Vice President Mike Pence put it on the line in his speech on the third night of the Republican Convention: “You will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” As he spoke, Kenosha was reeling from the violence of the past four days while rioters were trashing Minneapolis yet again.
The embrace of law and order was one of the key themes of the night, and Pence was at his most dramatic as he said, “The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
He said that the men and women of law enforcement “are the best of us,” and that “we will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line.”
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He defended the right to peaceful protest before saying “rioting and looting are not peaceful protests. Tearing down statues is not free speech. And those who do so will be prosecuted.”
The contrast really could not be starker with the themes of the day on Twitter, which focused almost entirely on the vigilante shooting in Kenosha — marking the first time in nearly three months that street violence in cities has provoked any sustained outrage in the liberal media.
Joe Biden was finally stirred to speak about it Wednesday and did so in a rather hesitant way that earned him undeserved garlands from those who recognize the potential danger this terrifying chaos might pose to his election chances and are increasingly fearful of its impact.
Out of this chaos, there is a political opportunity for Trump, because the way for him to prevail in November is to make this election a referendum on Biden. That’s how Barack Obama made it back to the White House in 2012 against Mitt Romney.
It’s a hard sell, because he is president right now, and the chaos is not happening on Biden’s watch but on his. But if Trump can make a convincing case that Biden is the leader of a party and a coalition that seem more supportive of the protests than civil peace, and unjustly hostile toward those we task with protecting us from crime and violence, he may have a shot.
He can use it to drive apathetic voters who didn’t even turn out in 2016 to the polls — and flip some of the suburbanites who went from the GOP to the Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
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It’s a more convincing pitch than the more conventional messages on the convention’s third night, which wasn’t as effective as the first two.
Speaker after speaker hammered home an unconvincing message: “Donald Trump is not a politician. He’s a leader.” Or, as Pence said in, “A proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world.”
Come on now. Trump is the most important politician in the world. He was a novice four years ago, but he can’t claim to be one today.
And if he deserves credit for “creating” our economic growth over the past couple of years, he has to take some responsibility for the cratering of our economy over the past six months due to his inconstant handling of the national response to the coronavirus.
The GOP finds itself compelled to make this case for Trump at a moment when nearly 7 in 10 Americans think the country is on the wrong track. It’s a spectacularly hard sell.
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Two things can save Trump now. One is entirely within his control. He can sustain the calmer and broader focus and tone of the convention in his own speech and in the months to come, while hammering home the law-and-order message.
The other is entirely out of his control. If Biden proves himself unequal to the task of speaking about the crisis in our cities in a common-sense and practical way — caving instead to the apologists for disorder and those who have become convinced that America is rotten at its core — he will supply Trump with everything the president will need to Romneyize the former vice president and flip this election on its head.
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