After the police abuse of George Floyd, destructive and deadly riots have plagued cities across America, some seeming to emerge out of the blue. Antifa mobs have terrorized Portland for nearly 100 nights, but even false reports of police shootings have inspired bouts of looting and destruction in Chicago and Minneapolis. Kenosha, Wisc., a city of roughly 100,000 on Lake Michigan, erupted into destructive and ultimately deadly violence after police shot a black man who resisted arrest after reportedly causing a domestic incident and was reportedly reaching for his knife when they opened fire.
A new poll from Just the News and veteran pollster Scott Rasmussen found that nearly half of U.S. voters are worried that the violence will spread to their communities. This fear extends across the lines of ethnicity, sex, political affiliation, and ideology, making the riots a potential wedge issue in the 2020 election. Americans are rightly concerned about the violence, and this concern will likely help President Donald Trump.
Voters are concerned
Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) said they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” when asked, “How worried are you that violent protests and riots will come to your community? Nearly one in five (18 percent) said they are “very worried” while almost one in three (30 percent) described themselves as “somewhat worried.”
“Half the country being worried about violence in their own community is a startling fact,” Rasmussen told Just the News. “Not something we would normally see in 21st century America.”
Only 20 percent of registered voters described themselves as “not at all worried,” while another 30 percent said they were “not very worried” about the riots coming to their communities.
“What’s especially interesting about this is that it’s not really a partisan issue. It’s not that Republicans say they are worried while Democrats disagree,” Rasmussen added. “Instead, roughly half the voters in each party is concerned. That means it could be a significant issue for the fall campaign. It’s why President Trump is in Kenosha today and why Joe Biden made his comments about violence yesterday.”
Indeed, Americans of every stripe are worried about the riots. Men (46 percent) and women (49 percent) are afraid the riots will target their communities. Whites (45 percent) and blacks (45 percent) and Hispanics (66 percent) agree, as do Republicans (54 percent) and Democrats (45 percent). College-educated (44 percent) and non-college-educated (51 percent) voters are concerned.
This fear extends across the ideological spectrum, as well. Very conservative voters (57 percent) and somewhat conservative voters (56 percent) share these fears with moderates (48 percent), somewhat liberal voters (37 percent), and very liberal voters (40 percent). Americans of all ages are concerned as well.
Just the News and Scott Rasmussen conducted the poll between August 27 and 29 using a sample of 1,200 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
They are right to be concerned
Voters are right to worry that the riots could spread to their communities. Just last week, a mob started looting and ransacking businesses in Minneapolis after hearing a rumor that the police had shot and killed a black man. In reality, a black man had shot someone and then fled from the police. Rather than submitting himself to arrest, the man decided to commit suicide, shooting himself in the head. This death is tragic but hardly a case that the Black Lives Matter movement should champion. Nonetheless, rioters took their baseless anger to the streets, stealing from their neighbors and destroying their own communities.
I had never heard of the city of Kenosha before the shooting of Jacob Blake, the black man who reportedly resisted arrest when the police came to check out a call about a “domestic incident.” Blake had a warrant for his arrest from July, based on charges of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. Blake attempted to reach into his car before the officers opened fire. Police later said they discovered a knife in the driver’s side front floorboard of the car.
Shootings like this involve many factors, most of which are not apparent in the hours — or sometimes even the days — after a shooting. Americans are right to protest instances of police abuse like the nearly ten-minute kneeling on the neck of George Floyd and the plainclothes no-knock raid (such practices make an arrest seem like a home invasion) that ended in the death of Breonna Taylor. Yet the overall narrative that these instances prove widespread racism is not warranted and does more harm than good.
Oftentimes, it seems that people are looking for an excuse to engage in lawless behavior and are primed to leap to the conclusion that any police shooting of a black man is unjustified and proof of racism. Tragically, ideological currents on the Left help prop up this toxic atmosphere.
The New York Times‘s “1619 Project” may be the most influential example of Marxist critical theory urging a revolution in the name of “racial justice.” Marxist critical theory encourages people to deconstruct various aspects of society — such as capitalism, science the nuclear family, the Judeo-Christian tradition, even expectations of politeness (as the Smithsonian briefly taught) — as examples of white oppression. This inspires an aimless and destructive revolution.
When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post “Call them the 1619 riots,” 1619 Project Founder Nikole Hannah-Jones responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots and the defamation of American Founding Fathers like George Washington.
In a November 9, 1995 op-ed, Hannah-Jones condemned Christopher Columbus as “no different” from Adolf Hitler and demonized the “white race” as the true “savages” and “bloodsuckers.” She went on to describe “white America’s dream” as “colored America’s nightmare.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) expressed a similar sentiment when she called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression.
Portland activist Lilith Sinclair demonstrated how this ideology feeds directly into the antifa riots saying, “There’s still a lot of work to undo the harm of colonized thought that has been pushed onto Black and indigenous communities.” As examples of “colonized thought,” she mentioned Christianity and the “gender binary.” She said she organizes for “the abolition of … the “United States as we know it.”
Yet the “1619 riots” have arguably oppressed black people far more than the U.S. supposedly does. The riots have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
This widespread ideology might bring destructive riots to any number of communities. The fact that many young people have been cooped up under coronavirus lockdowns only adds fuel to this fire.
A wedge issue for Trump
Americans must oppose these riots and champion law and order, which enables everyone to live in a peaceful society. Tragically, many left-leaning commentators and Democratic politicians have covered for the rioters, calling the lawlessness a form of “mostly peaceful protest.” President Donald Trump, by contrast, has vocally condemned the riots from the beginning, offering to send federal law enforcement and the National Guard to help restore law and order.
For months, Trump vocally condemned the rioters and offered support to Democratic mayors in cities overrun by the violence. Yet Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) refused Trump’s support, even going so far as to blame the president for the riots. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Mayor Jenny Durkan (D-Seattle) praised the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) that declared itself independent of the United States and deprived U.S. citizens of their property and mobility. Durkan waited until two deadly shootings had taken place before finally acting — and even then, it seems Trump forced her hand.
Similarly, only after Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisc.) allowed Trump to send in the National Guard did the destructive and deadly riots in Kenosha finally end.
This week, Joe Biden attempted to blame Trump for the riots, claiming that the president’s divisive rhetoric was ultimately to blame. Biden thrice condemned “militias,” associating them with the Right and with Trump, but he never condemned antifa or the official Marxist Black Lives Matter movement.
The president powerfully shot back, noting that “for months, Joe Biden has given moral aid and comfort to the vandals repeating the monstrous lie that these were peaceful protests. They’re not peaceful protests. That’s anarchy. That’s — you look at the agitators, you look at the looters, you look at the rioters — that’s not a peaceful protest.”
While some concerned citizens armed themselves and planned to protect private property in cities ravaged by the riots, those instigating the riots are associated with the far-Left, with antifa and Black Lives Matter. If Trump owns the “militias,” Biden owns antifa, a much more dangerous group.
Whatever their political persuasion, Americans should note the far-left ideology behind the violent riots and the president’s tireless efforts to stand up for law and order. For all his rhetoric attacking Trump, Biden appears unwilling to denounce antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Opposing anarchy and violent rioters should not be a partisan issue. It is utterly horrifying that one major political party and its presidential candidate have proven unwilling to condemn the anarchists behind the riots.
Biden has talked about “restoring the soul of America,” but if he is unwilling to stand up for law and order against antifa, many American cities won’t have a soul to restore. Americans may not like Donald Trump — I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him in 2016 — but the country needs law and order. Voters are right to be concerned for the safety of their communities, and only one candidate is standing up to the anarchists endangering that safey.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.