Sun 30 Aug 2020 01.00 EDT Last modified on Sun 30 Aug 2020 11.53 EDT
The president railed against ‘violent anarchists, agitators and criminals’ but he surrounds himself with lawless lackeys
‘Trump’s above-the-law, race-baiting, me-first presidency’ was on display at the Republican national convention, staged at the White House. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
One week ago, Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police department, fired at least seven shots at the back of a Black man named Jacob Blake as he opened his car door, leaving the 29-year-old father of five probably paralyzed from the waist down.
After protests erupted, self-appointed armed militia or vigilante-type individuals rushed to Kenosha, including Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old who traveled there and then, appearing on the streets with an AR-15 assault rifle, allegedly killed two people and wounded a third.
This is pure gold for a president without a plan, a party without a platform, and a cult without a purpose other than the abject worship of Donald J Trump.
To be re-elected Trump knows he has to distract the nation from the coronavirus pandemic that he has flagrantly failed to control – leaving more than 180,000 Americans dead, tens of millions jobless and at least 30 million reportedly hungry.
So he’s counting on the reliable Republican dog-whistle. “Your vote,” Trump said in his speech closing the Republican convention Thursday night, “will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”
“We will have law and order on the streets of this country,” Vice-President Mike Pence declared the previous evening, warning “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Neither Trump nor Pence mentioned the real threats to law and order in America today, such as gun-toting agitators like Rittenhouse, who, perhaps not coincidentally, occupied a front-row seat at a Trump rally in Des Moines in January.
Pence lamented the death of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, “shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California”, earlier this year, implying he was killed by protesters. In fact, Underwood was shot and killed by an adherent of the boogaloo boys, an online extremist movement that’s trying to ignite a race war.
Such groups have found encouragement in a president who sees “very fine people” supporting white supremacy.
The threat also comes from conspiracy theorists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the recently nominated Republican candidate for Georgia’s 14th congressional district and promoter of QAnon, whose adherents believe Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Trump has praised Greene as a “future Republican star” and claimed that QAnon followers “love our country”.
And from people like Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of Trump’s campaign advisory board, who was scheduled to speak at the Republican convention until she retweeted an antisemitic rant about a supposed Jewish plan to enslave the world’s peoples and steal their land.
Clearly the threat also comes from hotheaded, often racist police officers who fire bullets into the backs of Black men and women or kneel on their necks so they can’t breathe. Needless to say, there was little mention at the Republican convention of Jacob Blake, and none of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.
And the threat comes from Trump’s own lackeys who have brazenly broken laws to help him attain and keep power. Since Trump promised he would only hire “the best people”, 14 Trump aides, donors and advisers have been indicted or imprisoned.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W Giuliani – who ranted at the Republican convention about rioting and looting in cities with Democratic mayors – has repeatedly met with the pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach, whom American intelligence has determined is “spreading claims about corruption … to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party”.
In addition, federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine with two men arrested in an alleged campaign finance scheme.
Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who had been a major Trump campaign donor before taking over the post office, is being sued by six states and the District of Columbia for allegedly seeking to “undermine” the postal service as millions of Americans plan to vote by mail during the pandemic.
Not to forget the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who spoke to the Republican convention while on an official trip to the Middle East, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits officials of the executive branch other than the president and vice-president from engaging in partisan politics.
You want the real threat to American law and order? It’s found in these Trump enablers and bottom-dwellers. They are the inevitable excrescence of Trump’s above-the-law, race-baiting, me-first presidency. It is from the likes of them that the rest of America is in serious need of protection.
Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone