by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
During the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, Aug. 27, President Donald Trump’s hardest swing at Joe Biden came on the issue of national safety—”You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Trump said, echoed the night before in Vice-President Mike Pence’s speech.
But here in the Steel City, a blue-collar town known for its hard workers, Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, gave a blistering rebuttal.
“Donald Trump failed to protect America, so now he’s trying to scare America,” Biden said at a former factory in Hazelwood, now known as Hazelwood Green, Aug. 31.
The violence that the U.S. is seeing in various cities over racial injustice is being fueled by “right-wing militias,” according to Biden, groups of Trump supporters who are taking to the streets, clashing with the mostly-peaceful protesters in cities like Kenosha, Wis., and Portland. In Kenosha, two people have died due to protests related to the Jacob Blake shooting, and the shooting was done by a 17-year-old White teenage vigilante who came to the area from Illinois, armed with a semi-automatic rifle.
And in Portland, numerous Trump supporters were seen in trucks and with Trump flags, shooting paintballs at protesters. Later, a 39-year-old man with ties to a right-wing organization was shot and killed.
“He may believe mouthing the words ‘Law and Order’ makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is,” Biden said in Pittsburgh.
“Does anybody believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?”
Trump likes to infer to White suburbanites that, with Biden as president, violence from protests would make its way to their neighborhoods. Or, with Biden as president, national gun laws would be tightened, an ideology which many right-wingers reject. But Biden said on Aug. 31 that he is the one that would make America safer. “You know me, you know my heart, you know my story, my family’s story,” Biden said. “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist, with a soft spot for rioters? Really? I want a safe America. Safe from COVID. Safe from crime and looting. Safe from racially motivated violence. Safe from bad cops. Let me crystal clear…safe from four more years of Donald Trump.”
It’s obvious that Biden’s campaign staffers wanted Biden to hit back at Trump on the safety issue. Trump’s camp believes that on the issue of safety, Trump has the upper hand with Americans. But Biden wants that perception of him being “soft” on crime to go away.
And if Biden can neutralize Trump’s perceived advantage on that issue, it’s Biden that’s leading nationally in other aspects. In an NBC News poll released Aug. 10, Biden leads Trump by 24 points on race relations, 23 points on bringing the country together, and 16 points on coronavirus.
Biden pounced on the real-estate-mogul-turned-president on Trump’s handling of COVID-19. Biden said that Trump deflects discussing the truth about where the country is in handling the pandemic; instead, Trump talks about stopping rioters and looters in the streets as a deflection. When it comes to national safety, Biden said, COVID-19 is the No. 1 issue. And in the coming days, 200,000 people would have lost their lives in America due to coronavirus—on Trump’s watch.
“I’ll deal with the virus,” Biden proclaimed. “I’ll deal with the economic crisis. I’ll work to bring equality to everyone.”
Biden, speaking in Pittsburgh without a public audience due to coronavirus, said that the violence from the protests, along with the increased gun violence in cities across the country, is used as a “political lifeline” by Trump.
“The incumbent president is incapable of telling us the truth, incapable of facing the facts, and incapable of healing,” Biden continued. “He doesn’t want to shed light; he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities…we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames.”
Biden told Trump, in effect, to face reality—the violence happening across America, along with the lives lost to the pandemic, are happening in real-time, while he’s the president.
“The common thread,” Biden said, is “the incumbent president, who makes things worse, not better.”
Though Pittsburgh has quite the stylish skyline, it’s not the reason Biden chose the region for his first public speech since the Democratic National Convention. Pennsylvania is a state that campaigns on both sides believe is vital to win, in order to win the presidency this November. In 2016, Pennsylvania went “red,” to Trump, by 44,000 votes. Biden, who was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., wants to win the state’s 20 electoral votes, and though he’s almost guaranteed to win Allegheny and Philadelphia counties (both have significant Black populations), can he garner enough votes in the rural areas of the state to come out on top?
Only time will tell. Which is why, during his 23-minute address in Pittsburgh, he brought out another “Trump card,” so to speak —Biden said the murder rate is up 26 percent this year on Trump’s watch, while, during Biden’s tenure as vice president from 2009 to early 2017, violent crime across the country declined 15 percent.
Biden said he was the person talking with the families of George Floyd and, most recently, Blake. He is the one trying to mend fences and build bridges. He is the one trying to unite the country, while, he says, Trump is trying to divide it.
“Trump has sought to remake this nation in his image; selfish, angry, dark and divisive,” Biden said. “This is not who we are.”