There are few signs that protests, fierce reactions from many police and mass unrest exploding in a number of U.S. cities will subside in the coming days. Indeed, even with curfews and states of emergency instituted, in addition to National Guard deployed, the chaos is seems to grow unabated. As that happens, it will be important to closely examine eight trend lines to get a sense of future outcomes and endgames.
How does the national conversation shift in the coming days? What started off as shock and collective outrage at the horrific video of a Minneapolis policeman murderously digging his knee into George Floyd’s neck – not at all lessened by an irritating Amy Cooper threatening to derail and potentially end a Black man’s life by fake 911 call – is now becoming a focus on how much protests will escalate. And, depending on how destructive unrest gets by week’s end, will most forget about the original discussion on police violence and the excessive targeting of Black men?
On full display is the very sharp contrast between how President Trump shows no interest in managing the crisis and how former Vice President Joe Biden is, at least, trying to inject a voice of calm, reason and some display of leadership. Trump is clearly out of his depth, unable and unwilling to say or do anything of any use. Reportedly, as protesters converged on the White House, instead of trying to soothe a hurt nation, the president took shelter in a bunker. Doing the exact opposite, Biden is not president, but he has attempted to find moments where he can break through with an empathatic voice. Right now, Biden an average 6 percentage points ahead of Trump in national polling … at the moment
And Trump’s approval rating has experienced some dips since April …
But, how does this picture look by week’s end? Will the disapproval rate for Trump increase as a result of his inability to manage yet another existential crisis to the nation – or will it increase should White racial fragility set in? And how much will racial dog whistling from Trump and others influence White voter support for Biden – could a summer of discontent and social unrest hurt Biden similar to how less dramatic events hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016? We’ll also need to keep a close eye on the Black electorate and whether events over the past few months will either drive Black voters to the polls …. or have the sad effect of depressing Black voter turnout because there is the impression of no end in sight?
Running Mate Game
How will these events shape Biden’s thinking on a running mate? It may be safe to assume Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has fallen off the short list given her close proximity to the topic of police violence in Minneapolis as a former Hennepin County prosecutor. Klobuchar had already dropped out of her own presidential race the day after a protest of NAACP-Black Lives Matter shut down her hometown rally. Picking her for running mate wouldn’t be the wisest move at this point. The collective frustration of Black communities could also force Biden into selecting a Black woman running mate. What are the contours of that conversation this week?
Will there be any major policy changes proposed and, perhaps, passed on the local, state or federal level? Protest is the first essential step in a process toward lasting policy change: institutions must be reformed, police departments re-evaluated and overhauled, laws either reshaped or passed. This is a time for policymakers and their staff to do their jobs and get to work. There is no sense in expecting anything of use from the White House, but what will Congress do? How different will the tone be between House Democrats and Senate Republicans? Most state legislatures have adjourned for the year, but state capitols in key states where unrest has been particularly intense – like Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and also the District of Columbia (which operates as a city/state hybrid) – are all year round. City Councils in major cities are also in session. What new policies, reforms and real meaningful changes will they propose? Or: will they answer the unrest with just increased police budgets?
One has to think: all these people converging in major urban centers in clusters of hundreds to thousands …. while we’re in the middle of a highly contagious pandemic. We seem to find ourselves now stress testing the very limits of COVID-19 and seeing how worse could it get. Are more infections happening as we speak? Will more people get sick while outside protesting and how will that impact Black people.
Stay At Home?
Will frustrated and expended state and local governments reverse reopening schedules in a bid to mute the chaos? We’ll see
And, if reopening is reversed or if businesses in major cities can’t reopen or are suffering from the damage of riots and looting, how will that impact consumer confidence and an unemployment rate that’s already in Depression levels – and disproportionately hitting Black people hard?