WASHINGTON – On Wednesday evening, federal agents tear gas at the mayor of Portland, epitomizing the current re-election strategy of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Losing the war he declared against the coronavirus, Trump was eager to start another war: one fought in the street and aimed squarely at his Democratic opponents.
Ted Wheeler, a Democrat who as mayor and police commissioner has been targeted by protesters, joined the protest Wednesday night to oppose the presence of Federal Department of Homeland Security forces sent by Trump to suppress events. The governor of Oregon also opposed the federal presence. Many of the actions of the officers dressed in combat fatigue are said to be unconstitutional, including dragging protesters from the streets without probable cause. Since the arrival of federal agents and the nighttime conflict they spark, Portland residents have responded by joining the protests. They have gone from a few dozen committed activists to thousands of marchers, including a “wall of moms” in bicycle helmets and “dads” carrying leaf blowers to remove tear gas.
Federal forces in Portland, vocally defended by Trump, beat and pepper-sprayed a US Navy veteran. They gassed the mothers. They gassed the mayor. They don’t back down. They are ramping up.
Hours earlier Wednesday, Trump officially announced he was expanding the initiative to send federal agents to police in Democratic Party-run cities at a White House press conference. “In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to dismantle, dismantle and disband our police services,” Trump said, linking the protest movement to an increase in violent crime, although experts have not attributed this last to first. “Today, I am announcing a wave of federal law enforcement in American communities plagued by violent crime.”
Trump said he would immediately send Justice Department agents to Chicago, suggesting that local leaders had “abdicated” their crime-fighting obligations. He suggested the initiative would spread to other cities, such as Albuquerque, New Mexico. This violent crime police was different from the security crackdown in Portland, although Trump made it clear that the two were part of the same presidential policing initiative.
Trump said federal agents would be sent to cities “run by very liberal Democrats” such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore. “They should want it,” he said on Wednesday, “They are too proud or too political to do it. “
Politics is the engine of Trump’s decision-making and his representation of it. When he first promised the “push” to Democratic Party-led cities, comparing Portland and Chicago to Afghanistan, he said, “If Biden came in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell.
This has been the singular meaning of Trump’s recent campaign messages. In the 20 days leading up to Tuesday, the New York Times reported, the Trump campaign spent $ 20 million (83% of its total ad spend) on law and order-focused ads. One depicts an elderly woman who was attacked while on hold because 911 was canceled; others show clashes between demonstrators and police. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” one reads.
Most of the images shown in the advertisements took place in President Trump’s America. One – showing protesters attacking a policeman – was not America at all: it shows a 2014 protest in Ukraine (one of the many distortions critics pointed out in the ads). Precision does not seem to be the goal. They stir up fear.
And Trump is showing a response to that fear in real time, by sending federal agents into police towns. If this turns out to be unconstitutional, it may not matter. If local officials oppose it, it can be even better, especially if those officials are Democrats.
Ever since the infamous church photoshoot in Washington that saw peaceful protesters gassed so Trump could pass – which escalated a confrontation with Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser – Trump’s strategy has been to portray the protesters as dangerous anarchists and himself as ready to send armed troops into battle. a war against them when Biden and the Democrats won’t. This often provokes confrontations and creates more sequences of chaotic conflict on the streets. These images are part of the story – they seem to justify the police presence and justify its increase. When local Democratic leaders like Bowser and Wheeler object, Trump describes it as evidence of their weakness. Constitutional boundaries are stretched. The demonstrators are gassed, beaten, arrested. But the ultimate targets are Trump’s political opponents.
A Democratic mayor being teargas by Trump’s troops as he stood with protesters on the streets of his own city? That’s the whole strategy in a nutshell.
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