The left throws Trump a lifeline

Trump desperately needs conflict and chaos, anything to distract from his coronavirus failure and to scare swing voters in the Midwest into embracing the devil they know
Trump desperately needs conflict and chaos, anything to distract from his coronavirus failure and to scare swing voters in the Midwest into embracing the devil they know 

Donald Trump needed help. By the end of May, Trump’s catastrophically poor response to the coronavirus pandemic could no longer be denied or covered up. The virus took the economy down with it, with a record unemployment spike and a diminishing long-term outlook due to the United States having no coherent plan to suppress the disease.
Once it became clear that fighting COVID-19 was difficult work, Trump did what he always does: declare victory and quit. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t take it easy on you if you surrender to it; it doesn’t take prisoners. It’s anybody’s guess how much Trump actually cares about the loss of American lives or the economy, but these things are having an impact on one thing he unquestionably does care about: his own skin and keeping it in the White House for as long as possible.
Unfortunately for Trump, the elderly who are most at risk from the disease also make up much of his base, and they prefer to listen to their doctors over a reality-show host who blathers about injecting disinfectant. Even his evangelical support has weakened substantially and will likely continue to drop as COVID-19 pushes through the South. (The minorities who have been hardest hit aren’t his voters, as he would put it, and their plight is surely a factor in Trump’s indifference.)
If there is one thing Trump is less qualified to deal with than a national health crisis, it’s a national moral crisis. That became more obvious than ever when protests erupted over the killing of a black man by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. George Floyd’s death at the hands, and knee, of the Dickensian-named Derek Chauvin was recorded in excruciating detail, like so many others before. (“Chauvin” is French for “chauvinistic,” which originates from the name of a legendary Napoleonic soldier, Nicolas Chauvin.)
Trump desperately needs conflict and chaos, anything to distract from his coronavirus failure and to scare swing voters in the Midwest into embracing the devil they know.
Trump desperately needs conflict and chaos, anything to distract from his coronavirus failure and to scare swing voters in the Midwest into embracing the devil they know. (Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)
The resulting protests have been immense and widespread, likely augmented by a combination of three-and-a-half years of Trump stoking every kind of tension and pent-up energy after two months of lockdown. Trump panicked, hiding in a White House bunker and putting up fences that have no place around “The People’s House.” His response reflected his instincts, his unfitness for his office and his country. Democratic leaders fear being voted out; dictators fear being dragged out.
This second crisis reduced Trump’s chances at reelection in November in spite of, or perhaps because of, his opponent Joe Biden keeping a very low profile. Trump needed a lifeline, and even a few phone calls with his pal Vladimir Putin didn’t seem to help. If anyone knows about crushing public protests and rigging an election, it’s Putin.
Trump’s America isn’t Putin’s Russia — yet — and it won’t be so easy for Trump as long as American elections remain free and fair. Unlike Richard Nixon in 1968, Trump can’t run as a “law and order” candidate against a crumbling status quo. He’s the incumbent, and it’s awkward for the sitting president of the United States to run on promising to clean up the messes created by his own administration and his own party. Are you healthier than you were four years ago?
Then Trump’s white knights arrived in the form of rioters, looters and the mostly Democratic mayors and governors who are unable, or unwilling, to control them. The Trump administration is eager to blame “Antifa” for the violence to create a bogeyman worthy of fearmongering and an authoritarian response. His “Democrats won’t protect you” message gains strength when a swath of Seattle is occupied by protesters.
Whether the rioters are disgruntled leftists, criminal gangs, opportunistic anarchists or anyone else, they are just what Trump was hoping for. Or perhaps they are what he was praying for during his ridiculous Bible-waving photo-op in a church in D.C. Unable to demonize a virus, unable to speak credibly about racial justice or police violence, Trump finally had a viable target — and plenty of ad-friendly video clips of masked looters, smashed property and frightened citizens.
Trump desperately needs conflict and chaos, anything to distract from his coronavirus failure and to scare swing voters in the Midwest into embracing the devil they know. Recall how many people were embarrassed to tell pollsters they were voting for Trump in 2016, resulting in the Election Day shock, a phenomenon we risk repeating. The longer the violence continues, the better an authoritarian’s shouts of “Law and order!” will sound. Trump has stoked the fires indirectly with his repeated claims of being above the law and his threats to send troops into American cities. He would be far from the first would-be autocrat to provoke a calamity in order to rally the people around him as he promises order and vengeance.
My personal protest experience is mostly in Russia, where we were outnumbered by riot police everywhere we went. We knew that if we broke a single window we would likely be arrested, hospitalized, or both. We also understood that if we wanted the people on our side, we couldn’t look like the extremist thugs the Putin propaganda painted us to be.
The United States is a very different world, but I fail to understand how burning down a black-owned business or looting fancy stores in Manhattan strikes a blow against police brutality or for achieving racial justice. And trying to twist the Black Lives Matter message into the latest call for a socialist revolution is vile, and as much a Lost Cause as trying to save the Confederate monuments now being toppled across the South. Sanders lost because Americans don’t want more upheaval. They want a return to decency but also stability, especially in a time of genuine crisis.
The American civil rights movement of the 1960s inspired the world, reflecting America’s global influence, a symbol of the ability of a nation to adapt and improve over time. This may be happening again today, as the protests for racial justice are emulated from the Netherlands to Australia.
Such impressive solidarity makes me question once again the lack of concern the U.S. left has for the suffering of millions in Venezuela, or for the Uighur concentration camps in China. Tearing down the statues of slave owners who died 200 years ago is one thing, but what of the countries where slavery is still very much alive today? There are tens of thousands of slaves in Mauritania alone, a country that was recently named to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Instead, most human rights watchers on the left side of the aisle spend their time complaining about the United States and Israel. They target not those whose abuses are the worst, but those who are most likely to make concessions, a shallow tactic that deepens inequality.
The far left’s lifeline to Trump also includes radical proposals like “defund the police” and targeting moderate Democratic candidates. Just when challenger Amy McGrath had Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the ropes in Kentucky — Kentucky! — Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed her progressive competitor. McGrath will still win the primary, but she’ll have been pushed to the left and forced to provide fodder for McConnell’s general election ads in a state Trump won by 30 points.
Such acts of sabotage inside the Democratic Party are Trump’s only hope in November. Many lifelong Republicans have turned on Trump and are openly endorsing Biden, a unique moment. However, if the Dems cannot control their left flank, it will look to many like the contest between extremes Trump wants it to be. Most Americans would prefer a sane center, but their voices are drowned out by unyielding ideologues on either side. Radicals have always understood that their real enemies aren’t the radicals on the opposite side — who are required to justify their own militant actions — but the moderates in the middle.
Trump is a clear and present danger to America, to its 328 million bodies and souls, and to the rest of the free world as well. But he is also the weakest link in Trumpism, self-absorbed and incompetent. More capable, more disciplined populists are coming soon, from the right and the left. It’s vital to slow the political pendulum now, not shove it back as hard as possible, destroying all in its path.

Backlash risks losing much of the real change that is happening already, a public shift not only by politicians, but by giant brands, media companies, and celebrity singers and sports stars. Policy and praxis will follow culture, as it usually does. The speed of these changes reminds us that fighting for justice is like a marathon that can turn into a sprint at any moment — and you never know when that moment will come.

A bad week for America is a good week for Trump. He needs chaos from now until Election Day and he can create plenty of it on his own — along with more help from a certain Russian dictator. Putin is going through his own crisis at home, and he needs to keep Trump in office as much as Trump needs Putin to help keep him there. The KGB has a long history of fanning the flames of extremism on both the far-right and far-left. We cannot afford to have American progressives helping them do it.

Trump promises order through violence, an unacceptable offer, but one he will fulfill if given the opportunity. Biden and other Democratic leaders must counter with order through justice. That’s a far more difficult thing to deliver, but it’s only course for an America that wants to be better tomorrow than it is today.

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