Talking Points

The Trump campaign: Re-elect the president because he is presiding over hellish chaos

During the first night of the Republican National Convention, the party leaned heavily into apocalyptic scaremongering about a future Biden presidency. "They'll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The Democrats have run Baltimore "into the ground," said Kim Klacik, a GOP nominee for Congress in Maryland. "Abandoned buildings, liquor stores on the corner, drug addicts, guns on the street, that's the normal in many neighborhoods," she added.

Now, it is true there has been a moderate uptick in murders in some big American cities. The New York Times found that as of July they were up 16 percent relative to 2019 in a selection of 25 cities — though violent crime overall was down 2 percent, and overall crime was down 5.3 percent. This probably has something to do with the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that, in many cities, police departments appear to be conducting a de facto work slowdown as collective punishment for being criticized by protesters.

But the logic of the Trump campaign argument here makes no sense at all. It is true that Democrats run local governments in many big cities, but the president is the most powerful elected official in the country. It is his ostensible job to preserve law and order, and he has sweeping powers to do so. Instead, he has deliberately chosen to inflame the violence in cities like Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon with racist rhetoric and by siccing federal law enforcement on unarmed protesters.

Effectively, the Trump campaign is simultaneously hysterically exaggerating the scale of the violence problem in American cities that is happening on his watch, and arguing that he should be re-elected to fight it. It's almost as though the argument is not made in good faith.