Trump skipped the airport rally, but he still used Kenosha visit to send his base a message | Analysis

Analysis: President says cops can't worry their jobs or pensions are 'going to be taken away ... if they utter one wrong word.' He didn't get specific. But one comes to mind.

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Tuesday 01 September 2020 22:11
Trump compares police brutality to a golf tournament
Leer en Español

There were no supporters or a live microphone waiting to bathe Donald Trump in cheers and praise when Air Force One touched down outside violence-torn Kenosha, Wisconsin.

But, on his latest trip to a swing state just over two months from Election Day, the president found a way to send a few campaign-like messages to his conservative base.

He used most of a roundtable event with local and state officials in Kenosha on Tuesday after touring damage to the city caused by protests of racial inequality that sometimes turned violent to defend police officers, hammer Democrats and describe nearly all protesters as violent actors determined to bring destruction and mayhem to streets in major cities and suburbs.

Of police officers, he said: "We can't be threatening them that their jobs or pensions are "going to be taken away ... if they utter one wrong word."

Mr Trump – always strategically vague – did not specifically state what one word he had in mind. Yet, in the country's latest era of racial tensions and division, one comes to mind.

Over the weekend, Sergeant Chad Walker, a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina, was captured on video twice using the n-word. He claims a black protester first referred to him using the racial epitaph.

Before being led away by another officer, Mr Walker asked the crowd: "He can say it to me, but I can't say it to him?" After video of the incident went viral on social media, the Columbia police department suspended Mr Walker without pay.

The president was sure to let television cameras hear him pledge millions in federal aid to help Kenosha business owners rebuild.

"We'll help you rebuild," he said. "This is a great area, a great state."

Translation: A great swing state.

One the president won in 2016, but by less than one percentage point. One in which he trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by statistically significant margins in every widely regarded poll.

The former vice president leads there by 6 percentage points in a CBS/YouGov poll. Mr Biden is up by 5 points in a recent CNBC/Change Research survey. And a Marquette University poll gives him a 4-point lead.

In signal after signal to his conservative base, the president used the otherwise sombre visit to add, however small, pieces of kindling to fire under which he and his team hope the protests and violence the rear ends of his supporters. Fired-up voters typically cast ballots, political operatives of both sides agree.

He warned of violent "anarchists" hurling "bricks and "rocks," noting both "can be deadly." Translation: They might throw them at you, voter.

Mr Trump said protesters in Portland, Oregon on Monday night tried setting the Democratic mayor's house on fire. Translation: They might do the same to yours, voter.

He made the questionable claim that Democratic officials want to "release rioters, looters and criminals" while stripping funding from local law enforcement agencies. He provided the translation on this one, saying of a possible second term: "We're not going to be cutting police funding."

The president let his supporters know he is willing, no ready, to deploy military forces into the streets of American cities to put down protests. "Tremendous violence. We will put it out ... when we get the chance." Translation: See below.

'It's all Democrat'

The president said most of the top 25 most-violent US cities have Democratic mayors.

"All Democrat. It's all Democrat. ... All these problems are Democrat," he said, ignoring the fact he has been president for over three years and has fanned the flames of racial tensions since before being sworn in, according to his critics and some former Republican officials. Translation: I am the only one left in the race tough enough to keep your cul-de-sac safe.

When he took questions from reporters after the roundtable, the re-election minded president was in no mood to criticise law enforcement. He sidestepped questions about systemic racism within police departments and society in general, opting to talk instead about protesters.

He also used one of his final answers to subtly let his base know he would, if he had the authority, turn local police forces loose.

"They want police to be police. ... You don't see them marching and you don't see them on the streets, but what they want is they want great police force, they want people that are going to keep them safe, where their houses aren't broken into, where they're not raped and murdered," he said. "They're protesters, too, but they don't walk down the street, up and down the street. So, you know, it's just the way it is."

Translation: By refusing to even try expanding his base, the president is left with only one option. That is to sell fear and plant seeds of doubts in just enough suburban voters' minds that Mr Biden just isn't tough enough.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments