The speed at which Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden went from refusing to acknowledge the violent riots crippling several U.S. cities to blaming President Trump for inciting them is almost breathtaking. To describe this new track as a risky strategy, however, is an understatement. It is more akin to playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber in the gun.
Until just days ago, Democrats were barely acknowledging the violence. The protests, they insisted, were peaceful affairs. Demonstrators were distributing candy to babies, handing out flowers to police officers, and singing Kumbaya around campfires, while roasting marshmallows and reciting poetry.
The rare instances of physical confrontation or the occasional burning of a local store were entirely the work of white supremacists who had infiltrated the demonstrations to stir up trouble. So the story went.
The Old Switcheroo
Suddenly, it dawned on party strategists that poll numbers were not going in the right direction. In a moment of clarity, someone figured out the terrible scenario that threatened to engulf them. To the average American, it was bad enough that savage mobs were roaming the streets, bent on destruction. Worse still was that Democrats were brazenly pretending nothing untoward was happening.
Mr. Trump’s opponents immediately changed course. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), began to accuse the president of not only allowing the violence to happen but directly inciting it. “We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another,” the White House hopeful said on August 30. “But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”
Biden went on to challenge the president also to condemn the violence. It seems that the former VP does not have cable or an internet connection in his Delaware basement. There is no other way to explain how he has missed hearing Trump condemn the violence in very direct and, at times, unfiltered terms, over these past many weeks.
Furthermore, if the president wanted the violence – fed off of it, somehow – and wished it to continue, he probably would have adopted a different attitude. He would not have, on numerous occasions, threatened, cajoled, and, finally, politely suggested to governors and mayors of the affected areas that they accept federal assistance in putting a stop to the rioting.
The new avalanche of condemnations coming from Democrats, though, has clearly been orchestrated out of desperation. Just within the past couple of days, the entire Democratic narrative has changed. It has done so with a level of synchronization of which the Bolshoi Ballet would be proud.
On August 30, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) accused the president of “willfully fanning the flames of this fire.” On the same day, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) said of the president’s plan to visit Kenosha, WI: “I think his visit has one purpose and one purpose only, that is to agitate things and make things [worse].”
Portland, OR, Mayor Ted Wheeler – who has done nothing but watch his city being torn apart for months – also leveled an accusation directly at the president: “It’s you who have created the hate and the division,” he said on – guess what day? August 30.
Of course, August 30 was a Sunday, and these politicians were doing the interview circuit, so there is nothing sinister about that. The point is, however, that just days before, none of these elected officials were even willing to admit that violence was occurring. The obviously coordinated change in strategy, coming just days after Mr. Trump got his post-convention bounce in the polls (which is usual, though Biden did not get such a bounce from the Democratic Convention), is a sign of panic.
A Perilous New Talking Point
Here is the risk, though – and it is a huge risk. Democrats are suggesting that Trump is incompetent and weak because he allowed the violence to flare up on his watch. Does that not also mean that the Democratic mayors and governors of the cities and states now in flames are also weak and incompetent? Several of these officials have vociferously refused federal assistance, claiming that they can deal with their problems. The blame, then, surely lies with them, rather than with the president.
There is another danger, though. If Trump is the cause of the unrest, then it stands to reason that the unrest will almost immediately cease, should Biden become president. What if it does not? Who is to blame then? With Trump gone, there will surely be no need for further mayhem and violence. There’s the rub, to borrow from Shakespeare.
Can the Democrats be certain that the rioting and attacks upon police and bystanders, the burning of offices and stores, and the blocking of roads will all end on the day Biden steps into the White House? More importantly, if Trump’s challenger and his party can indeed be certain that peace and tranquility will immediately return, how could they have known? Are they behind the upheaval? Are they in contact with the funders or the organizers of the riots? To know for sure that this chaos will not continue if Biden wins the White House, someone connected to the would-be president must surely have inside information.
Finally, the most crucial question is, will the voters buy the argument that Trump is the cause of all this nonsense? That seems very unlikely. Is it not America’s long history of systemic racism, after all, that led to the marches in the first place? Is that not what America has been told? Did that problem not begin years or even decades before Trump ever thought of running for office?
If this is all about Trump, then George Floyd’s life did not matter, after all. Neither did Jacob Blake’s, or any other alleged victim of police brutality and racism.
The Democrats are playing a dangerous game. It is not likely to end well for them because their new narrative has more holes in it than a South Chicago community center. Trump is free to continue his campaigning while his detractors talk in circles, presenting new lines of attack that cancel out their own previous arguments. Whether Biden deserves to become president is a question only the American voter can decide for himself or herself. Usually, though, Americans expect their political leaders to at least be convincing liars – and the Democrats cannot even seem to master that skill.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.