Since the 1970s, a mainstay of Republican campaigns has been an emphasis on “law and order.” As the story goes, Democrats are soft on crime and law enforcement, and even the mildest criticism of the police long brought catcalls from Republicans.
Donald Trump seems to be falling back on this trope in an effort to reverse his growing deficit in the polls behind Joe Biden.
But Trump’s idea of strong law enforcement looks increasingly terrifying. Not long after tweeting out the news that he had been endorsed by the National Association of Police Organizations, word got out that federal officers in unmarked vans were taking protesters off the streets of Portland. They were doing so without identifying themselves or stating any reason for detaining them. Watch coverage from KGW in Portland here.
The officers were subsequently identified as part of U. S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
This action has been roundly condemned by local and state officials. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler has demanded that the federal officials withdraw, while Oregon governor Kate Brown claimed this supposed enforcement action put both innocent citizens and local law enforcement at undue risk. The U. S. Attorney in Oregon is also concerned with some of the federal officers’ tactics, and wants the DHS inspector general to investigate.
In a response that could have been written by Trump himself, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf claimed this enforcement action was a response to “lawless anarchists” who have wreaked havoc in Portland for 50 days. Hogwash, say many ordinary Portlanders, who have taken to social media to knock down claims by Wolf, other federal officials, and right-wing media who characterize the Rose City as being under siege.
But even if you accept the Wolf/Trump narrative, the tactics used by federal officers should shock the conscience of any fair-minded American. Swooping in on people in unmarked vans, without identifying themselves or why they’re detaining you? Anyone reading this would wonder if he or she woke up in a dictatorship. Among them was Christian left activist and author Frank Schaeffer. When he learned that the Justice Department would be expanding these practices across the nation, he hit the ceiling.
Anyone who saw what happened in Portland would be hard pressed to disagree. But such little things as facts didn’t sit well with Richard Grenell, Trump’s former ambassador to Germany who is now the special envoy for peace negotiations in Serbia and Kosovo.
Um, Richard? Are you saying we have no right to call these law enforcement tactics for what they are–fundamentally un-American and undemocratic? Even if Portland had descended into lawlessness, the practices we saw should never be tolerated in any self-respecting democracy.
Polling data suggests this red meat campaign is falling flat. The same ABC News/Washington Post poll that staked Biden out to an eye-popping 15-point lead over Trump also showed that Biden is more trusted on law and order than Trump. And it isn’t even close–50 percent of voters trust Biden more on this issue, compared to 41 percent trusting Trump more. If this poll is to be believed, one of the Republicans’ pet issues for generations has lost its punch.
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