Bob Franken




Let me paraphrase President Donald Trump after Charlottesville and state that there are very bad people on both sides of the racism protests … violent people. Trump, in his quest to instill fear in the voters he feels are huddled quivering in their suburban homes is using words like “anarchists” and “thugs” to condemn demonstrators supporting Black Lives Matter who are protesting systemic racism and the police killing of unarmed black men and women. He’s seized on the outcry and is defending the cops — and somehow blaming Joe Biden for supporting the “mobs.”
There is a relatively small group of extremist agitators among the largely peaceful demonstrators. These troublemakers tangle with law enforcement and other security forces, set fires and indiscriminately destroy businesses, taking advantage of the situation to turn it into a riot. All they really accomplish is to give candidate Donald Trump fuel for his bigoted “law and order” campaign tactics, at the very time when the racial prejudice issue is finally getting a sympathetic understanding among all Americans. White and black people are marching and reacting together against the overwhelming evidence that bias against people of color is woven into our national fabric.
On the other side of the divide during this frenzied presidential campaign stands the white supremacists, the Trump supporter zealots. Many of those on this far right fringe are carrying weapons; some of them are organized into “militia” units who use social media to organize for “battle.” A few times, the results have been deadly when you get these crazies on both sides assaulting each other.

That’s exactly what has happened in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the case of Kenosha, its state is considered a campaign battleground, up for grabs in the presidential election. The city is among the latest to flare up after police shot another Black man, Jacob Blake. According to snatches of video, an officer shot him and left him paralyzed.
Naturally, cynical politics took over, overwhelming the tragedy, the investigation and the disorder that followed. Both candidates, President Trump and his challenger Joe Biden, decided they absolutely positively had to visit Kenosha, even before the melee had settled down. They needed to show their strengths in the midst of the chaos — Trump’s law and order fear-mongering, versus Biden’s empathy.
Trump spent some of his time with law enforcement officials and owners of some of the damaged stores. He defended the police:
“Violent mobs demolished or damaged at least 25 businesses, burned down public buildings and threw bricks at police officers.”
Donald Trump did not visit Jacob Blake’s family. Joe Biden did, speaking by phone with Blake himself in the hospital:
“He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him.”
After a few photo ops, they were done. They took their campaign traveling road show elsewhere, leaving Kenosha behind to deal with the volatile embers of its big problems and repair the damage, both physical and racial. What is it Rahm Emanuel said during the Clinton years? “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Actually, he was plagiarizing Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote something similar way back in the 1500s.
Here it is again in 2020, where another crisis has been reduced to a media event. There will be many other contrivances before the 29th of this month, when the first of three presidential candidate debates is held in Cleveland. But you can bet that both campaigns are strategizing already and fashioning the winning sound bite and distortion of the issues.
Soon it will be October surprise time. But it probably won’t be a surprise. President Trump is putting the pressure on health officials so he can announce a breakthrough coronavirus vaccine just before Election Day. That’s how we choose our leaders. No wonder we are not able to handle our ever-growing problems.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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