Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden on August 31 issued a forceful rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s claim that the former Vice President would preside over a nation overwhelmed by disorder and lawlessness, asserting that it was President Trump who had made the country unsafe through his erratic and incendiary governing style. condemned the violence that has occasionally erupted amid largely peaceful protests over racial injustice, and noted that the chaos was occurring on the president’s watch. He said Trump had made things worse by stoking division amid a national outcry over racism and police brutality. “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” he said. “We need justice in America. We need safety in America. We’re facing multiple crises — crises that, under Donald Trump, have kept multiplying.” Biden also pressed a broader argument that the President was endangering Americans with his response to the public health and economic challenges the country confronts.
The address was Joe Biden’s most prominent effort yet to deflect the criticism that President Donald Trump and Republicans leveled against him at their convention last week, when they distorted his record on crime and policing. And in a fusillade of tweets over the last 48 hours the President suggested Biden was tolerant of “Anarchists, Thugs & Agitators.” Speaking at the site of a converted steel mill in Pittsburgh with no audience, in a rare campaign appearance outside eastern Pennsylvania or his home state of Delaware, Biden rejected the suggestion that lawlessness would go unchecked under his leadership. “Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?” Biden said. “Really? I want a safe America. Safe from Covid, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear: safe from four more years of Donald Trump.” The former Vice President sought to refocus the spotlight on Trump and make the election a referendum on the President’s character and his stewardship of the pandemic. He cast Trump as a destabilizing force who had exacerbated the most urgent problems facing the nation, from the public health crisis, international affairs, and unemployment to issues around police brutality, white supremacy, and racism.
The exchange between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump over public safety, law enforcement, and civil rights represents a significant, high-profile clash in an election that is now just nine weeks away. The issue is emerging as a test of whether President Trump can shift voters’ focus away from the Coronavirus pandemic and persuade a small slice of undecided white voters to embrace him as a flawed but fierce defender of “law and order,” or whether Biden can counter that appeal by assailing the President as a provocateur of racial division and social disorder. Biden took pains to differentiate between his support for peaceful protests and his opposition to acts of destruction. “Rioting is not protesting,” he said. “Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”
President Donald Trump has been wielding law-and-order arguments against the former Vice President. In the Pittsburgh speech, Joe Biden tried to turn the story around. He promised he would seek to “lower the temperature in this country,” something he suggested President Trump was unable to do. “He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it,” Biden said. At a briefing late on August 31, President Trump declined to condemn his supporters’ use of paintballs and pepper spray against protesters in Portland, Oregon, over the weekend. He used the bulk of his time at the podium to criticize Democrats and Biden, saying, “for months Joe Biden has repeated the monster lie that this is a peaceful protest,” and falsely claiming that the former Vice President blamed the police and law enforcement for the violence that was flaring.
As Presidnt Donald Trump increasingly uses the protests as a wedge issue, election analysts in both parties are taking a second look at a Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin voters that came out in August. The share of Wisconsin voters expressing support for the protest movement that arose after George Floyd’s death dropped to 48%, from 61% in June. Still, most Wisconsin voters said they do not like President Trump’s handling of the protests. 58% disapproved, while just 32% approved, the poll showed. And Trump saw no improvement in his favorability rating after the Republican National Convention, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on August 30. Joe Biden, who for years fashioned himself as a “tough on crime” Democrat, won the Democratic primary as an unapologetic moderate, defeating his chief opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. All summer and throughout their convention, Republicans sought to paint Biden as both soft on crime and overly punitive, a strategy that has yet to show it can define the Democrat to Trump’s advantage.