A stark and scary vision for America 

The Republicans' campaign theme for 2020 is fear of the violence they are stirring up

Vice President of the United States Mike Pence speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
Vice President of the United States Mike Pence speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) (photo by Gage Skidmore)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a video Wednesday in which he condemned the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, and related the condolence call he made to the Blake family.

“Once again a Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot by police in broad daylight with the whole world watching,” Biden said.

“Put yourself in the shoes of every Black father and Black mother in this country and ask, is this what we want America to be? Is this what we should be?” Biden said into the camera. 

Biden called for ending systemic racism and also added, “Burning down communities is not protest. It’s violence.” He quoted Blake’s mother, who he said told him that vandalism and violence in Kenosha “doesn’t reflect my son or my family.”

From the stage at the Republican National Convention came a completely different message, as Vice President Mike Pence declared, “The choice in this election is whether America remains America.”

“Joe Biden says that America is systemically racist and that law enforcement in America has, and I quote, an ‘implicit bias’ against minorities,” Pence said incredulously.

Calling out Kenosha specifically, Pence claimed that Biden is “supporting the very policies that are leading to violence in America’s cities,” adding, “The hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Whatever Pence means by making sure “America remains America” it’s clear that that vision does not include making Americans safe. The Republicans are rooting for a race war, stirring up paranoia, racial animus, and violence in real time during their convention week. And that is leading directly to the very violence they pretend to deplore.

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The choice to feature the gun-toting McCloskey couple on the first night of the convention — celebrating their felony charges for pointing loaded guns at Black Lives Matter protesters — encourages precisely the kind of attack that took place in Kenosha.

Fear of Black Lives Matter protesters is the Republican campaign theme for 2020.

But the victims of violence in Kenosha so far include Blake, a black man who was shot in the back by police seven times, and the three protesters apparently shot by a white teen who was a self-styled militia member and Blue Lives Matter enthusiast.

That teen, according to Buzzfeed, sat in the front row at a Trump rally in January, and posted a TikTok video of the event.

Pence neglected to mention him, or the fact that he shot and killed two protesters and put a third one in the hospital. 

In Wisconsin, Republicans are also busy twisting reality, blaming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for the shootings in Kenosha. 

The violence in Kenosha is “entirely on Gov. Evers’ shoulders,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told a conservative talk show host in an interview on The Jay Weber Show on WISN (1130 AM). 

“Those people did not have to die, and because of Tony Evers’ actions, they’re dead,” Vos added, with a sympathetic nod to murderous militia: “People are literally dead because folks have had to take to themselves to try to protect their own property.”

The Kenosha police chief  took that message one step further, as Henry Redman reports, literally blaming the deceased victims of the shooter during a press conference in which he noted that the protesters would still be alive had they obeyed the city’s curfew; meanwhile, the county sheriff vowed to get more “assertive” in policing the protests.

It’s a stark and scary vision the Republicans are selling. And why not? They can’t run on the economy or the great job they’ve done getting us through the pandemic. They figure if they can scare people enough, we’ll lose our ability to think. It’s their best shot to win.

Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.