I’m seeing a shift in the usual pearl clutching about how violence will hurt Democrats in the election. See, for example, Jamelle Bouie, Trump Needs His Own Sister Souljah Moment.
What he needs to do right now is condemn those responsible for violence and disavow those who act in his name. He needs, in other words, what political observers have come to call a “Sister Souljah moment,” a pointed repudiation of a radical element within one’s own coalition, named for Bill Clinton’s rebuke of the eponymous hip-hop artist while speaking to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition during the 1992 presidential campaign. A display like Clinton’s would show the country that Trump can be trusted to govern on behalf of all Americans.
Bouie doesn’t expect Trump to do this, of course.
It’s beyond clear that Trump’s entire re-election strategy is to amp up violence to terrify white voters. And as part of that strategy, is he actively encouraging right-wing supporters — many of whom have itched for a race war or civil war or some kind of war for years — to do their worst.
Yesterday, Joe Biden gave a speech that clearly and unequivocally condemned all violence, no matter who is commiting it. Yesterday, Trump had several chances to do the same thing. He failed. Instead of distancing himself from right-wing violence, instead he made excuses for it.
Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark, The Essence of Late-Stage Trumpism:
Last night, Trump prepared for his visit to the ravaged Wisconsin city by comparing the police shooting of a Black man to a golfer who choked and missed a three-inch putt.
He defended the 17-year-old Trump enthusiast who shot and killed two persons and wounded a third in Kenosha last week. Speaking from the White House, the president also made excuses for his supporters who engaged in a deadly confrontation in Portland over the weekend. “By the end of the news conference,” writes the Wapo’s Aaron Blake, “Trump not only pointedly declined to condemn right-wing violence at the same demonstrations, he voluntarily defended it.”
He spoke hours after Joe Biden denounced both the riots and Trump’s incitements.
It was (to say the least) a clarifying moment.
And this is Trump in an interview with Laura Ingraham:
Trump: We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that. They’re on a plane…
Ingraham: Where—where was this?
Trump: I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now, but they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention, and there were like seven people on the plane like this person, and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage. They were coming for…
Ingraham: Planning for Washington?
Trump: Yes, this was all—this is all happening.
As Charlie Sykes says, this is bat guano level crazy. It’s also a political opportunity that even Democrats ought to be able to drive a truck through. And Biden appears to be giving it his best shot.
Biden argued that in street clashes between left- and right-wing extremists, real political courage consists of standing up to the miscreants on your own side. Trump hasn’t just failed that test, Biden said; he’s ducked it. “He’s got no problem with right-wing militia, white supremacists, and vigilantes with assault weapons, often better armed than the police,” said Biden. Trump’s “failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.”
More hours have passed, and Trump still hasn’t offered even a hint of fake concern for Kyle Rittenhouse’s victims, or the family of Jason Blake, for that matter. Trump is in Kenosha right now, meeting with law enforcement but not the Blake family, who wouldn’t talk to Trump without a lawyer present. Smart.
Dana Milbank says Trump is acting like a cornered animal.
Biden quoted from departing Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s acknowledgment that “the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is” for the president. Said Biden: “He’s rooting for chaos and violence.”
When the president’s supporters, often armed, drive into cities to provoke racial-justice demonstrators, Trump calls them “GREAT PATRIOTS!” His convention glorified vigilantes who took up arms against protesters — “disgraceful anarchists” and “thugs” in Trump’s telling. The president declares that the backlash against demonstrators by his supporters “cannot be unexpected” and says that “the only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!” He proposes that the far-right militia member who allegedly killed two protesters in Wisconsin acted in self-defense.
See also Charlotte Klein, Trump All But Gave His Supporters the Green Light to Get Violent at Protests and Zak Cheney-Rice, Trump Is an Arsonist Masquerading As a Firefighter.
At Talking Points Memo, Matt Shuham writes With Itchy Trigger Fingers, Some Right Wingers Predict The Next Civil War Has Finally Arrived.
“The first shot has been fired brother,” said Stewart Rhodes, founder of the armed anti-government group Oath Keepers, in a tweet Sunday. “Civil war is here, right now. We’ll give Trump one last chance to declare this a Marxist insurrection & suppress it as his duty demands. If he fails to do HIS duty, we will do OURS.”
Do read the whole article. Oath Keepers and other right-wing groups have been craving a new civil war for years. They really do want blood in the streets. And Trump encourages this.
And the challenge is, make Trump own it. Every time he condemns racial justice protesters but makes excuses for the violent aggression of his own supporters, make him own it. Every time he babbles about some left-wing conspiracy to stir up fear, make him own it. Democrats need to stop being on the defensive about violence. Make Trump own it.
David Graham at The Atlantic thinks Kenosha could cost Trump the election.
The gulf between Trump’s indulgent view of Rittenhouse and his swiftness in defending police prerogatives in the Blake case is enormous and easy to interpret. Partly, he loves to stir up racial tension for political gain; partly, he has long taken a dim view of Black people, especially in legal matters; and partly, he cannot bring himself to criticize anyone who has been friendly to him, whether that’s Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Rittenhouse, an avowed supporter of his.
This causes Trump endless problems. His campaign dared Biden to denounce violence, and though Biden had already done so, he did so once more in a speech today. “Looting is not protesting,” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change; it will only bring destruction.”
Biden also took the opportunity to throw the challenge back to Trump, and asked him to condemn violence. This should have been a softball, but instead Trump took the strike looking, declining the easy swing. He refused to even acknowledge any violence by people aligned with him.
Americans aren’t blind. They can see the violence, they can see that Trump won’t condemn it, and they can see that Biden has. As the former vice president said today, “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” …
… Meanwhile, Trump is eagerly seizing onto an issue that seems to harm him. Even though each previous round has ended poorly for Trump, he keep doubling and tripling down on exacerbating racial tension. Maybe once he goes big enough, it will work for him. Or maybe Trump, a man who went bankrupt running a casino, just isn’t all that clever a gambler.
Make him own it.