by Matthew Rusling
After months of limiting or completely avoiding in-person events, both U.S. presidential candidates this week visited the city of Kenosha.
The city in midwestern state Wisconsin, where 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer on Aug. 23, has become an unplanned focal point of both Republican and Democratic campaigns.
DIFFERENT WORLD VIEW
Sitting President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden visited Kenosha on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. For Democrats, it’s racial justice. For Republicans, it’s security, at a time of nationwide riots, looting and violence.
The shooting has grabbed nationwide headlines and sparked a new wave of anti-police sentiment, protests and riots.
In comments from a church in the city on Thursday, Biden said he had spoken via phone to Blake.
“He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not he was not going to give up,” Biden said.
“Fear doesn’t solve problems. Only hope does. If you give up hope, you might as well surrender. There’s no other option,” Biden said, adding that he had also spoken to Blake’s family.
“This is the first chance we’ve had in a generation, in my view, to deal and to cut another slice off of institutional racism,” Biden said.
The police involved in Blake’s shooting were attempting to arrest him for violating a restraining order stemming from an alleged sexual assault, according to the New York Post, which cited dispatch records and the Kenosha Professional Police Association.
Trump’s visit, just two days before Biden’s, had a different motive — to support law enforcement. The president’s visit included a tour of damaged property, through which he emphasized law enforcement and reiterated that what he called radical left-wing violence has spread across the nation.
Kenosha is symbolic of a very different world view of each party’s base, at a time of bitter partisan rivalry. GOP voters support police and are outraged by the riots they believe Democratic mayors have done nothing to stop.
They are also enraged by what they see as a double standard — hair salon and gym owners are arrested for opening during the pandemic, while rioters are allowed to potentially spread the coronavirus while gathering in large crowds to loot shops and attack store owners.
This week also saw a firestorm of controversy when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was caught on camera not wearing a mask at a beauty parlor, after imposing what critics called draconian lockdown measures on small businesses.
RECORD GUN SALES
Americans’ fears of civil unrest are mirrored in last month’s record gun sales.
Firearms sales for August surged by 58 percent compared with the same time last year. The United States saw around 1.8 million guns sold last month, according to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, which analyzes FBI data tracking gun purchases.
For their part, the Democratic base believe that there is systematic racism in the United States that is played out every time a policeman shoots an African American, although statistics show there were only nine deadly police shootings of unarmed black men in 2019, according to a Wasington Post database cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Democrats are calling for racial justice, and have made the issue a major party platform. The party’s left wing is calling for defunding the police, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has already slashed 1 billion U.S. dollars from the city’s police budget.
“If there are more police shootings in the next two months — and clearly that could happen — then each party will definitely double down, Trump with law and order and Biden with racial justice,” Clay Ramsay, a senior research associate at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.