Many white Americans, particularly those with college educations, no longer believe that Jim Crow-like conditions are a shameful relic left behind in the 1960’s or that instances of police violence against African Americans are isolated, the result of rogue bad actors. Those swiftly changing attitudes could reshape the political landscape heading into November, especially as Biden and President Donald Trump diverge in their responses to the tumult.
Trump has stuck with his brand of white identity politics that won him the White House. While he has condemned the killing of Floyd, he has retweeted people saying “Floyd was not a good person” and was a “symbol of a broken culture in black America today.” As part of a larger promise to restore “law and order,” the president has focused attention on looters and “thugs” that have devastated some businesses during the unrest. And as many Americans are protesting police violence, Trump and his campaign have resumed attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality, tweeting: “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”
In contrast, Biden has deployed a sort of white identity politics for the people whose consciences have been shaken — the woke or, perhaps, woke-curious. It is part of a larger bet since the beginning of his campaign that the country is recoiling at Trump’s incendiary appeals and that the traditional “law and order” playbook won’t work in 2020. While Biden has denounced rioting, he has focused more on police reforms and pledged “an era of action to reverse systemic racism.”