Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Trump made clear from the start of his reelection campaign that his ticket back to the White House would be scamming law and order. The galling thing about this is that Biden and the Democrats let Trump get away with it. Not once in the deluge of Biden hit ads on Trump, not once in their farce of a debate, and not once in the Harris-Pence vice presidential debate was this said. “Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, you rail against radical left looters, arsonists, and anarchists. Now will you rail against the real violence mongers; namely the motley assortment of white nationalist, white supremacist, and alt-right loonies.” The day of the Harris and Pence debate a plot by white terrorists to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was smashed. The same week separate reports were released again fingering the extreme peril posed by white terrorist groups. Again, there was the predictable stone silence from both.
The point of the challenge is not to watch Trump and Pence squirm telling lies that they denounce hate mongers. Or, to get them to publicly condemn them. Or, even to expose their crass, cynical, naked hypocrisy for not condemning their hate violence.
The point is for Biden and the Democrats to expose Trump’s law and order shout for the scam that it is. By not doing that, Biden falls into the Trump trap on the issue. His stock counter is that he has condemned the looting, is fully supportive of the police, except for the proverbial few bad apples, and doesn’t back any call for defunding the police. Biden’s weak counter to Trump on this does two bad things. It repeatedly lets Trump off the hook for not denouncing white terrorism. It subtly conveys the message that Trump’s calculating blind spot toward white rightist terrorism is somehow acceptable. When Biden claimed during their debate that he had the support of police organizations. Trump pounced. He demanded that Biden name them. Trump didn’t miss a beat in demanding that Biden name one group.
Trump emerged from that tit for tat on law and order as the president who can keep the peace. While with Biden in the White House supposedly blood would run in the streets and everyone would be at mortal risk.
This is hardly the first time that a Democratic presidential candidate has been snookered on the law and order scam by GOP presidential opponents. Nixon kicked things off on this issue by tarring his Democratic opponent Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and the Democrats as soft on crime. George Bush Sr. worked the same angle with his Willie Horton hit ads on Democratic rival Michael Dukakis in 1988. The ads tarred Dukakis as soft on crime.
Trump snatched at the ploy in 2016 by grabbing every photo-op he could flanked by officials of various police unions. He promised to be the tough guy on crime. He came dangerously close to scrapping the rule of law and green lighting any use of wanton force police use to crack down on crime. The issue proved to be a highly fertile field for Nixon, Bush Sr., and Trump. They won the White House. The general consensus was that their stoke of public fear of crime, and gross misperceptions of who the violence mongers were, painting them as mostly young inner city Black males, gave the three GOP presidential candidates a huge edge with voters over their Democratic opponents.
It’s even more hilarious that voters buy their claim to be defenders of the rule of law when you consider Nixon micromanaged break ins and cover ups. And Trump has been accused of multiple dubious tax and business dealings. They get a pass from voters because the Democrats refuse to call them out on their hypocrisy.
GOP presidents and their parties condition the public to reflexively frame the GOP as the trusted guardian of their safety and security. The Democrats conversely are framed in the public mind as the party that will open the floodgates for violent criminals to roam the streets at will committing violence and mayhem. The result is elections lost to the Democrats
The public routinely sees, hears, and reads about self-avowed white militia members nationalists and supremacists plowing into peaceful demonstrators, gunning down innocents, threatening and physically assaulting Blacks and Hispanics, and even shooting at law enforcement officers. They see countless pictures of young white guys openly parading with assault weapons. Yet, none of this seemingly gets through that they, and not the hordes of imaginary lawless young Blacks and protesters, are the ones who pose the real danger to public safety.
Trump and the GOP have done a marvelous job of twisting, bending, and distorting the law and order issue for their own cynical political ends. It’s been costly for the Democrats. So, Joe, it’s time to stop letting Trump and the GOP get away with it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College: (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network