It’s impossible to watch what is taking place south of the border and not wonder if we are witnessing the historic and irrevocable fracturing of a once-great nation – a tectonic rupture from which it is incapable of recovering.
The United States is a country racked by racial inequality and bigotry, dealing with a plague made worse by the gross mismanagement of the federal government, while being led by a dangerous huckster who believes he can benefit from the mayhem and destruction we are witnessing.
President Donald Trump is a political arsonist who sets fires and then tries to convince the public he is the only person capable of putting them out.
While many of us in Canada have become inured to violence in the U.S., the country can still astound us. In recent days, we have witnessed a car motoring through a crowd of protesters in the Colorado city of Aurora; one of the demonstrators opened fire on the driver, injuring two fellow activists instead.
We’ve seen a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin, Tex., shot dead by a man reportedly driving through the marchers. The alleged shooter justified his actions by saying he felt threatened when the demonstrator, Garrett Foster, approached his window toting an AK-47 assault rifle.
We have seen Americans form armed militias, patrolling communities where violence has surged. One woman in Minneapolis told The Wall Street Journal that crime no longer has consequences where she lives, with drive-by drug dealing and drive-by prostitution now routine, out-in-the-open activities. Brazen, midday robberies are frequent, as more people struggle to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meantime, we have seen Mr. Trump’s deployment of federal agents fuel civil unrest in Portland, which has, in turn, incited violent protests elsewhere. Statues have been toppled, windows smashed, bricks thrown and buildings set on fire. We have seen police brutalize peaceful demonstrators. We have seen bloodshed.
They seem like the dystopian images of an imagined cinematic ending of the American dream. Only someone like Mr. Trump would attempt to use such scenes of national unrest around which to build a winning re-election strategy.
While it seems inconceivable that Mr. Trump can survive the chaos he has sown in the time he has held the White House, there is a school of thought that the riots we have recently witnessed play right into his hands. Most protesters in Portland, Seattle, Oakland and elsewhere have been peaceful and well-meaning, but there are enough who haven’t, and who have used the demonstrations as cover to provoke confrontations with the police.
By goading the police into action, the theory goes, the radicals are aiming to portray them as vicious oppressors who are a menace to society.
You also have progressive politicians who also may be helping Mr. Trump on this front. Seattle’s City Council, for instance, has embraced calls to cut the police budget. In June, it also passed a motion banning the use of tear gas and other crowd-control materials, including pepper spray.
The U.S. Department of Justice won an injunction to have the city-council order temporarily suspended until an appeal of it can be heard. The police, understandably, are opposed to city council’s actions.
This is a city, after all, that is no stranger to large demonstrations that devolve into violent confrontations. I’m not sure I’d want to be a police officer on the front lines of a riot, with nothing more at my disposal to fend off dissidents than a baton. Democratic politicians elsewhere are also heeding calls to defund the police.
I don’t doubt for a second there are many police departments in the U.S. in need of a radical realignment in thinking and priorities. But I’m not certain there are many big U.S. cities that could use fewer police officers.
Mr. Trump, as mentioned, is already trying to capitalize on recent scenes of lawlessness. His re-election campaign has already spent more than US$26-million on television ads depicting a country that would quickly devolve into an anarchistic state under a progressive pushover such as Joe Biden.
Democrats don’t seem too worried about Mr. Trump’s plan. They don’t appear to believe, for starters, that law and order is a priority of the public. They are also quick to point out the rioting we are witnessing is happening under Mr. Trump’s watch, not Mr. Biden’s. They also feel the President’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic eclipses all other matters.
All this may be true. But it doesn’t mean Mr. Trump won’t try to make law and order a dominant issue. Which means the more chaos there is, the more he likes it.
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