End the violent ‘protests’ now — you’re only ensuring Trump’s reelection

Donald Trump branding himself the “law and order” candidate ranks among the most absurd political ironies in recent memory.

Whether it’s the rampant violations of ethics rules, his assault on the rule of law or appointing the swampiest, most corrupt Cabinet in American history, President Trump and the long list of shady characters who surrounded him are anything but lawful and orderly.

But, no matter. Millions of Americans believe that Trump is the “law and order” candidate. More importantly, countless others will throw up their hands and vote for Trump if violent protests, rioting and looting continue.

No amount of liberal shock or outrage about the president’s ultra-simplistic campaign message will change these realities.

Why? Well, four decades of Republican policies decimated the American middle class, leaving millions without the luxury (dare I say “privilege”?) of devoting much of their time to politics.

Unsurprisingly, many Americans – especially those working two or three jobs in areas affected by the recent outbreaks of violence – are considering voting for Trump because of his straightforward “law and order” message. A harrowing series of interviews by the New York Times places this reality into sharp relief.

So, to anyone considering employing violence as a form of “protest,” let’s be perfectly blunt: The rioting and looting must end. Now.

Not only are your actions guaranteeing Donald Trump’s reelection, you are alienating the people you desperately need to win over.

In an election with zero room for error, it is bad enough that much of the violence is occurring in critical swing states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota. Far worse, social media, in tandem with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and a relentless right-wing propaganda machine, ensure that any outbreak of violence is magnified and disseminated to instill mass fear in America. This benefits only one candidate for president.

As a top White House adviser recently put it: “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reign, the better it is” for Trump.

She is absolutely right.

One short video clip of violence in Seattle can now push thousands of voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania into Trump’s “law and order” trap.

The president’s reelection strategy may be absurd, profoundly unscrupulous and astoundingly reductive, but it works.

Worse, Trump’s “law and order” scheme is not limited to overt violence. A viral video of a mob of protesters cornering a woman and demanding that she raise her fist may have alienated thousands of Americans from the protesters’ message while winning Trump countless votes.

Supplanting the core liberal values of reason, debate and discussion with violence and coercion is not the way to win hearts and minds; it is the path to a resounding Trump victory on Nov. 3. 

The political and social turmoil sweeping America also puts a fine point on another alarming development. While the American political right spent decades demonizing liberals and progressives as “treasonous” and “evil” “enemies,” it should come as little surprise that the left is beginning to respond in kind; especially in the Trump era.

The few remaining morsels of civility and moderation left in American discourse are disintegrating. We now inhabit an increasingly Manichean world where political views dictate if one is “good” or “evil.” And in the race to paint the other side as “evil,” nuance has gone extinct.

Case in point: The speed with which my fellow liberals demonized and vilified the alleged teenage gunman in Kenosha, Wisc. To far too many, he was instantly a “white supremacist” “terrorist.”

After years of deadly right-wing extremist attacks – especially in the Trump years – this rush to judgement is hardly surprising.

But a meticulous New York Times analysis found that the suspected Kenosha shooter “offer[ed] medical assistance to the protesters.” He also said: “People are getting injured … if there’s someone hurt, I’m running into harm’s way.”

Having studied and written about right-wing terrorism, these are hardly the words and actions of an extremist hell bent on murdering peaceful demonstrators.

Should a teenager with a law enforcement-hero fetish and a gun have been at the protests? Absolutely not. No matter how much gratuitous, manipulated right-wing media coverage of months of riots and looting may have convinced him to “protect” local businesses, there is no justification for his presence on the streets that evening.

But Americans cannot let hatred of the other side pollute their fidelity to the facts or allow for baseless demonization. That is a slippery slope to violence — one which the right has been on for decades.

Moreover, as shocking as it may sound to those who rushed to paint the alleged Kenosha shooter as a fanatical right-wing “terrorist,” the New York Times’ video review makes a plausible case that the alleged gunman acted in self-defense.

Yes, my fellow liberals. Take a moment to digest that.

Despite Trump’s best efforts, America is still a country of laws. Whether the gunman acted in self-defense after someone chasing him fired a gun and a particularly combative individual “lunged” toward him to take his rifle, will rest with a jury.

This tragic case is an enormous gray area — one which both conservative and liberal firebrands have shamefully sought to exploit without any regard for the facts.

A political and social climate more inclined to nuance may also have forestalled much of the violence following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Disturbing video of a 2018 traffic stop in Pennsylvania may help some Americans understand why police resorted to force against Blake – after twice deploying their stun guns – as he reached into his car. Moreover, a nearly identical 2016 police-involved shooting is particularly relevant. In that case, a jury which included at least four African Americans found the officer not guilty.

Raising these points is by no means intended to justify the shooting of Blake, nor the astoundingly long list of murders at the hands of police officers.

Instead, it is a call for a dispassionate, rational assessment of extraordinarily troubling and complex events. More importantly, realizing that millions of Americans may have a different perspective is critical to achieving meaningful reform and change.

As President Obama noted in a brilliant takedown of “woke” culture, simply being “as judgmental as possible about other people” “is not activism.” After all, “the world is messy. There are ambiguities.”

Perhaps that is why one of Obama’s “favorite” bloggers is a contrarian conservative best known for diving headlong into extraordinarily controversial issues.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.

Tags 2020 campaign 2020 election 2020 presidential election Alt-right Donald Trump Floyd protests kenosha killing of George Floyd Presidency of Donald Trump Right-wing populism in the United States

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