September 7, 2020

Rick Perlstein's conversation with CNN International's Michael Holmes on Sunday is worth noting. Perlstein calls out Trump's new interest in "law and order": "...of course he could have started in his own White House which is full of convictions. This is obviously just demagogic political rhetoric."

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL: You've written about how Richard Nixon exploited the fears of White Americans over street violence to get elected. But you've also said you're tired of historial parallels. A major difference: Nixon was running for office, not trying to be re-elected at the time.

RICK PERLSTEIN: I mean, of course in 1964, there was an enormous amount of racial violence, including the violence in cities, after police abuse in a bunch of cities that we see now and of course the violence in the South over civil rights. And the candidate of racial backlash, Barry Goldwater, lost in a landslide. Of course Richard Nixon won in 1968, but he was able to make the case all this disorder was happening after an enormous period of legislation against poverty, before that civil rights, the expansion of the government's role in improving African-Americans' conditions, and it was very easy for conservatives to point to that and say 'look what happened, we just got rioting in response.' Of course Donald Trump can make no such argument. He was the one in charge. He was superintendent of the country when all this violence and division was happening. So it's much harder for him to make the case that somehow the Democrats have anything to do with this, especially since the people on the Right committing the violence of course, are waving Donald Trump flags and wearing Donald Trump hats. Whereas, you know, the folks who are discharging rounds from the Left consider the Democratic Party an athema to their politics.

HOLMES: How do you think the scenes of violence in some cities -- and we have to really make the point, too, 90% of the protests are peaceful. But how do you think the violence that's playing out in some places resonates or not with the average American? Polling would suggest not that much, but Democrats are getting concerned the issue is getting away.

PERLSTEIN: Yeah, I think that concern is pretty much taken, if you look at it granularity of the polls in a place like Wisconsin. where when people are asked, "who is handling or would handle the violence better, Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Joe Biden wins that issue by a considerable margin. So whatever peoples concerns about violence in the streets they're clearry not tying it to the democratic party despite Donald Trump's best efforts.

HOLMES: Do you think that this -- race in general, the violence we've seen as well, but race in general, law and order, do you think that's a wedge issue or do you think there's any, you know, substandard political will and I have to say on both sides to do something genuine and impact what causes it?

PERLSTEIN: Joe Biden clearly has a plan for addressing the racial disorder in the country and the racial disparity in the country, and Donald Trump seem to be much more interested in increasing the tension in the streets, right? I mean that's why he goes to a place like Kenosha, and his policies would probably be disastrous for African-Americans. So if it's a question of, you know, policy, clearly we give points to Joe Biden on that one.

HOLMES: And just quickly, does he need to go on the attack now more aggressively? It's been criticized by some it's been a "do no harm" approach so far.

PERLSTEIN: Well, I'm looking at the headline in the Chicago Tribune from Tuesday morning and it says "Biden:
Trump stoking violence". So that does not seem like a do-nothing campaign. It seems he's taking his fight to his adversary and getting his message out there.

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