You had to see it coming. At some point, much like his corny, racially coded throwback hat, presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump MORE would resurrect the most loaded of Great American Political Catch Phrases: "law and order."
And if Trump's outrageously sophomoric, frat-house rhetorical style on the campaign trail left any doubt that he was actually serious about winning the White House, this latest strategy should shut down those naysayers. All that matters to Trump, at this point, is the win.
Despite the risks of national division, stoking the fires of summer racial rage and permanently alienating the Republican Party into cultural oblivion, pursuing the law-and-order message may offer Trump his most viable strategic path to the White House yet. Even as pundits and experts smugly dismiss the power of resentful (and, frankly, quite fragile) white voters who privately assume Trump's Vox Musculus can save their nation from the irrationally perceived threat of multicultural annihilation, the reality-show mogul still posts disturbingly strong numbers.
There are also week-after signs that Dallas may have become that racial flare-in-the-sky tipping point a Trump ticket needs to defy demographic odds in November. Because we all know what "law and order" means when a white Republican candidate evokes it.
It's, perhaps, the most infamous and dastardly of racial dog whistles; that moment when buttons are pressed in a frantic white-wide S.O.S. that pretty much says, translated: "It's time to rein in and lock up the crazy black and brown folks, ya'll." As murder rates rose by nearly 20 percent in 2015 (compared to the previous year), anxious citizens look for quick-fix approaches through tough-on-crime messaging. That anxiety, freshly baked in the heat-dome summer of 2016, has crashed into a social climate riddled by open black frustration. While, historically, black social justice and political protest rarely turns into armed insurrection, for a number of reasons, many white voters still can't grasp black politics as anything but that.
Mirroring Richard Nixon's and Ronald Reagan's wins in 1968 and 1980, respectively, Trump has now breathed new 21st-century life into the "law and order" narrative, flipping it into disingenuous concern for a divided nation. "I looked two nights ago and you were having trouble in 11 different cities, big, big trouble," said Trump recently. "And the press actually plays it down."
The shooting in Dallas by a clearly distraught and crazed Micah Johnson may have provided an opening of white fear that's presently metastasizing into strategic national and battleground state advantages for Trump. He's banking on it. In one week, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Bill Clinton hospitalized with sepsis We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE's overall national support decreased by a full 2 percentage points since the Dallas massacre, according to the most recent YouGov polling. Conventional political theorists are quick to point to the impact of the FBI's final report on her email foibles, but, what explains the rather precipitous 5 percentage point drop in white voter support since then?
In the latest McClatchy-Marist poll, Clinton's support drops below 50 percent for the first time, narrowed down to just a 3 point lead. Other polls, such as NBC, also show very slim leads. Only Reuters gives her a comfortable 13-point lead.
What's also problematic, and telling, when examining Clinton's troubling dips in crucial states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania (looking at recent Quinnipiac polls), is how mad fast her support disintegrated among white voters since the last swing state poll taken on June 23. In Florida, white support dropped 6 percentage points, along with a 5-point white support drop in Pennsylvania. She gained 3-point white support in Ohio,
Let's not act is if Dallas didn't make this the case. Something in the wake of these police killings could have severely strained racial anxieties to a point of no return by the time we reach Nov. 8, thereby making it about more than just emails. There's definitely enough divisive racial blood in the water that Trump and many other Republicans are smelling, even as many attempt to fake disown it before the convention in Cleveland.
Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is Washington correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune, a contributor to The Hill and the Sunday Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia. He is also host of "The Ellison Report," a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter @ellisonreport.