In what has become a rather sad sign of the times, hardware stores in New York City have been doing a booming business this weekend. The items flying off the shelves are large sheets of plywood, hammers and nails. But this isn’t signaling some sort of resurgence in the housing market or other construction activities. Business owners are boarding up their storefronts all across the five boroughs on the advice of the NYPD. Why? Because they’re anticipating more riots and looting on election day. And the police appear to be acknowledging that they won’t be able to keep it under control. (NY Post)

Manhattan business owners including Chanel and Levi’s boarded up their storefronts with plywood on Friday afternoon — as the NYPD warned of potential unrest as the presidential election draws near.

Workers at retail shops in Soho, which were targeted by looters during unrest this summer, as well as shopkeepers near Washington Square Park were nailing up the wooden panels Friday afternoon.

Police had warned shopkeepers in neighborhoods that are usual protest hotspots to take extra precautions before the election, a police official said.

The areas being “fortified” (as the manager of Chanel described it) are spread out over most of the usual protest and looting targets. These include Times Square, Washington Square, Union Square, Central Park, and the areas surrounding City Hall and most of the police precinct headquarters. One of the most widely boarded up areas is the high-end shopping district in SoHo. As we discussed here previously, that’s where some of the most expensive stores in the city, if not the world, have been routinely looted all summer, with store security personnel being told not to interfere with the looters for fear of being targeted on social media as being a “racist brand.”

It’s not just Manhattan where this is taking place. We already learned that the equally pricey Rodeo Drive district in Beverly Hills is similarly “fortifying” all of its storefronts. Other major cities are making their own preparations along the same lines.

I used the phrase “usual targets” above, and that’s a sign of just how sad this situation has become. The idea that on election day, a time when more than half of the country will be engaged in the ultimate show of democracy, we find it not only possible but almost inevitable that violence and criminality will flood our streets is obscene. This is neither “normal” nor acceptable. The anticipated violence and theft have nothing to do with the election. Nor do they reflect any form of free speech or righteous indignation over supposed aggressive policing in our country. This is anarchy and opportunistic thievery.

Everyone seems to want to make each and every election into a “referendum” on one issue or another. But if we were seriously addressing the biggest challenge our country is facing today we wouldn’t be talking about the pandemic, climate change, or the President’s Twitter feed. Tuesday should ultimately be a referendum on law and order and the utter failure of too many states and large cities to maintain a safe environment for their citizens and businesses. Instead of asking when we’re going to return to “normal” in terms of preventing the spread of a virus, we should be questioning when Americans will be able to freely go about their business without fear of being assaulted (or worse) by angry mobs who have little or no fear of any repercussions from law enforcement.

If that were the focus of the debate this week we would be less worried about who wins the presidential contest and more concerned with every race for Governor, for the Mayorship of our larger cities, and the seats on those City Councils. The federal government has traditionally not been directly involved with securing law and order in the streets beyond occasionally authorizing the summoning of National Guardsmen. That job falls to the state and municipal governments of the affected areas. And in far too many cases they are failing in that responsibility in a staggering fashion, resulting in the loss of lives and untold economic damage.

On Tuesday, I would hope that people aren’t voting “like their lives depend on it” so much as they are voting as if their way of life depends on it. This situation can’t simply be accepted as “the new normal” and those responsible should be held accountable at the ballot box.