For the first two nights of the Republican convention, not a word was said about the police-related shooting of Jacob Blake, which triggered riots in the Wisconsin town of Kenosha. But plenty of words were spoken denouncing urban violence, and the St. Louis couple charged with waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters were featured.
The third night’s marquee speaker, Mike Pence, had planned to say nothing about Blake or Kenosha, but portrayed Joe Biden as weak on law enforcement–a view echoed by the head of the National Association of Police Organizations. But in a last-minute move, Pence wound up calling for “law and order”: “The violence must stop–whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha.”
In an unmistakable contrast, plenty of words were spoken at last week’s Democratic convention about police misconduct, George Floyd and racial injustice. Not a word was said about the riots that have plagued Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and other cities.
Pence pointed that out as well, saying Biden had failed to mention “the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country.” But not a syllable about the shooting of Blake.
The volatile issue could potentially be more damaging to the Democrats. While President Trump expressed sympathy after Floyd’s killing, everyone knows where he stands on big-city violence and his constant criticism of Democratic mayors.
But while everyone knows where Biden, who picked a black running mate, stands on police brutality, even liberal-leaning families are concerned about their safety in communities where cars are being burned, stores are being looted and people are being shot.
CNN host Don Lemon, with whom I often disagree, spoke the truth on Tuesday when he said “the rioting has to stop.” And he urged Democrats to denounce the violence: “I think maybe Joe Biden may be afraid to do it. I’m not sure.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Biden belatedly released a video. This was after the news that a third night of rioting had led to three shootings, two of them fatal. This was after Trump announced he was sending federal law-enforcement officers to Kenosha. This was as NBA players, starting with the Milwaukee Bucks, refused to play in Wednesday’s games, along with several baseball teams.
“What I saw on that video makes me sick,” Biden said. “Once again a black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot by the police in broad daylight.”
A moment later, he added: “But burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence. Violence that endangers lives.”
This is an issue that, after months of nationwide protests and riots, is not going away.
In his acceptance speech, delivered from Maryland’s Fort McHenry, Pence minced no words: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
The vice president made his case: “Under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line, and we’re not going to defund the police–not now, not ever.” Biden has repeatedly opposed defunding the police, despite Pence’s suggestion to the contrary.
Pence also told viewers that “Joe Biden says America is systemically racist. And that law enforcement in America has a quote, ‘implicit bias’ against minorities.”
Then came the line that is, at bottom, the theme of his convention: “Joe Biden would be nothing more than a trojan horse for the radical left.”
Speaking of the left, many of its members are starting to pounce on the fact that the shooting suspect in the latest Kenosha violence, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, sat in the front row at a Trump rally in Iowa. He has described himself as someone who was protecting a business. But if he is guilty as charged, his political views are no more relevant than those of James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders supporter and Rachel Maddow fan who opened fire at a GOP congressional baseball practice.
Earlier, Ric Grenell, ex-ambassador to Germany and former acting intelligence director, said Trump started no new wars and brought some troops home. An openly gay appointee, Grenell earlier made a video casting Trump as a champion of the gay community.
Wednesday’s proceedings continued the softer theme of the previous night in a concerted attempt to appeal to female voters, with the likes of Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany shared a moving story about her decision to get a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against breast cancer, which runs in her family. She recalled how the president and Ivanka Trump called after her surgery.
Kellyanne Conway, who is resigning as White House counselor after family turmoil, said Trump “helped me shatter a barrier in the world of politics” by tapping her as campaign manager. She called him a “champion” of women she described as everyday heroes, and spoke of his empathy for opioid addicts.
Daughter-in-law Lara Trump hailed the president for appointing “the most women to senior-level positions of any administration in history” (though not to any of the top Cabinet jobs). She too spoke of “violent mobs” and “defund the police” in connection with Biden.
In the end, Pence’s omission of the Blake shooting, and Biden’s belated video, could reflect the sleeper issue of the campaign.