Donald Trump claimed he was visiting Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to call for unity. What he did was try to keep the rage going that he has stoked for weeks. Deliberately — and most recently with a series of conspiracy-mongering tweets that were false and vicious.
He went to Kenosha with no calls for reconciliation or mediation. His visit and his talk made no effort — zero — to bring "both sides" of good people to the table or even to show his interest. Trump's only aim was to give himself another 30 or so minutes of free re-election TV. Donald Trump, after all, has no empathy — only the cunning of his selfish political instinct.
In Kenosha, he met with police officers and business owners whose properties had been damaged by the unrest. He made no plans to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, the unarmed man whose shooting by police set off the protests. Officers shot Blake in the back as he tried to get into the car where his three children ages 3, 5 and 8 were sitting. Trump didn't call them. And he dismissed that slight by telling reporters earlier that "they wanted to have lawyers involved." How small is this from the man whose campaign makes rally supporters sign forms saying they won't sue Trump or the campaign if they contract COVID-19 at his events?
But Trump has defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old right-wing supporter charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha.
Everything Trump does and says is the polar opposite of what one would do if he really wanted to calm social unrest in Kenosha or Portland, Oregon, or any other city where inequities prompt protests and protests prompt caravans of right-wing counter-protesters and all of that boosts the chances of violence.
Two messages seem clear from Trump's actions:
1) It's OK to protest if you're white. But not OK if you're black. And it's OK to protest if you're a Trump supporter. But not OK if you're not.
Unfortunately, that's not just Trump's view. It's the view promoted by Fox News and too many conservative pundits. And it all boils down to an unhinged fear of not remaining a superior majority. It's about racial insecurity. Maybe that's the magic sauce of Donald Trump: If he's a super rich guy and president of the United States and a bluster-a-minute basket of insecurity, then it can't be so bad if the rest of us white people — especially white men — are also scared silly that we'll be soon be a mi— mi— (oh, no, not that word) minority.
2) Unrest — and the more of it, the better — is perceived by Trump as good for his re-election campaign. Why, then, would he do anything other than reach for the Molotov cocktails?
Meanwhile, back in Kenosha, the mayor had asked the president not to visit just now. The community needs time to heal, the mayor said, but Trump would not consider the request. Asked if he worried his visit could exacerbate tensions, he said, "Well, it could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country. And that's why I'm going."
"Increase enthusiasm" for whom and what he pointedly did not say.
Maybe he meant the kind of enthusiasm that would bring any city another 600-vehicle "caravan" of Trump supporters with far-right groups like Patriot Prayer that "drove into downtown Portland armed and looking for a fight," according to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Before the Trump caravan arrived, the protesters had been numbered at about 100 people.
The caravaners did find a fight, though police are still tight-lipped about exactly what happened. Mace was used. Shots were fired. A member of the Patriot Prayer group was killed.
Instead of saying anything presidential — like, everyone just go home and stay home — Trump, in his tweet storm Sunday, seized on the killing as a cudgel against Democratic leaders in Portland, the same city where his administration has deployed unbadged federal officers against the wishes of local officials. Trump portrayed the incident as urban mayhem and the caravaners as "GREAT PATRIOTS!" Never mind that the caravan rolled in from outside the city.
After all, if there isn't any mayhem, how can make his newest re-election pitch?
Speaking of law and order, where does this president get any moral authority to even use that phrase?" He has faced and still faces several credible accusations of illegal misconduct — both before and since taking office. Further, he repeatedly twists federal law enforcement to suit his whims.
But don't assume this is merely our "left" viewpoint: Using unrest as a campaign prop came straight from his longtime political adviser, Kellyanne Conway, as she spoke last week with "Fox & Friends."
She'd been asked to respond to criticism from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate. Both have said Trump is responsible for societal divisions magnified this summer by the protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
Here was her answer: "The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order," she said.
It was a striking moment. A Trumpite slipped up and told what she perceived as the truth.