The Democratic National Convention portrayed an America suffering from every possible sort of malady – except urban unrest.
Is the country going through a terrible pandemic? Yes. A punishing recession? Absolutely. Is our democratic system itself under threat? Of course. Is the planet about to be destroyed by inaction on climate change? Check. Are systemic racism, income inequality and corporate greed blighting our national life? Most definitely.
The Democrats put an accent on every disturbing development during the Trump years, but not on the disorder that has caused countless millions of dollars in property damage, killed and injured innocent people, and contributed to rising lawlessness in cities around the country.
About that, they maintained a discreet silence. Across four nights and eight hours of programming, no one mentioned it – not the community activists, not the mayors or governors, not the former presidents and first ladies, and emphatically not the party’s current nominees for president and vice president.
As far as the Democrats were concerned, recent events that have had a profound effect on urban communities – places almost uniformly governed by Democratic mayors – simply never happened.
The Biden campaign surely doesn’t want to risk a discouraging word about anyone marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter for fear of alienating African American voters, yet the convention’s portrayal of the protests seemed quite sincere. The left’s narrative is that the George Floyd protests have, with very few exceptions, been peaceful and above reproach, and only haters could think otherwise. This abiding belief is impervious to all evidence to the contrary.
There have been riots in Minneapolis, New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, among other cities. Just a couple of weeks ago, looters ransacked stores in Chicago, and nightly riots are now part of the urban identity of Portland, Oregon.
You would think that Democrats would want, merely as a matter of political cover, to make some nod toward denouncing this violence and disassociating their cause from it. Even during a week when they were remembering the work of John Lewis, an inspiring and courageous devotee of nonviolence, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
Instead, the party’s alternate reality reigned. Waving the bloody shirt of the clearing of Lafayette Square prior to a Trump photo-op in front of St. John’s Church, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser declared that “it was here that, just weeks ago, Americans donned face masks and, safely and peacefully, protested the death of George Floyd. But while we were peacefully protesting, Donald Trump was plotting.”
The truthfulness of this statement depends on her definition of “we” and of “peaceful,” since it’s a matter of record that protesters set a fire at the historic church and threw projectiles at riot forces. (Peaceful protesters do the damnedest things.)
In the wake of all the not-so-peaceful protests, cities have experienced spikes in shootings. This, too, would seem to demand some acknowledgement, to keep the GOP from exploiting the lapse if nothing else, but speakers blithely skipped over it.
Michelle Obama complained that “here at home as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.”
Why not mention the innocent people of color murdered every day, and not by law enforcement? Don’t they count, too?
No, the Democratic Party prefers not to grapple with the uncomfortable truth that the riots have almost certainly materially harmed the lives of vulnerable people. It doesn’t want to admit the necessary work of cops patrolling dangerous urban neighborhoods and how if this work is stymied, poor people suffer.
It considers itself the party of decency, as long as you don’t ask it to condemn mindless destruction and the shootings blighting our cities. It celebrates itself as the party of norms, except the ones necessary to law and order.