As a symbol of the chaotic state of America, it could not have been more timely. A black man shot eight times in the back by police in front of his children. A video circulating on social media — once again — sparking riots.
And all on the eve of the Republican National Convention, at which Donald Trump grimly warned supporters that his Democrat opponents planned to steal the presidential election this November — a victory that Republicans say would see the U.S. plunged into lawlessness.
Jacob Blake, 29, lies in hospital paralysed from the waist down after Sunday’s shooting in Wisconsin. The two nights of protests that followed saw buildings and cars set alight.
At the Republican National Convention Donald Trump (pictured) grimly warned supporters that his Democrat opponents planned to steal the presidential election this November
It was a stark reminder of the tensions in the country as it faces the most crucial and toxic presidential election campaign in modern history.
In truth, neither of the two main parties seems much enthused by the man it wants to see in the White House in ten weeks’ time.
Many Republicans are sceptical about Donald Trump: but misgivings also surround his challenger, Joe Biden.
Senator Biden, who spent months in lockdown operating from the basement of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, looks quite vacant despite his strong poll lead. If elected in November, at 78 he would be the oldest president in U.S. history.
Biden can take some comfort that many of his previous critics in the party — who suggested he was a sex pest, pally with racists, too moderate and generally incompetent — are now hailing him as the saviour of American democracy.
California senator Kamala Harris, of Asian and Jamaican heritage, was a detractor — now she’s his running-mate.
The Democrats are clearly following a simple strategy: stick to the script of what a decent guy Joe is (and, unlike Donald, it seems he actually is) and do whatever it takes to get rid of Trump. The increasingly divided party can bicker over policy after they have won on November 3.
Joe Biden delivers a speech at the William Hicks Anderson Community Center, on July 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware
After four years of a dysfunctional presidency, coronavirus and an often violent national convulsion over racism, the lines have been drawn for the bitterest battle for decades.
The hatred was visceral at this year’s albeit virtual Democratic National Convention.
Trump’s opponents are enraged at his dissembling and clumsy handling of Covid-19, while the President continues to pack the Supreme Court with conservatives, dismantle predecessor Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms, weaken environmental protection and tighten immigration policy.
Abroad, there is a further erosion of respect for the U.S., in particular, its declining power compared to China.
It’s hard therefore to disagree with Trump’s opponents when they say the stakes have never been higher.
Even Obama — who has quietly retreated into a life of huge mansions and speaking engagements — ended his previously statesmanlike silence about Trump in his convention speech (just 48 hours after his wife Michelle did the same).
‘Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,’ said Obama. ‘This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.’
Trump prides himself on getting things done. So the accusations of inadequacy will sting. ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden already has his withering nickname from Trump. And the Obamas could well be next.
Republicans campaign ruthlessly and Trump even warned at their convention that Democrats may ‘steal’ the election, exploiting ‘the China virus’ to push fraudulent postal voting.
‘The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election . . . Don’t let them take it away from you,’ he said.
With coronavirus expected to prompt many to vote by post, Democrats (who, according to conventional wisdom do better from postal voting) are in favour of boosting the service.
Trump, however, claims partisan postmen will pluck ballot forms out of post boxes and interfere with them.
Trump (pictured on August 19) prides himself on getting things done. So the accusations of inadequacy will sting. ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden already has his withering nickname from Trump
So after pledging to make the convention ‘very uplifting and positive’, the Trump campaign instead scared voters with a bleak picture of a Biden victory — rioting, soaring crime and ballooning spending on radical Left-wing policies that would bankrupt the nation.
It’s no wonder the two main parties are at each other’s throats: so are their voters.
Political protests can be terrifying, with rival ‘militias’ turning up to glare and shout at each other, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, combat equipment and even the odd rocket launcher.
Cities such as Portland in Oregon and Seattle, Washington, continue to be racked by looting and anti-police violence three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis revived the Black Lives Matter movement.
A BLM activist has claimed that not only is looting ‘reparation’ for past injustices but that even calling someone a criminal is ‘based on racism’.
Will Joe Biden defend that idea when Trump inevitably brings it up in a TV debate?
Many suspect that soaring gun crime in cities like New York and Chicago is partly down to police officers —demoralised by personal abuse, cutback pledges from Left-wing officials and restrictive new codes of conduct —being unwilling or unable to tackle the violence as before. Meanwhile, America’s economy looks grim. Retailers, restaurants, airlines and oil production firms have been failing. The unemployment rate stood at 10.2 per cent last month, three times higher than a pre-pandemic rate of 3.5 per cent in February.
In the face of these setbacks, Trump has positioned himself as the champion of law and order. This may yet prove a masterstroke as it’s one area where the Democrats, who have often been egging on the protesters, have been shooting themselves in the foot.
A BLM activist has claimed that not only is looting ‘reparation’ for past injustices but that even calling someone a criminal is ‘based on racism’. Will Joe Biden defend that idea when Trump inevitably brings it up in a TV debate?
Some of the actions of Democrat city mayors and councils have defied belief.
Take Seattle, affluent home of Microsoft and Boeing, whose socialist leaders have vowed to dramatically reduce police numbers with a 50 per cent budget cut, prompting its reforming female black chief to resign in protest.
Violent crime has rocketed and the city’s once buzzing shopping district is full of broken windows, empty hotels and abandoned restaurants.
Seattle’s council and mayor this summer let BLM protesters turn a central district into a ‘police-free’ zone for four weeks — even installing concrete barriers and portable lavatories to sustain it.
‘We could have the Summer of Love!’ trilled Seattle Democrat mayor Jenny Durkan. Instead it turned into a Summer of Violence.
Those who rang for police help risked being put on a ‘Cop Blaster’ website which lists ‘Snitches’ and ‘Cop Callers’.
But isn’t this all the responsibility of Left-wing Democrat ‘progressives’ who’ve been sidelined now that moderate Mr Biden won the nomination battle? That’s the official narrative, but it’s not true.
The Republican claim that Biden is the prisoner of a socialist mob can’t be entirely dismissed as ‘fake news’.
Biden is one of the Democrats’ dwindling Old Guard, leading a party that’s hungry for radical change. His one-time rival, socialist Bernie Sanders, recently claimed his movement had got much of what it wanted out of him.
Some fear Trump’s (pictured on Monday) warnings about voting fraud are just a prelude to what could actually happen in November — that he will lose and refuse to accept the result
And Biden’s 110-page manifesto reveals Bernie’s not exaggerating: the Democrats are now significantly to the Left of the Obama administration on global warming, education and tax.
More worryingly for those who consider the Democrats increasingly illiberal and intolerant, the manifesto is obsessed with racial justice. For instance, the Federal Reserve — America’s central bank — will not only be responsible for maintaining low inflation and full employment, it will also have a new duty to redress racial injustice.
Trump will no doubt attempt to exploit those goals.
Another difference to the 2016 election is that now Trump’s dignity is at stake. He must triumph if he isn’t to join Washington’s saddest gang of ‘losers’ as he might call them — the ten presidents who have failed to win a second term.
Some fear Trump’s warnings about voting fraud are just a prelude to what could actually happen in November — that he will lose and refuse to accept the result.
He’s previously declined to say whether he would accept an election loss and has already called for a delay to voting because of the pandemic (near impossible as the date is enshrined in the Constitution).
Legal experts have been putting forward all manner of nightmarish scenarios in which Trump tries to skew the result or rejects it.
They argue he could use the pandemic as an excuse to stop voters going to the polls or call on the military or federal agents to ‘suppress’ the vote in ethnic minority, often Democrat, areas. He could also ask his cheerleading broadcaster Fox News to declare the election for him, resulting in his supporters (who only trust Fox) resorting to violence to defend his ‘victory’.
Have these ‘experts’ been watching too many dystopian dramas during lockdown? It’s hard to believe that even Trump would have the gall to ask TV news executives to fudge the election result, let alone send the U.S. Marines into Harlem or New Orleans to suppress a riot.
However, that people are even discussing such ideas shows how poisonous this election has become.
Democrats often say America can survive four years of Trump, but eight would render the damage permanent. Yet tens of millions voted for him last time — and vow to do so again, determined to ‘finish the job’.
The stage is set, then, for the most explosive U.S. election in living memory.