At a raw moment in modern American political history, the rivals are emerging from conventions that offered starkly different visions of the future, with every day in the campaign increasingly crucial — as some states prepare to start sending out absentee ballots in the coming weeks.
The President is painting an inaccurate picture of a nation consumed by street violence as he seeks to repair his standing among White suburban voters. Far from calming the situation, he appears to be inciting unrest, for instance praising a convoy of supporters heading into restive Portland, Oregon, as “Great Patriots.” He also “liked” a Twitter post encouraging people to read a thread of tweets that in part praised Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old charged with allegedly killing two protestors in Kenosha. Biden is meanwhile accusing the President of fanning the flames of violence and dividing the country for political gain.
Biden is under growing pressure to mount a high-profile response to Trump’s searing attacks that brand him the tool of left-wing anarchists and “Defund the Police” activists during a summer of protest and unrest following the death of George Floyd with a police officer’s knee on his neck in May.
An effective speech and follow-up measures by Biden could allay Democrats’ fears that a hardcore Republican law-and-order campaign could eat into Biden’s polling lead, but also offer a glimpse into how he might lead as president. It’s an opportunity for him to display his capacity for empathy and bringing people together — and offer a possible route out of yet another crisis that Trump seems unable or unwilling to provide.
Trump campaign blasts protesters as ‘terrorists’ and Biden supporters
Exchanges between the two campaigns on Sunday talk shows shed light on how each candidate plans to respond to an extraordinary national moment in the tense days ahead — and where they see liabilities to exploit in their rivals.
Trump and his campaign are behaving as if they think they have Biden in a vise. The Democratic nominee has strongly sided with Black Lives Matter protests, causing Trump to argue that he is either promoting or is a tool of looters who have burned parts of American cities. Biden has condemned violence on all sides, and despite the efforts of Trump and his conservative media cheerleaders, there is evidence that the violence is not just the work of far-left groups and that far-right anarchist organizations are also involved.
But in the frenzy of a late-stage presidential campaign, such distinctions are ignored. “Make no mistake: These are left-wing terrorists and Joe Biden voters,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh tweeted on Sunday, after the President said in a wild rally in New Hampshire on Friday, “Today’s Democratic Party is full of hate … protesters, your ass. They’re not protesters … they’re agitators, they’re rioters, they’re looters.”