A U. S. presidential election should be about many things including what’s going on in the rest of the world. But this one seems to boiling down to three issues, all of them domestic: the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and urban violence. In early August, a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults listed the economy as the number one concern to prospective voters, followed by health care, Supreme Court appointments, the coronavirus pandemic and violent crime in that order. Foreign policy ranked only seventh in spite of rising tensions with China and unresolved concerns over the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea. Economic inequality, climate change and abortion finished at the bottom of the list of the top twelve concerns among voters.
But what a difference a month can make. Violence exploded in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the shooting of another Black man by police. Violence continued to be a daily event in Portland and crime surged upward in most major cities, especially in those run by Democrats, with nightly TV images showing rioting, beatings, looting and burning buildings in vivid detail. These images have been viewed for months by millions of anxious Americans including those in communities that are still relatively peaceful. So far, that is. They see images of police and bystanders being assaulted by vicious thugs and officials being harassed in their homes at night along with their neighbors and they wonder if anyone is really safe in America today.
Law enforcement in the United States is primarily a local responsibility unless federal laws or property are involved and that’s as it should be. Governors can call upon the National Guard to assist in law enforcement if they feel it necessary but seldom do because they fear the perception that they have lost control, which has, indeed been the case all too frequently in recent months. They can also request federal assistance in restoring order which the Trump Administration has repeatedly offered but which has mostly been declined for the same reason. Meanwhile, they and other Democrat leaders have insisted that the violence is rare. But however one may define rare, it does not seem rare to the victims directly affected by it and those millions who view the images on TV every evening.
The primary responsibility of every governor and mayor is to provide for the safety of their citizens and many have clearly failed in this fundamental responsibility. They should be held accountable for this failure by the voters. The Trump campaign has made this an issue which is rising to the top of voter concerns and Mr. Trump is seizing the opportunity to campaign as the law and order candidate who promises to promptly restore order to cities out of control. Since he has kept most of his campaign promises in his first term, voters have every reason to believe that he can keep this one.
Most opinion polls are showing that respondents feel that Mr.Trump would do a better job than Joe Biden in two areas: restoring the economy and restoring law and order. Mr. Biden leads in just about every other category including dealing with the pandemic. If the latter turns out to be the primary concern of voters, that would appear to favor Mr. Biden. But if the top two concerns are the safety of their families, homes and communities and restoring the economy, as I believe will be the case, that will favor Mr. Trump and importantly, probably other GOP candidates. The Biden campaign clearly believes this, too, because after months of silence on the violence and rioting including no mention of it during their convention, they are suddenly speaking out against it as the polls show Biden’s lead over Trump narrowing.
Prospective voters should consider the following. We have conquered pandemics before and we will conquer this one. But it will be a world-wide effort, not the doing of whoever occupies the White House now or after the election. But making our cities safe again will require strong and courageous leadership, and not just in the White House but in state capitols and city halls as well. The performance of Democrat mayors and governors during this lengthy period of civic unrest does not inspire much confidence in their ability to deal with the challenge.
As long as the riots and violence continues it will likely strengthen the case for electing Republican candidates. Democrat strategists know this and that blaming Trump for inciting the violence is a losing strategy. They may, therefore, attempt to discourage the violence. Good luck with that. Reasoning with mobs and protest movements doesn’t always work as Democrat mayors have discovered recently. It takes strong leaders who will act to enforce laws and prevent violence before it gets out of hand. But regardless of which party thinks that it benefits most from continued unrest it has to stop now because it is not benefitting the nation or its citizens.
Dr. Kelly is a freelance writer and retired Navy Captain who commanded three San Diego-based ships and a personnel research and development center and taught ship handling, seamanship and navigation at Naval Base San Diego. He earned his doctorate in education at USD, taught graduate students and was a senior vice-president and director of training and development at Great American Bank. He has written over 1500 newspaper and journal articles and has been a regular contributor to the Eagle&Journal since 2001.