Trump’s silence on police brutality protests will be deafening for many

The police shooting of Jacob Blake was shocking.

As the Republican Party convention prepared to roll out Donald Trump’s vision for America, the actual vision from Wisconsin cast an ugly, distracting shadow.

The full facts surrounding the police shooting of Mr Blake, a black man, are still to be established.

A man on a bike rides past a city truck on fire outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., during protests following the police shooting of Black man Jacob Blake August 23, 2020. Picture taken August 23, 2020. Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY via REUTERS MANDATORY CREDIT

Fury in Wisconsin after shooting of black man

But the details already on public view were enough to prompt Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to say the seven shots fired pierced “the soul of our nation”.

His call for “an immediate, full and transparent investigation” came easily to him.

From the president, it didn’t come at all.

This at a time when the Trump narrative shaped by his Democratic opponents is around a lack of character, empathy and ability to lead.

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Systemic racism is an issue threaded through this election campaign – and the president’s silence on Wisconsin will be deafening for a large constituency in America.

No one needs a rush to judgement, but acknowledgement would convey, at least, some sense of commitment to address the incident and its implications.

In an unfortunate juxtaposition, one of the headline contributions on the first night of the Republican convention was from the McCloskeys of St Louis.

Gun-toting couple complain about charges

They are the couple who waved weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched past the McCloskey’s Missouri mansion in June.

Their appearance at the convention was an accident of scheduling, albeit an accident waiting to happen.

As the human embodiment of the president’s capital letter “LAW AND ORDER” twitter posts, they won’t have been a pretty sight to many Americans, not now.

But Donald Trump might consider that his government isn’t for the many, but for the many others.

The Republican base is his audience-in-chief, and his challenge is to retain the voters at its core and reclaim those straying at its edges.

Pair pointing guns at protesters. Credit - Daniel Shular

June: Couple point guns at protesters in Missouri

Donald Trump needs a performance.

Consistently trailing in the opinion polls, his convention began off the back, not only of events in Wisconsin, but of a bruising week that saw the personal ratings of Joe Biden rise after a Democrat convention that clobbered Trump on character and credentials to lead.

There was the arrest of former adviser Steve Bannon and then, at the weekend, news emerged that his older sister Maryanne, a retired judge, called him cruel and without principles in a secretly recorded conversation.

The bad news rolled into convention day one, as the president stepped on stage to accept his party’s renomination during the opening event – the New York attorney general was revealing a new investigation into financial dealings at the Trump Organisation.

No matter, he had a crowd.

“Four more years,” they chanted, as a fist-pumping president lapped up the rare luxury of a live audience.

For a politician who feeds off a crowd, the party preserved the renomination segment as a live event at the venue in Charlotte, North Carolina, with space for a few hundred delegates.

He had promised an upbeat, optimistic week, but went straight to grievance in an opening 50-minute salvo targeting mail-in voting at the 3 November election.

Donald Trump Jr speaks during the first day of the Republican convention
Image:Donald Trump Jr gave a speech during the first day of the Republican Convention from Washington DC

Once again, without evidence, he claimed it would lead to the “greatest scam in the history of politics”.

Republicans are pinning their hopes on this week being a pivot in a campaign that hasn’t yet cut through to the extent they need.

Donald Trump has cast himself centre-stage. Not for him the notion of being dripped, sparingly, into the content – this president will speak every night, touching up his self-portrait as a custodian of the American dream.

The sense of a one-man show has only been reinforced by the Republican Party’s decision to abandon the traditional process of laying out a new policy platform on which candidates will run.

Rather, it has issued a statement that it will “reassert the party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his administration”.

A president and party reaching out to its base and beyond will use this week to define its Democratic challenger as a hostage to the far left, who would deliver anarchy and chaos.

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It will hammer the issues it believes can reinforce the core vote and claw back wavering Republicans – immigration, rebuilding the economy and in mounting a rearguard defence of its performance on the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be a wide spread of contributors, but not as famous as the collection of famous faces gathered by the Democrats last week.

The Republican event is less household name, more household Trump.

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Across the four nights, we’ll hear from Donald Jr, Melania, Eric, Tiffany, Ivanka and Lara Trump.

The president will deliver his closing address from the grounds of the White House and the party has been given permission to launch fireworks over the Washington memorial after he’s finished speaking.

It’s the made-for-TV ending of a convention fortnight that coronavirus has forced onto the small screen in a Donald vs Joe reality show – a contest in which we all have a stake.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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