Worried: Are Protests Driving Voters toTrump?

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Screenshot of Kenosha violence (CNN)

Yesterday I considered posting a Facebook public message that read:

To: Those Setting Fires and Ransacking Businesses in Portland, Seattle, Chicago and Kenosha

From: Donald J. Trump

“Terrific job you’re doing. If you can keep it going into October, we’ll win for sure!”

I didn’t post such a message because it seemed ill-advised, probably just dumb, and might have violated a social media guideline promoting violence. But I’m frustrated as hell.

And yes, I do understand that the Tuesday night shooter in Kenosha, as in Oakland earlier, was a Trump supporter. And that right-wingers are using these protests to fan the flames. But the fact remains that these events, and accompanying images, of civil unrest and mayhem cannot all be blamed on right-wing provocateurs. Not by a long shot.

And that, right or wrong, they are scaring people and shifting those who were leaning toward Biden to support Trump. The New York Times focused on how people are being driven into Trump’s embrace by it all. Here’s an excerpt from that article, “How Chaos in Kenosha Is Already Swaying Some Voters in Wisconsin.”

“Scott Haight, who was boarding up a line of businesses in a Kenosha strip mall on Tuesday, said he blamed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat, for what he said was irresponsibly stirring up emotion. (On Monday, Mr. Barnes said the shooting ‘wasn’t an accident.’)

“’It’s like ‘What, are you trying to burn our city down?’’ Mr. Haight said.

“Mr. Haight, 59, said he was a ‘lifelong Democrat’ but had decided not to vote this year.

“’It’s not worth it,’ he said. ‘One’s as bad as the other.’

“Priscella Gazda, a waitress at a pizza restaurant in Kenosha, was having the opposite reaction. She said she had voted only once in her life — for Mr. Obama in 2008. Her son has Type 1 diabetes and was hoping for health insurance.

“’I’m not the one who would ever vote,’ she said. “But after the chaos in her town, this year is different. “’I am going to vote for Trump,’ she said. ‘He seems to be more about the American people and what we need.’”

I am really upset about this. The protesters who are using violence are exactly what Trump wants. I ask again, of protesters, why not have day-time, peaceful demonstrations? It’s not like everyone is at work then.

Here in Wallowa County in northeastern rural Oregon, the “Proud Boys” held a “Back the Blue Rally” last Saturday at the Courthouse in Enterprise. And local businesses that sell guns are reporting gun sales are so hot that they can’t keep product in stock. When one store owner was asked about what is driving business he pointed to the “mayhem in Portland and everywhere.”

If you read the Kenosha article you’ll see that local officials, like the Mayor there, a Democrat, seem to be missing in action. I don’t get it.

In recent months many have quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to the effect that, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Yes, there’s truth in that. But the language of the unheard, if that’s what this is, is being heard loud and clear by many Americans and applauded by Donald Trump as their best hope.

It isn’t only that all this profits Trump politically. With all the guns in America — more than one for every man, woman and child — this is a very, very dangerous situation. Trump will fan the flames when what we need, again, is real leadership.

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Tony is a writer, teacher, speaker and ordained minister (United Church of Christ). He served as Senior Minister of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church for fourteen years. His newest book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. He divides his time between Seattle and a cabin in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. If you’d like to know more or receive his regular blogs in your email, go to his site listed above to sign-up.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Though Biden has made it clear he denounces violence and does not want to defund police. Kamala too. What do you think of Biden’s argument: this is Trump’s America—and that he’s pouring gasoline on fires he should be putting out. No appeals for peace, but actually saying— keep it up, it’s helping me. Not one word of sympathy for victims of police excessive use of force or advocacy for police reform. And don’t you think sports teams (NBA, MLB, MLS, tennis) siding with Black Lives Matter has some influence on public opinion?

  2. Yeah, I am increasingly worried about this too. The WA State primary results, particularly in the 3rd and 8th CDs, were very sobering — the images out of Seattle and Portland clearly boosted turnout from more conservative voters in small town and rural areas of the state. If that is the case nationwide in November…

    Recent polling shows that white support for BLM has dropped dramatically since June, no doubt because of the calls to “defund the police” and the scenes of rioting, vandalism and disorder on the streets of major cities. The swing state electorates are more conservative than the national average and tend to have more non-college educated white voters, so this lawlessness and disorder stuff could turn into a real problem.

    The good news is that so far the drop in support for BLM has not translated into voters moving over to Trump. Probably for the reasons that Mort suggests — Biden has rejected calls to defund or eliminate the police and has condemned violence, while Trump’s blatant attempts to capitalize on it have (so far) been so crude and over the top that he looks like what he is: a self-interested opportunist trying to stoke the flames of racial division for partisan political advantage, rather than a calm, centered leader committed to restoring order and upholding the law. That may be what saves us in the end — Trump’s inability to stop saying offensive, racist and incendiary things on an almost daily basis, and his utter unwillingness to acknowledge that there are major systemic issues with police violence against Black people that must be addressed.

  3. I agree with you that it would have ill-advised and dumb to post a message that protesters are going to usher in a Trump victory. It’s very tempting to blame the protesters. That’s exactly what Trump and his surrogates are encouraging us to do, arguing that if we vote for him, he will end the problem of public protests that do not remain peaceful. Since it’s pretty difficult to separate sincere protesters from the troublemakers (the police have been unable to do that even though they somehow expect protest organizers to), sincere and peaceful protesters will never be able to guarantee completely peaceful protests. Given that, and following your reasoning to its logical end, there should be no protests at all if there’s any chance at all that they will turn voters toward Trump. And following that reasoning to its logical end, we should just keep our heads down and not demonstrate on the streets whenever police brutality and point-blank murders occur—at least until the election is over—on the chance that they might drive more voters toward Trump. I suppose, if the communities who have been consciously or unconsciously (although it hardly matters once you’re dead) targeted by police ask the rest of us to call off any demonstrations on their behalf, we should. But I don’t think it’s our decision to make.
    Concerning the NYTimes informal polling of people in Kenosha, after working in the advertising business for many years, I have learned to take person-in-the-street opinions with a big shaker of salt. There is no guarantee that people talk to reporters are being completely honest about their feelings or their motivations. Many of them tend to spend their 15 minutes saying what they think you want to hear or what will gain the most attention. False flags exist everywhere, so it’s wise to take these kinds of reports as hearsay, not fact. Even if we assume that the two people polled are being honest about their feeling and motivations, it’s a big leap to assume that demonstrations, violent or not, are to blame for someone who has decided not to vote at all, and another who is so uninformed that she thinks a vote for Trump will somehow help her get the health care her son needs.
    You can’t stop the violence unless you stop the demonstrations. And you can’t stop people from voting for Trump by stopping demonstrations. Anyone who votes for that man, after listening to all the things he has to say, is committing an act of social violence that is every bit as troubling and selfish as the admittedly troubling crimes against property that some demonstrators have committed.

  4. Sandeep, when you wrote “this lawlessness and disorder stuff could turn into a real problem,” I was confused for a moment about whether you were referring to the instances of lawlessness and disorder on the part of the police or the protesters. But then I realized that the lawlessness and disorder of the protesters is the real problem because when the police do it, the Dems can at rest easy that it won’t alienate those center-right voters they are working so hard to win over. All I can say is, I hope all of this looking the other way and asking for just one more extension on fulfilling that decades-old promise to reform policing in America works for the Dems in this election because they have been abusing the patience and good will of constituencies that have been supporting them for a very long time.
    And this isn’t even the last time we’ve been here; it’s been tried before. In “Man in the Middle” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/31/can-bidens-center-hold, an article about Joe Biden by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker, he quotes an anonymous (way to stand up and be counted) senior Obama Administration official who worries that Biden’s optimism could be costly: “Does he see his role as someone who can bring in the Never Trumpers and build some bipartisan consensus? I know from experience that’s a trap. We walked right into it. Your people lose faith, the Republicans never give you credit, you waste a lot of time—and you end up with the Tea Party.”
    Boy sure I hope Anonymous Senior Official is wrong because the current crop of right-wing enthusiasts makes the Tea Party look like, well, a tea party.

  5. Would it make sense for Biden to take a more active role in trying to wind down some protests, for instance Biden or Harris going to Portland or Minneapolis and offering to mediate an agreement? It probably won’t work, but he would at least have more to show than his speeches deploring violence. I also would like this demonstration of his concern for cities.

  6. Thanks all for your comments/ responses. I think Biden is striking the right note now — that Trump incites division and encourages violence, even as he tries to present himself as the “law and order” candidate. Biden needs to continue to be aggressive in making that case, while not letting the agenda be entirely swung from the pandemic.

    I would also highlight my final paragraph noting the sheer number of privately owned weapons in America. It is an incendiary situation, the dangers of which may be underestimated by the centrists and liberals. I’m afraid there are many on the far-right itching for a real fight.

    I like the idea of sending Kamala Harris to Portland to try to negotiate some resolution. It would be a good test of her real leadership capacity.

  7. Don’t worry. America will get the president it deserves, as it did in 2016, no matter what happens. Almost every voter–I’m guessing maybe 98%–has already made up his or her mind: Trump, Biden, Sit it out. There are very few undecided voters still out there. Every time someone gets shot, left or right, we can rack up another 100,000 or so votes for Trump. Somebody ends up dead: even more votes for Trump. Our next president will be determined by the final body count.

  8. Tony: As you well know, in the past it would often be a convening of local religious leaders who would help resolve inflamed debates. It is encouraging to me how many Black church pastors have been at the forefront of Seattle’s protests, notably your successor at Plymouth. I wonder if this is worth a try?

  9. This one goes out the the Liberals who are crazy enough to still align themselves with the liberals of today; “You are the dumbest smart person I have ever met in my life.” (Will Smith -I Robot-).

    Okay let’s clear some stuff up and make this really easy for you. If we aren’t all on the same page that BLM is a terrorist group then you have already failed. BLM cares nothing about black people; AT ALL. They are not sending money to the black communities. They are pushing donations to the democratic campaign through “actblue”.

    Democratic candidates are for “Cancel culture”, which is the worst possible thing to back. It’s canceling out everything and everyone you don’t agree with. Through the use of Liberal Media and radical celebrities and sports figures who are the highest paid people in the world.

    And now to the hot button item….. Policing. Where to start…. Okay let’s make this easy too.
    You want to fix the situation this is how you do it… Elect republican candidates in these democratic run areas and see the immediate positive changes. Look, I’m all about protesting. You can protest whatever the heck you want. Which the exception of a couple points.

    1. Keep it peaceful.
    2. Stay the F off the street and if you get run over that’s on you. Your mom and dad should have taught you not to play in the street.
    3. The second you want to start rioting and burning things to the ground expect to be met with hard police force and expect that if you don’t disperse and you want to challenge officers you are probably going to get injured.
    4. If you start throwing items or shooting at officers, your bought and paid for at that time, and your probably not gonna make it home.
    5. If your over 23, have no job, living with your parents, and are out there protesting and rioting every day but can’t seem to get a job; YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

    For people to say there is a “police brutality pandemic”; your stupid. The way it should be done is a shooting or critical incident occurs. There needs to be a full investigation into the back story of what happened on a case by case incident. THERE IS EVIL IN THIS WORLD, police are there to meet that evil before it gets to your doorstep. You are all allowed that freedom to live in your house and type comments on chat boards because officers are outside making sure your neighborhood is safe and will respond when you call. George Floyd incident was bad, but you can’t start putting ever incident in that category because a white officer kills a black suspect. Floyd wasn’t innocent that day, but he definitely shouldn’t have died. But the liberal media is the biggest advocate for violence and decision. Everything always has to be a race issue and nothing in this country is good. TELL ME WHY THE MEDIA NEVER REPORT ON THE BLACK ON BLACK VIOLENCE THAT HAPPENS DAILY, where blacks are killing other blacks in liberal run cities? Because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

    Trump is definitely not the most well mannered president. But he has delivered on everything he ran for. But with the attacks he has been getting since day one in office you have to be a pit bull to fight all the radical factions off. He will win 2020 in a landslide. And that’s why liberal media is always finding “anonymous” information to hurt him.

    Oh, and to speak on the guy talking about the gun issue. You don’t have to worry about trained conservatives with firearms. You do need to focus on black gang members shooting recklessly in neighborhoods killing young and old alike. If it ever came to a civil war between left and right, and I hope it doesn’t; the left gun hating liberals will not survive it.

    So in short, get on Team America and understand that things have happened in America’s past that aren’t good, but we have to push past that and not bring it up every chance we can to sow division amongst ourselves.

    On a side note, google Candice Owens and listen to some of her interviews. She is the type of strong young black women that I would love to vote for to run this county.

  10. I read your comments with interest until I came across this sentence about Trump: “And that’s why liberal media is always finding “anonymous” information to hurt him.”
    I find it interesting that you complain about anonymous sources and yet you post your comments here anonymously. So, do you consider information from anonymous sources real or fake? Should we take anonymous comments seriously or should we reject them as nothing more than puffs of hot air cranked out by people who aren’t willing to stand up and take credit for what they say and what they believe in? I’m not exactly sure which side of this fence you stand on.

  11. The fact that you did not dispute anything I pointed out proves my point. You side stepped and addressed an issue that has no direct correlation to the main topic of the article. So your issue is that I chose “Anon” as my user name? Really? Your the problem. It doesn’t matter what I back, I’m an American and I don’t like entitled people thinking America is so bad yet they joyfully take advantage of all the liberties that have been fought for through our history. Please wake up and stop drinking the media’s kool-aid. Recent Example of media bias:

    Nancy Pelosi can get her hair done in a salon and get caught. Blame the salon owner who is going to lose her business because Gavin Newsom is an idiot, and say she is owed an apology. Pelosi starts taking heat, so instead of the liberal media running with the story, crickets.

    Media and Pelosi: “how do we flip this back to trump?” “Let’s get an ‘anonymous’ person to say they heard trump talk about dead soldiers on Labor Day weekend.”

    I have faith that liberals a waking up though. Not all liberals are bad. But if your seriously considering Biden (who seems like he has dementia) because you don’t like trump; you’ve lost your mind. Just don’t vote. I want a pit bull president who doesn’t get pushed around and brings jobs back to this country. I don’t want socialist policies and rioting and looting. The left can’t control the Radical Left mobs from rioting and looting if they get put in power. And when they come to your house and say you took there neighborhoods, are you ready to pack up everything you worked for and had it over to them? Because if your not watching what is currently happening, well news flash; it’s happening.

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