By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
President Donald Trump constantly refers to members of Black Lives Matter as “violent” and even bad for Black people.
That could almost be shrugged off except for two things that recently followed close. One was the appearance of a New York Black Lives Matter official on a Fox News show threatening to “burn down the system.” The other was the vandalizing of police stations here in Los Angeles.
Both prompted another round of hysterics.
The attacks and the loose cannon statement about violence caused just enough worry that a small coalition of African-American clergy and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles had a press conference. They denounced the violence, inflammatory statements and made clear that the anti-police abuse protests and demonstrations have been peaceful and will continue to be. Still, the worry was there. And there’s good reason.
Despite their pledge and assurance of peaceful protests, and a report from a public interest research group that tracked Black Lives Matter related demonstrations and backed up their contention that in almost all cases the protests have been peaceful, there’s Trump, a shaky public perception of the demonstrations and the run up to the presidential election.
Trump has practically boasted that he will do the Richard Nixon campaign routine, scream law and order, and smear Black Lives Matter and those associated with the group as anarchists and terrorists. He will then sell himself as the one man who can stop the country’s alleged slide to lawlessness. This is his ticket back to reelection.
The polls so far are mixed on how well the scam is working. Joe Biden’s national polling lead has remained consistent for months. However, there is the X factor in elections. That’s how much fear, anxiety and negative news can influence or even intimidate nervous, wavering, on-the-fence voters to vote for the man who promises to be the country’s man on the white horse savior. That man says Trump is Trump.
This is where Black Lives Matter comes in. There have been just enough acts of violence and vandalism at a few demonstrations to feed the terror mill. The scenes of a store burning, looted and physical confrontations with police are guaranteed to be lapped up by some media outlets.
They will be followed by the usual rash of angry, indignant editorials and on-air comments blasting the violence. No matter how many times Black Lives Matter organizers denounce the violence, point to the careful efforts they make to ensure their demonstrations are peaceful and orderly, Trump’s finger will wag at them along with many others.
There’s a good guarantee that this will get the attention and Trump hopes the votes of less educated, lower income white rural and blue-collar workers by conjuring up horrific, nightmare visions of rioters and looters in their neighborhoods. The subtle ingredients of racial hysteria are there again to try and make the pitch stick.
Trump did a dry run of his law and order ploy in the 2016 presidential election. He self-proclaimed himself then as the law and order guy and wined and dined police unions as their defender of the realm.
There’s no real evidence that this made the difference in pushing him over the top that election. But it was good practice for now.
Unlike 2016, he didn’t have the massive demonstrations and outrage over police shootings dominating the news cycle almost daily. There were no scenes of stores on fire, nightly protests in many cities, and, most importantly, a national household name recognition of Black Lives Matter. The George Floyd slaying, of course, changed all that.
He also has one other ace card. That’s his opponent, Joe Biden. He will relentlessly try to sell the notion that Biden and the Democrats are practically one and the same with Black Lives Matter.
When Biden talks racial and social justice and condemns police abuse, Trump will snatch at that as supposed proof that Biden and the Democrats are anti-police and violence enablers.
He’ll double down on this by blasting Biden for pushing for more spending on job, health and education programs. The not-so-subtle hint is that this is all done at the expense of hard-working, law-abiding, white middle class and blue-collar workers.
Again, the polls that show Biden beating Trump handily now could easily change if Trump succeeds in pounding a message that touches the fear and rage of his supporters in the crucial swing states.
The scary thing about Trump’s crass, cynical, and dangerous racial fear mongering is that he got away with it in 2016 and landed in the White House. The even scarier thing is that he is trying to do the same thing again. This time he’s got Black Lives Matter as what he considers the perfect fall guy.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author “Why Black Lives Do Matter” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.