By Hastings Wyman –
After Donald Trump finished his acceptance speech Thursday night, CNN’s panel of experts – all except the Trump supporters – couldn’t contain their anger, attacking the speech for its “dark tone” and its failure to reach beyond Trump’s base of supporters. Then came CNN’s instant poll on viewer reaction to the speech: 75% viewed the speech positively, with 56% saying they were more likely to vote for him after hearing the speech. Moreover, a Reuters/Ipsos survey, taken over the course of the supposedly controversial convention, showed that the week ended with Clinton at 41% to Trump’s 38%. This 4-point lead for Clinton is a substantial decline from the same firm’s 10-point lead for her immediately prior to the GOP convention.
Essentially, Trump emphasized the themes he has found successful in his relentless drive for the Republican nomination. His number one theme, however, stressed at the beginning and the end of his speech, was law and order:
“We will be a country of law and order … The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.”
“In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.”
“The crime and violence that today afflict our nation will end soon – and I mean very soon – come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”
He cited some daunting crime statistics, especially rising murder rates in Washington, Baltimore and Chicago, and a 50% increase in killings of officers over last year.
“[My] plan will begin with safety at home which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order.”
He cited the recent killings or shootings of police officers in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Baton Rouge. But he made no mention of black shooting victims at the hands of police officers in Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana, New York and other places.
While CNN commentators, especially African American contributor Van Jones, were rightly outraged at the backlash politics implicit in Trump’s remarks, it is also clear that this approach is not – at least for now – a losing one among many voters. The deaths of police, combined with the burning and looting that have accompanied many of the anti-police protests, have created an intensely hostile response among many whites.
Later, Trump did say, “I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally.” And he pledged to improve life “for young Americans in Baltimore,
Chicago, Detroit, and Ferguson … [who] have the same right to live out their dreams as any other child in America.”
On balance, however, he has written off the black vote – as well he might, since he gets zero percent or near to it among African Americans polled. But he has also written off appealing to that broad swath of Americans, of both races, who are disturbed and sickened by the violence and racism that has taken center stage in recent weeks.
Trump essentially cast his lot with those whose anger has not led them to seek a healing of the nation’s racial antagonisms.
Based on his own words, it is difficult to come up with a Trump approach to restoring law and order, in the truest sense of the term, something both black and white Americans seek, without using an iron fist that will bring on even more violence and retribution.
Hillary Clinton and President Obama have used empathetic words that walk the line of the good will that does exist between many whites and blacks. Those words haven’t solved anything, but they aren’t likely to make it worse.