Silence About the Violence

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign appearance in Pittsburgh, Pa., August 31, 2020. (Alan Freed/Reuters)

Biden and his enablers can’t decide whether the mayhem helps or hurts his candidacy. 


t is not just conservatives at the recent Republican National Convention who wonder why the Democratic Party and its media appendages have not without qualification decried the looting, arson, violence, and occasional killing that have swept the nation’s cities.

Recently even left-wing CNN’s incendiary Don Lemon wondered out loud why Joe Biden and the Democratic powers have not at least tried to square the circle of deploring police overreach while at the same time going through the motions of condemning the utter lawlessness that often breaks out at dusk in Chicago, Portland, and Seattle, and now in smaller cities such as Kenosha, Wis. What Lemon praised in June, he now seems terrified about in August. But for that matter, most retired generals and media anchors who assured us in June that there were only a “small” number of violent protesters have long grown silent after the occupation of Seattle and the Alamo siege of the police precinct in Portland.

This fight of voter backlash about crime has infected the entire Democratic elite — glued to volatile internal polls that do not lie — whether it is Nancy Pelosi’s demanding no debates, Michelle Obama’s obsessing with “Vote! Vote! And Vote!” or Hillary Clinton’s urging Biden to never “under any circumstances” concede the election that apparently she now believes he could well lose.

There are lots of answers (and none are mutually exclusive) that explain the silence about the violence.

Run Out the Clock?

There are fewer than 70 days left to Election Day. Joe Biden was told that it was still wise to sit on his once-sizable lead.

In other words, until recently, he planned to run out the clock in hopes that the late-August Trump resurgence would be too incremental to catch Biden before Election Day.

Or put more crudely, Biden figured that the dangers of going out on the campaign trail and conducting a real campaign — town halls, whistle-stop speeches, unscripted press conferences, no-holds-barred, one-on-one media interviews — and risking another Biden senior moment (or worse) far outweighed any downside of deliberately waging a virtual campaign as a virtual candidate.

For the past three months of nightly violence, Biden has proven correct that it would be blamed on the sitting president. Yet any time Biden does impromptu or unscripted riffs, he says things that sound either incoherent or offensive — or racist. And any time he stays in his basement and keeps mum, he cedes the media cycle to Trump, whose job description is to deal with the worst year in American history since 1941–42, given the plague, lockdown, recession, street violence and revolution, and general Trump derangement syndrome.

So it is a question of whether riots like those in Kenosha will continue until November and finally reach a tipping point where millions of swing voters believe that the silence of Biden and his Democratic Party fuel the protests, and thus force them to make the necessary adjustments on Election Day.

Biden’s masters are now rethinking that very question: Can he stay mute? Will the riots subside? Are the polls to be trusted? Is it 1988 or 2016 redux? Can Trump still be blamed for the chaos? Will the military wing of the Democratic Party at least be more selective in its politicized violence?

Biden’s Socialist Straitjacket?

Or is the problem more fundamental? Is Biden so compromised by the politics of his own nomination that he cannot fault Antifa, BLM, and by association the left-wing, local blue-state district attorneys general, city councils, mayors, and governors who appease and encourage the urban war zones? If he did so, would he bleed support from among his new socialist coalition with Bernie Sanders and the squad?

That is, Biden was resurrected from his primary coma by wealthy Democrats terrified of a Sanders nomination, the utter failure of the Bloomberg antidote, and the mysterious lockstep departure from the race of all his earlier Democratic-primary rivals.

The subtext is that to win, he needs the radical vote, the identity-politics vote, and the Sanders vote to make up for the deplorables, clingers, and irredeemables of the key swing states who are never again going to vote Democratic. Antifa/BLM and their sympathizers are now Biden’s new socialist base.

America is both being held hostage by thugs in the street and in reaction blackmailed by the Democratic Party. The street brigades and their various enablers know that they represent a key constituency in the new socialist Democratic Party. And so they will riot and burn until Election Day in the belief, as narcissists, that they are winning converts, but also in their surety that Biden will be elected by the sheer chaos they spawn on Trump’s watch.

Then mysteriously, as his part of the crooked bargain, President-elect Biden will begin pushing the AOC/Sanders agenda (Green New Deal, high taxes, Medicare for All, open borders, reparations, etc.), and — presto! — the violence will magically dissipate. So the thinking goes, as ol’ Joe from Scranton plays the uniter-in-chief.

For Biden to preempt and demand that the paramilitaries of the new Democratic Party stop the pyrotechnics and destruction now would signal to Antifa/BLM that he is welching on his unspoken agreement, or that in fact he would soon backslide after Election Day.

The result is that Joe sorta wants to defund the police, but sorta not entirely. He now wants the violence to sorta stop, because it now sorta helps Trump. And he sorta thinks that looting and arson are bad, but also sorta believes they are sorta justified by the death of George Floyd.

The Biden Echo Chamber?

It also may be that Biden and the hard Left have no idea how badly the violence is hurting their cause. They may ignore their own internal polls, even though such paid contractors are not hired to lie to their employers in confidential memos. They may not even believe Las Vegas bettors, whose loyalty is to moneymaking, not candidates, and whose betting spreads are radically changing in Trump’s favor.

They assume that arson and looting are aired only on Fox News and a few local affiliates and talk radio. The major networks, NPR, PBS, and the left-wing cable outlets such as CNN and MSNBC stick to the script; sanitize or ignore the fires, violence, and looting, and contextualize the rebellion as righteous, justified anger at the criminal police. The New York Times and Washington Post and most other newspapers and left-wing websites do the same.

Just as Hillary sincerely believed that she had to go to Georgia and Arizona on the eve of the 2016 election to win a landslide mandate, so Biden is still convinced by his progressive puppeteers that the violence is so discrediting those who sympathize with Nixonian “law and order” that it’s helping his cause. Hillary, Robbie Mook, and John Podesta, remember, still believed in the Blue Wall hours or perhaps even days after it was rubble. A delusionary Hillary still claims that she believes in the Russian-collusion hoax, and that her own bought-and-paid-for Steele dossier was factual — because MSNBC and the New York Times tell her so.

The result seems to be that Biden may wish to change his mind about his virtual campaign and his silence on the violence, but only from expediency, not principle, and he cannot quite do so convincingly.

Looting Is Not Theft?

The last possible reason for the silence is the most dangerous of all: Looting is simply no longer a crime but a redistributive lark. Has Biden bought into the increasingly faddish left-wing view that looting is merely an overdue redistribution of someone else’s property, not theft of one’s own? From Vicki Orsterweil’s crackpot book In Defense of Looting to the decisions of blue-state district attorneys not to prosecute most crimes of looting, the Left has created a cottage industry of redefining looting and vandalism as cries-from-the-heart social justice. Biden in his dotage either buys into these crackpot ideas or is savvy enough to realize he’s a figurehead, propped up to put a thin veneer on the state in a radical Jacobin nuthouse.

Watch Trump’s approval polls that are ever so insidiously rising. Even in the predominately left-wing orthodox surveys, they begin to near 46 percent. That suggests the rope-a-dope strategy is now inert and that Biden must leave the basement and play for a time the centrist role of a Hubert Humphrey or Bill Clinton, and he may even have a scripted Sister Souljah moment.

At some point, Biden and his handlers will finally conclude that Kenosha was not an outlier but a symptom and that, as the memory of George Floyd fades, and as the mobs of the nocturnal rioters erode, we are getting down to the proverbial Weatherman-like hardcore agitators. And that means the diminished but more venomous Antifa and BLMA remnants will try to up the ante and torch, loot, shoot, maim, and wreck all the way to the suburbs.

The result is that Biden will wage a half-campaign and issue serial half-lamentations about the violence, because he has become a half-candidate. Like his media and party enablers, he still has no real idea whether the violence helps or hurts him, whether it is good or bad for the country, or whether his left-wing base is a bit too much at times or dangerous. So, like all half-things, he splits the difference and ends up saying half of nothing.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.