Joe Biden’s forceful condemnation of the ongoing violence stemming from civil unrest in cities across the country came amid a storm of headlines urging the Democratic candidate to address the issue.
In a video message shared on Wednesday, the former vice president disavowed the violence while still expressing his support for peaceful protest.
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“You know, as I said after George Floyd’s murder, protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary,” Biden said. “But burning down communities is not protest- it’s needless violence, violence that endangers lives, violence that guts businesses and shutters businesses that serve the community. That’s wrong.”
However, as speakers on the first two nights of Republican National Convention hammered Biden and Democrats for not addressing the violence earlier, notably at last week’s Democratic National Convention, several outlets offered dire warnings to the Biden campaign that their candidate’s perceived silence will benefit President Trump.
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CNN anchor Don Lemon made a direct plea to Biden amid a third night of violence in Kenosha, Wis. following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, stressing the political ramifications of the unrest.
“He’s got to address it. He’s got to come out to talk about it. He’s got to do a speech like Barack Obama did about race,” Lemon said late Tuesday. “The rioting has to stop… it’s showing up in the polling, it’s showing up in focus groups. It is the only thing right now that is sticking.”
Late Wednesday, The New York Times published a story headlined, “How Chaos in Kenosha Is Already Swaying Some Voters in Wisconsin.”
“The politically calculated warnings of President Trump and the Republican Party about chaos enveloping America should Democrats win in November are reverberating among some people in Kenosha, a small city in the southeast corner of one of the most critical states in this election, where protests have raged for a number of increasingly combustible nights,” the Times reported.
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“In Kenosha County, where the president won by fewer than 250 votes in 2016, those who already supported Mr. Trump said in interviews that the events of the past few days have simply reinforced their conviction that he is the man for the job. But some voters who were less sure of their choice said the chaos in their city and the inability of elected leaders to stop it were currently nudging them toward the Republicans.”
“And some Democrats,” the Times continued, “nervous about condemning the looting because they said they understood the rage behind it, worried that what was happening in their town might backfire and aid the president’s re-election [sic] prospects.”
Also on Wednesday, Axios ran a report headlined, “How Trump could pull off another upset,” writing that “the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for social justice and progressive changes are tugging Biden to the left” were among the reasons that could lead the president to victory.
Despite addressing the violence directly on Wednesday, Biden may still not be out of the woods yet.
On Thursday, Politico ran the headline, “‘It’s playing into Trump’s hands’: Dems fear swing-state damage from Kenosha unrest.”
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“As this battleground state grapples with social unrest, some Democrats fear that the looting and rioting and clashes are feeding Trump’s argument that this is what life would be like under the so-called radical left,” Politico wrote. “The worry is that especially among suburban swing voters, the more upheaval and violence they witness, the more their sympathy for peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters will wane.”
Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin told Politico, “There’s no doubt it’s playing into Trump’s hands … There’s a significant number of undecided voters who are not ideological … And they are very distraught about both the horrendous carnage created by police officers in murdering African Americans, and … for the safety of their communities.”