JOHN BRUMMETT: American angst

On a recent driving shortcut through the neighborhood, I saw Joe Biden signs that had popped up on lawns in our liberal nook.

At one point I beheld a panorama of three Biden signs and two Black Lives Matter signs. It occurred that I could well be looking at something the Donald Trump campaign would like to record for a dystopian campaign ad this fall.

The Trump message would be that Biden supporters are the same as Black Lives Matter and that Black Lives Matter represents the frightful sentiment of those causing destruction in dark and smoky images from Portland.

That’s the current Trump play for November–that Democrats have been taken over by dangerous new leftists, agitators, and anarchists from whom only Trump can save us.

I know intelligent white people who have spent more than three years decrying Trump’s behavior but who are lately, right on cue, directing more concern elsewhere.

They are newly aghast at reports that big-city Democratic mayors have told their police forces to back down and let protesters destroy property and gain traction on defunding traditional police protection.

“Defunding” of those who protect life and property is approximately the worst word in an election year for the breadth of needed police reforms to which the activists’ ill-chosen word seems in reality to apply.

This country elected Trump once by giving him more votes than the number of people who said they approved of him. It’s because those people somehow feared or abhorred Hillary Clinton more.

It could happen again, more on fear this time than abhorrence. Biden leads handsomely in polls, but there are enough undecided voters in enough places to deliver Trump another electoral majority.

If, after all that’s happened, someone is not yet determined to vote against the preposterous megalomaniac who’s befouled our country for nearly four years, then what are the odds he’ll make the decision to vote against him if he’s exploited into fearing by November that Biden, despite his long history of conventional Democratic center-leftism, represents anarchy?

Black Lives Matter is a legitimate advocacy group that seeks to change public sensitivities and reform public policies. Some of its events have been marginalized by riotous thugs. Some have been gassed by the police unnecessarily.

In Portland, young white anti-capitalists have co-opted the movement, making it “white as hell,” as a local Black leader told The Guardian last week. Portland radicals have been raising this kind of hell since the first President Bush.

Biden has never said there were good people on both sides of violent destruction. It is the current president who has declared good people to be among white supremacists chanting racism and anti-Semitism in the streets of Charlottesville.

You can drive a few miles from Little Rock and find houses adorned with Confederate flags and Trump signs. We may as well hear at least as much about that. Or more.

But Democrats simply are not as practiced as Republicans at fomenting fear. They tend instead to emphasize consolidating diversity–identity politics, it’s disparagingly called–because they produce winning numbers if they can do that.

Republicans, responding to that Democratic strategy, have invoked the welfare Cadillac, Willie Horton, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright–and now Portland–to say Democrats are pandering to coalesce scary constituencies.

Biden and current Democrats are inept at defining the legitimate distinctions between the BLM movement that they want to embrace and the marginal ugliness around it. They are insufficiently skilled to make the valid case that their sensitivity to the purer motives of the movement would be more effective than the Trump administration’s bellicosity in tamping down the surrounding violence.

Current Democrats are inept, period. They were guilty of utter political malfeasance in that House Judiciary Committee hearing with William Barr last week. Their undisciplined rush to exploit rather than explore responsibly also could be made into a Trump campaign commercial.

If not for the Democrats, Trump would have nothing at all. With Democrats, he’s never out of it.

In Little Rock’s troubles in early June, the real leaders of Black Lives Matter met with Mayor Frank Scott on legitimate issues, such as the resentment in Black neighborhoods of out-of-city white officers patrolling their streets. They also encouraged dispersing nonviolently.

They stood at midtown intersections waving signs like political candidates at election time and getting supportive car horn sounds from every second or third vehicle.

They’re not scary, but fervent, and right. They’re not saying other lives don’t matter. They’re saying Black lives haven’t mattered enough.

And they don’t mean merely in terms of police shootings or beatings. They mean arrest patterns, courtroom rote, economic discrimination and neighborhood and public-school neglect.

Amid those compelling points, the juxtaposition of a Biden sign and a Black Lives Matter sign in a mostly white Little Rock neighborhood should inspire. Why, then, do I worry instead?

I guess it’s because I’ve seen too many presidential elections.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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