Something ominous has been happening in Portland, Oregon. But Donald Trump’s sending camouflage-uniformed, armed and unidentified federal personnel to attack protestors represents only half the story.
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon governor Kate Brown responded with anger. Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum sought a restraining order against the Department of Homeland Security. It was denied.
Two days ago, an agreement seemed to be reached with DHS. Oregon State Police would secure the federal courthouse. Federal agents would withdraw. As of last night, the feds hadn’t.
Mayhem is counterproductive. Said Rachelle Dixon, vice chair of the Multnomah County (Oregon) Democrats and Black community organizer, “My life is not going to improve because you broke the glass at the Louis Vuitton store.” Violent protestors may seek to discredit Black causes. (See Justin Phillips’ sfchronicle.com column.)
Regardless, Trump found an excuse to stage a dress rehearsal for Election Day.
If/when Portland cools down, Trump can evaluate the nation’s reaction and whether Americans will accept federal security personnel overriding local law enforcement as a new normal. There’s a reason for such audacity.
Badly trailing Joe Biden in poll after poll, Trump is in panic mode. Playing to his base, he identifies threats coming from everywhere—except, of course, Russia.
One “threat” is manipulation (not Russian) of the presidential election. The boogeymen (not Russian cyber invasions) are non-citizen voters and voting by mail. The barbarians stand at the gates. How to beat them back?
Send federal agents bearing assault weapons to secure polling places and mail-collection points. Also, slow down the Postal Service. All a euphemism for harassing minority voters and interfering with legally cast ballots.
Upping the ante? Trump could make an offhand request that citizen-militias join the feds and brandish weapons in open-carry states. Trump will hail their patriotism for assuring a free and fair election while helping him steal it. Shades of Vladimir Putin and all autocrats undermining democracy—or openly mocking it.
Americans—including the media—must pressure Congress, governors, secretaries of state and local officials to uphold the Constitution and the right of all Americans to cast their vote free from intimidation. Governors, mayors, police chiefs and sheriffs must pledge to prevent federal and militia goons from hijacking Election Day. The very police so many demonstrators abhor must show that they take their oaths of service seriously—as so many do—and earn their communities’ respect.
This November could present us with the stuff of fiction and film. In the Oval Office sits a president so inept and lacking compassion he chose not to urge Americans to wear masks to protect against spreading the COVID-19 virus until nearly six months and 142,000 Americans had passed. (The toll now numbers more than 150,000.)
Facing being dumped on the ash heap of history, Trump may try anything. On July 19, Fox’s Christopher Wallace asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election. Trump said he didn’t know. Yesterday, a Trump tweet questioned whether the election should be delayed. (He lacks authority to do that.)
Abraham Lincoln warned that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. He was right. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel is very dark. And still very long.
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