If there was any doubt where the two major American political parties stand on the major issues of the day, the last two weeks of speeches and videos emanating from the Democratic and Republican national conventions put an end to any uncertainty. Nothing is more clear that only the Republican Party is willing to firmly and resolutely stand up against the lawlessness gripping America’s cities.
During the four nights of the 2020 DNC, the Black Lives Matter mantra was repeated and alluded to numerous times in a consistent drumbeat. The topic of police brutality and reminders of the death of George Floyd were thrust into as many segments as could be justified. Yet, absent from the constant refrain of America’s shortcomings was one major thing: any recognition — let alone condemnation — of the chaos, unrest, and violence that has rocked cities all across America in the last three months.
Since Floyd’s death, at least 30 people have died in waves of savage looting and rioting. More than $500 million in property damages are estimated to have occurred in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area alone. Many of the businesses smashed and torched will never reopen. The damages caused by combinations of vicarious opportunists, frenzied mobs, and organized neo-Marxists acted as the final nails in coffins already fashioned by the untold economic devastation of the coronavirus lockdowns.
While Biden’s campaign finally issued an article condemning the violent looting and rioting that began on May 26, the explicit denunciation was published five days after the mayhem in Minneapolis began.
When the Democratic Party’s National Convention presented an uninterrupted opportunity to reiterate their revulsion at violence and looting, the party’s response was silence. The Democrats offered empty platitudes on a whole host of newfound neo-Marxist conceptions of “justice” — “economic justice,” “environmental justice,” “social justice,” and “reproductive justice” — but refused to address the actual, tangible injustice of livelihoods destroyed and families broken by the riots and unrest.
For a party that routinely preens about being compassionate and empathetic to the plight of ordinary Americans, their timid refusal to address the Floyd riots reeks of hypocrisy and a level of aloofness that borders on dangerous.
Silence in the Face of Turmoil and Violence
There was a genuine opportunity for the Democratic Party to emphatically assure that they would do everything in their power to help prevent further waves of lawlessness under a future Biden administration. There was a real chance for the Democratic Party to demonstrate outrage at those who exploited a moment for national healing and a chance for legitimate measures of police reform.
Instead, those who viewed the DNC or watched recaps on the news were essentially told to turn a blind eye to still smoldering storefronts, burned-out businesses, and unnatural unease felt by American citizens as soon as the sun goes down in what is supposed to be a civilized society. Americans were tacitly told by Democrats to pay no mind to the insatiable demands of mobs attempting to cow innocent Americans into submission and to ignore the fact that the vast majority of unrest is occurring under the auspices of Democratic Party politicians that have been, in some cases, in power for more than a generation.
Days after the Kenosha carnage began, Biden and Harris finally spoke out against the violence that erupted in Wisconsin after the death of Jacob Blake. Yet as George Packer points out in The Atlantic, after a few short reprimands, both quietly moved on. That simply won’t do. Members of law enforcement, to say nothing of everyday Americans, need to hear from politicians at all levels that they support the police and will allow them to do their job in keeping citizens safe in their communities.
Polling and the Dems Shift on Unrest
More problematic for the delayed Democratic Party response to the fresh wave of violence in Wisconsin is the level to which it seems to be motivated by brazen politics. Indeed, CNN host Don Lemon appeared to spill the beans in a conversation with co-worker Chris Cuomo, implicitly warning Democrats watching, “Chris, as you know and I know, it’s showing up in the polls, it’s showing up in focus groups. It’s the only thing right now that’s sticking.”
CNN’s own reporting bears this out. According to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll, the percentage of Americans who view the protests as “mostly legitimate” fell to 53 percent in August from 62 percent in June. Conversely, 38 percent of Americans now view the protests to be comprised as mostly people acting unlawfully, a rise of 10 points up from 28 percent.
It shouldn’t, however, take focus groups, internal polling, or allies in the corporate media to alert the Biden/Harris camp that they need to be voicing support for the communities hit hard by unrest and destruction of property. In his speech at the RNC, Vice President Mike Pence pointed out the choice isn’t between legitimate and warranted police reform, support for black Americans, and law and order, exclaiming, “The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns.”
In the midst of this global pandemic just as our nation has begun to recover, we’ve seen violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities. President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest, tearing down statues is not free speech. Those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Pence didn’t mince words about where the GOP stands on the violent threats:
Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of America.
‘In the Strongest Possible Terms’
Legally speaking, sitting presidents have limited options to quell violence against non-federal property. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 explicitly prohibits the federal government from using the military for local law enforcement purposes. While the Insurrection Act of 1807 provides the legal framework to deploy federal or nationalized troops to “suppress insurrection,” it’s a high constitutional bar to clear — and for good reason.
The most the executive branch can normally do is signal support for local law enforcement and offer the services of the National Guard. President Trump has done so. In his closing keynote speech to the 2020 RNC, Trump made it clear:
In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson, and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities all, like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, and New York, and many others, Democrat-run. There is violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America. This problem could easily be fixed if they wanted to. Just call, we’re ready to go in.
Biden, on the other hand, has not shown that he wields the courage to stand up to the radical left calling the shots in what’s left of his party. Fear of the steadily increasing left flank of the Democratic Party — embodied by the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — is paralyzing any more forceful and clear denunciations of the violence the Biden/Harris ticket may even wish to make.
It’s bad enough that one of America’s majority political parties appears beholden to such radical elements during a campaign. It’s even worse to consider the effects of such gutless timidity if Biden and Harris make it into the White House.