Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry

Until a few days ago, Democrats were content to pretend the disorder in American cities didn’t exist.

Now, worried that Joe Biden is on his back foot on the issue, they readily acknowledge the rioting — and blame it on President Donald Trump.

One would think that, given the fusillade they unleashed against Trump at the convention, if Democrats truly believed that the president is responsible for Black Lives Matter activists and anarchists attacking cops and burning down buildings, they would have mentioned it at least once.

But no, they didn’t bring it up, in keeping with how progressives have minimized the violence all along as inconvenient to a narrative of courageous young people rising up against systemic racism.

There’s no doubt that Trump constantly stirs the pot and often acts more the Twitter provocateur than the president. This is an abdication of an important part of his leadership role, but it’s not him or his allies torching businesses and vandalizing public property.

The violence has overwhelmingly racked cities governed by Democratic mayors and city councils for decades. They run the police departments, the schools and the housing authorities. If the cops are violent and corrupt, it’s on them. If they are such miserable places to live that they are powder kegs, it’s on them. If they can’t maintain basic order, it’s on them.

If Joe Biden thinks these localities are doing a poor job, he can say so, but, of course, since blue mayors are his allies, he won’t say a discouraging word.

Portland continues to be a flashpoint. The city and state authorities have had more than 100 days to get the city under control, which shouldn’t be mission impossible. We are talking a midsize city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, not Juarez, Caracas or San Salvador.

Even after years of coddling left-wing extremists, Portland could control its streets if it had the will. It doesn’t.

Mayor Ted Wheeler wants to cater to the mob as much as possible, even if the mob doesn’t like him very much. He apologized earlier this summer for the Portland police allegedly using excessive tear gas, and issued guidance saying cops could only use it if they feared injury or death.

Wheeler showed up at the federal courthouse when it was being besieged by unruly crowds to demonstrate his sympathy and, for his trouble, got shouted at and jostled (a security team protected him).

Even as Wheeler traded barbs with Trump over the weekend, protesters staged in a sit-in in the lobby of his condo building, demanding that he cut the police budget by half and then eliminate the police entirely. They also called on him, as an embodiment of “white supremacy,” to resign.

Wheeler’s fecklessness is matched by that of the local prosecutor. The Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has been dropping most of the charges against rioters. As The Oregonian reported, “his prosecutors won’t pursue demonstrators accused of interfering with police, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape or harassment,” unless they’ve deliberately targeted property or people.

None of this is Trump’s fault, and runs counter to his inclinations.

It wasn’t anything Trump said or did that set off the initial nationwide unrest a few months ago. It was a spontaneous reaction to the death of George Floyd, which Trump repeatedly condemned. The dynamic has been the same, only on a larger scale, as Ferguson, Missouri, while Barack Obama was president — anger at police action, followed by rioting treated with kid gloves by the media.

Everyone knows there are different rules for Black Lives Matter. If a conservative movement with the cachet and corporate support of BLM staged an event featuring a single act of arson, the group would be shunned and its cause discredited. That this would never happen to BLM acts as a giant permission slip, and it’s not Trump writing it, but all the people now blaming him for the rioting.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review, the American conservative magazine of news and opinion. 

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