This is a weak argument on the merits but an understandable argument given the politics of the issue. I didn’t like Trump’s intervention in Portland (even granting that the feds have the power to protect federal buildings) because crime is a local issue. If the mayor or governor requests federal help because they’re undermanned, that’s one thing. To force a federal presence on them, especially when it’s kitted out in paramilitary trappings, is an affront to federalism.
But the flip side of that coin is that we shouldn’t blame Trump when crime flares somewhere either. It’s the responsibility of the governor and local leaders to keep the peace in their communities, not the feds. It wasn’t federal officers who shot Jacob Blake, it was local cops. Tony Evers, not Trump, could have sent 750 National Guard to Kenosha on night two of the rioting, as locals requested, but he ended up sending only a third as many. The result was arson and vigilantism in which two people were killed.
It’s not Trump who’s grasping for woke justifications for rioting on social media, it’s the left side of Biden’s base. It’s not Trump who’s tasked with preventing crime in Kenosha and Chicago and Portland, it’s the Democratic state and local officials who were elected there and failed miserably. It’s not Trump’s base that’s calling for police to be defunded, it’s Biden’s. Residents of Kenosha look at all that and logically find themselves newly attracted to the idea of voting Republican this year.
But, however weak Buttigieg’s claim may be, it’d be malpractice if Democrats didn’t make it. He was asked about the violence last night on Fox News. Watch a few minutes, then read on.
If Democrats get stuck playing defense from now until November every time there’s a riot somewhere — because there’ll be more of them, I think we all agree — they’ll end up letting Trump back into the race. They have to go on offense, and the obvious way to do that is to simply point to the fact that Trump’s the incumbent and remind everyone that this is happening on his watch. Trump’s great advantage four years ago as an outsider to both D.C. and American politics writ large was to claim that problems would start getting solved if only voters gave him a turn in power. This year he’s left claiming that problems bedeviling the country during his own presidency will somehow be solved if only he gets another term. Not a great argument.
He could always try telling Americans the truth. “The fact is, who the president is matters less to controlling crime than who’s running your city and state. If you want more police and leaders who won’t burble about the greatness of BLM while businesses are burning to the ground, elect Republicans locally.” But that argument doesn’t do anything to advance his own electoral interests, as it implies that Buttigieg is right — things might not change during a second Trump term given the stranglehold Democrats have over governing most major cities.
So he’s stuck arguing, a la 2016, that he’s the lesser of two evils. Sure, crime might not get better if he gets a second term, but the woke arsonists so beloved by our media might conclude they can behave with total impunity with a Democrat in the White House instead. That point is better than nothing, but it’s a long way away from his strongman appeal of four years ago. Trump 2016: I will bring the hammer down on miscreants and keep you safe. Trump 2020: Biden will be marginally weaker than I am while miscreants run wild, probably.
Biden is also on offense about rioting today, even more aggressively than Buttigieg was last night. He’s accusing Trump of rooting for violence, citing something Kellyanne Conway said this morning:
“He’s rooting for more violence, not less … this happens to be Donald Trump’s America” — Joe Biden pic.twitter.com/xDjUog5qAI
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 27, 2020
“Donald Trump’s America” is the same phrase Buttigieg used. A memo must have gone out. You can see what Biden’s trying to do here, redirecting voters’ angst about political violence at the man in charge so that they don’t blame the man who’s (broadly) aligned politically with the perpetrators of that violence. He elaborated this afternoon in a statement, asking, “Is Donald Trump even aware he’s president?”
— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) August 27, 2020
Conway’s getting a bit of a bad rap about what she said, by the way. Here’s the short version…
"The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order" — Kellyanne Conway makes a case that the killings of peaceful protesters will benefit Trump politically pic.twitter.com/ClJ6ArrbkE
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 27, 2020
…but the longer version makes clearer that she’s not condoning the violence because it benefits her candidate. If Trump wanted unchecked rioting, he wouldn’t be sending federal officers to help police Kenosha, right? I’ll leave you with her response in full.
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) August 27, 2020