A central message of the Republican National Convention this year is that if Donald Trump is reelected president, Americans will finally be safe.
“Let me be clear: The violence must stop ― whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha. … We will have law and order on the streets of America,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday night.
“I have no doubt, and I’m sure you don’t, when President Trump is reelected, the damage will stop,” added former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday.
Trump himself said America must never have “mob rule.”
“In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago and New York,” he said in his speech Thursday night.
But that was the exact same message put forth at the Republican National Convention four years ago, when Trump exaggerated crime data and promised that violence would literally stop once he entered the White House.
“I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored,” Trump said at the time, mentioning the “recent images of violence in our streets and chaos in our communities.”
Trump talked about the “attacks on our police” and the “terrorism in our cities.” Michael Flynn, who would go on to become Trump’s disgraced national security adviser, said President Barack Obama had “brought continued mayhem, murder and destruction into our neighborhoods.”
“It’s time to make America safe again,” added Giuliani at the time.
Any of those comments would fit right in at this year’s convention. But now, Trump is president. Yet somehow the “crime and violence” isn’t gone.
The headlines surrounding the convention this week are bleak. Protesters have been pouring into the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in front of his three children. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down.
On Wednesday, law enforcement authorities announced they had arrested a 17-year-old, who is white, in the shooting and killing of two people and the wounding of a third at a Kenosha protest of Blake’s shooting.
After the Milwaukee Bucks announced that they would walk off before their playoff game because of the shooting of Blake, a number of other teams in the NBA and other sports said they would follow suit in solidarity.
“Did Mike Pence forget Donald Trump is president? Is Donald Trump even aware he’s president? These are not images from some imagined ‘Joe Biden’s America’ in the future. These are images from Donald Trump’s America today,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday night.
Despite the fact that violence and unrest did not disappear as Trump promised in 2017, Republicans are arguing that it will get better ― just as long as Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) aren’t elected.
“Biden, Harris and their socialist comrades will fundamentally change this nation. … They will defund, dismantle and destroy America’s law enforcement. When you are in trouble and need 911, don’t count on the Democrats,” Kimberly Guilfoyle, the campaign fundraiser and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., said in her dark speech Monday.
Mark and Patty McCloskey were central to this message, supposedly an embodiment of what would happen if Biden wins.
“We’re speaking to you tonight from St. Louis, Missouri, where just weeks ago you may have seen us defending our home as a mob of protesters descended on our neighborhood,” Mark McCloskey said Monday night.
“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country,” Patty McCloskey added.
Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has described the protesters as “peaceful” and “unarmed.” The McCloskeys claim the demonstrators ignored “No trespassing” signs before breaking through a gate to get into the community.
“They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” Patty said in her speech Monday. “These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
Trump has been trying to win over white suburban voters in crucial swing states, playing on racist fears to do so. In 2016, exit polls showed him winning the suburbs. But since then, his support has steadily dropped ― particularly with suburban women.
So he has again resorted to fear.
“If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other constitutional freedoms,” Trump said in his convention speech Thursday.
His campaign recently released an ad showing an intruder trying to break into the house of an elderly white woman, warning, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
And in a tweet on July 29, Trump warned suburban voters that low-income housing would be taking over their neighborhoods.
The Trump campaign has seized on the unrest in Kenosha, believing that the trauma and violence there is basically good news for them.
“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 and law and order,” outgoing White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thursday morning.
And, even though Trump is president, she said the reason there is still violence is that there are still Democrats: “These are democratically led cities and most with Democratic governors. … It’s not Donald Trump’s watch.”
Trump said Thursday night that if “the radical left takes power, they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town and suburb in America.”
Biden said Trump is “rooting for more violence.”
“What bothers me the most is that he’s pouring gasoline on the racial flames that are burning now… this is a real problem, and it keeps getting worse under this president,” Biden said in an MSNBC interview.
The Trump campaign has claimed that Biden wants to defund the police, even though Biden has specifically rejected that call embraced by some on the left. An overwhelming majority of the country supports some changes to policing.
Just like in 2016, Americans are buying into Trump’s tirades about law and order, incorrectly believing that crime is up nationwide. Fifty-seven percent currently say they believe crime has increased over the past decade, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll from July.
Just 10% of Americans believe, correctly, that crime rates decreased over the past decade. According to FBI statistics, both the violent crime rate and the property crime rate dropped from 2008 to 2018, the last year for which data is available.
While Trump and his allies have tried to tell white voters that Biden and Harris will be too soft on crime, they’ve also tried to convince Black voters that they’ve been too tough.
“In 1994, Biden led the charge on a crime bill that put millions of Black Americans behind bars. President Trump’s criminal justice reform law fixed many of the disparities Biden created and made our system more fair and just for all Americans,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said in his convention speech.
Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat who made national headlines for backing Trump in April, applauded the president for signing criminal justice reform legislation, saying, “He ended ― once and for all ― the policy of mass incarceration of Black people, which has decimated our communities. Democrats couldn’t do it! Obama couldn’t do it! Joe Biden and Kamala Harris definitely couldn’t do it! But Donald Trump did.”
The mass incarceration of Black people has not ended under Trump.
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