctance? — to quell the unrest in their cities. “The biggest threat to a Democratic sweep in November (is the) demonstrators who are tearing up cities in the name of racial justice,” wrote Willie Brown, the longtime speaker of the California Assembly and former mayor of San Francisco who is one of the shrewdest political observers around.
A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that 75% of those surveyed were concerned about rising crime in the nation’s cities. Nearly half were worried about rising crime where they live.
“If (Democrats) stand up and condemn the ‘demonstrators,’ the left wing will label them as Trump flunkies and they’ll be in all sorts of trouble,” Brown wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “If they keep quiet or offer passive responses, voters will assume they’re OK with burning and looting.”
Brown, who is Black, suggested the legitimate protesters take a page from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and stage their rallies during daylight. “The demonstrations end when the sun goes down,” Brown wrote. “After that, it’s trouble for trouble’s sake.”
Biden needs to come up with his own Sister Souljah moment, when Bill Clinton called out the hip-hop MC after she suggested it was okay for blacks to shoot whites. The reaction he got from the likes of Jesse Jackson helped to propel Clinton to victory.
Militias are now regularly confronting BLM demonstrators, a situation that will only lead to more violence. If Biden keeps trying to play both sides of the street, he will give Antifa and other anarchists who want to tear down this country exactly what they want in November.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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