Editorial: Donald Trump’s Opportunity to Show Up as President Has Passed

Donald Trump has failed this country over and over in the past 3 1/2 years, but the murder by police last week of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, along with the nation’s ensuing distress, offered Trump another opportunity to show up as president. Alas, Trump once again chose not to accept the opportunity.
Racism has always thrived in the United States. Donald Trump didn’t start it, and though he can’t singlehandedly stop it, either, he has a powerful platform from which he could condemn the systemic racism that infiltrates American institutions, and that has led to the brutality and murder of so many people of color, including George Floyd.
We’ve all witnessed how Donald Trump’s base hangs on his every word and places their trust in him, despite his cheating in business, cheating on his wife, degrading women, making fun of disabled people, telling more than 18,000 lies while in office (as documented by The Washington Post), and having a long list of corrupt close associates. Imagine if Trump said words that condemned the racism and supported those who want change. Imagine how his base might, though momentarily confused, begin to change their rhetoric.
Clearly, the above scenario is fantasy. But even if all Donald Trump did were to condemn the police violence against black people that has brought us to this point, or, if he even addressed the nation in some sort of attempt to be empathetic or induce calm, it might offer, even momentarily, some reassurance that there is, after all, someone in the White House who is trying to lead.
But Donald Trump has chosen not to condemn police violence against black people.
Trump has instead turned his condemnation toward the Democrat leaders of states and cities where protests have taken place. Trump has repeatedly told Democrat leaders in Minnesota, including Governor Walz and Mayor X, of Minneapolis, that they need to “get tough” on protests.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Liberal Governors and Mayors must get MUCH tougher or the Federal Government will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests.”
On Monday, during a phone call with the governors, Trump called them “weak.” Though he berated governors and urged them to be “tough,” Trump himself had hidden in the White House bunker on Sunday, after crowds outside the White House became hostile. It’s possible that the Secret Service persuaded him to retreat to the bunker, but Trump has chosen to hide in a bunker, literal or figurative, each time the country has faced a crisis (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) that called for a president’s leadership.
And on Monday evening, as a group of protesters in Washington, D.C. demonstrated peacefully, Trump decided that, after hiding in the bunker over the weekend, he needed to show that he was a tough guy. It was more important for him to “dominate” the scene than it was to connect with the demonstrators and empathize with their pain.
At Trump’s bidding, and after Trump’s having just said a moment before that he was on the side of the protesters, U.S. Military Police moved in on the peaceful demonstrators. Without provocation, the MPs deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. They were making way for Trump, who wanted to take a stroll through the park to a church so that he could pose for a photo op with a Bible in his hand and impersonate a godly president.
During Monday’s bizarre and disturbing spectacle, Trump also announced that the states should deploy their Army National Guard forces to help with the protests. If states don’t bring in the National Guard, said Trump, he’ll send the U.S. Army.
Despite beating his figurative chest about the protestors and proclaiming himself “the Law and Order President,” though, Trump has remained silent on the topics of police brutality and the police murder of George Floyd.
Now, as in the past, he points to, and magnifies every issue but the real one, taking to Twitter to promote divisiveness, blame, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and, especially in the case of the current demonstrations, violence.
Earlier last week, in reference to the demonstrations and unrest in Minneapolis, Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which was widely seen as a threat to shoot demonstrators. Trump tried to walk back this comment on Twitter, saying that he really meant that shooting was a natural consequence of looting.
Donald Trump either doesn’t understand the difference between the peaceful protesters and the opportunistic looters and rioters, or he just doesn’t care. Or, more likely, he does understand the difference, and is taking delight in the confusion, rallying his base as he provokes the “opposition.”
When the difference between those who simply want to exercise their right to a peaceful demonstration, and those who only come to a demonstration for the looting and vandalism gets blurred, it also blurs the line between the good actors and the bad, giving false justification for the police to “get tough” on all demonstrators. It also perpetuates the narrative that black people who demonstrate, as well as those who demonstrate along with them on their behalf, are “thugs.” Trump knows all this.
The time for Donald Trump to step up and be a president instead of an inciter has passed. Trump has proven beyond doubt that he is not interested or able to take the country successfully through a crisis.
In the span of less than three months, Trump let the country fall into a pandemic that has now killed more than 100,000 Americans. In the span of one week, the nation, under Trump, has become a mass of violence, fire, and fury ignited by a brutal act of racism that Trump has not directly addressed.
We can, and must, vote to protect our unraveling nation from the likes of Donald Trump. With six more months till Election Day, and the country still in the throes of both COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, however, it’s terrifying to think of how much more damage Donald Trump could do.

Trump tells governors to ‘dominate’ protesters | CNN [2020-06-01]

George Floyd riots: Donald Trump rushed to bunker as protesters surrounded White House | 7NEWS Australia [2020-05-31]

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