Robert Reich: The Real Threat to Law and Order Is Trump's Presidency | Opinion

To be re-elected, Donald Trump knows he has to distract the nation from the pandemic that he has flagrantly failed to control—leaving more than 180,000 Americans already dead, tens of millions jobless and at least 30 million reportedly hungry.

So he's counting on a reliable Republican dog whistle. "Your vote," Trump said in his speech closing the Republican convention last Thursday night, "will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens."

"We will have law and order on the streets of this country," Vice President Mike Pence declared the previous evening, warning "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."

Neither Trump nor Pence mentioned the real threats to law and order in America today, such as gun-toting agitators like Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old who traveled last week to Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests against the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, and then shot and killed two people and wounded a third, according to police. Trump has refused to condemn Rittenhouse. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rittenhouse occupied a front-row seat at a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this year.

On Saturday night, a pro-Trump caravan that included the neo-fascist Proud Boys drove into Portland, Oregon, shooting protesters with pepper spray and driving into crowds. Someone wearing the hat of a far-right group called Patriot Prayer was shot dead.

Trump's reaction? Rather than condemn the violence, he tweeted "GREAT PATRIOTS!" in support of the pro-Trump agitators, and "big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected. The people of Portland won't put up with no safety any longer." And he retweeted a claim that "this coup attempt is led by a well funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President."

For the first time in history, a United States president is openly justifying violence by some Americans against other Americans.

The threat to the nation's law and order also comes from conspiracy theorists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the recently nominated Republican candidate for Georgia's 14th Congressional District and promoter of QAnon, whose adherents believe Trump is battling a cabal of "deep state" saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Trump has praised Greene as a "future Republican star," and claimed that QAnon followers "love our country."

And from people like Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of Trump's campaign advisory board, who was scheduled to speak at the Republican convention until she retweeted an anti-Semitic rant about a Jewish plan to enslave the world's peoples and steal their land.

Clearly the threat also comes from hotheaded, often racist police officers who fire bullets into the backs of Black men and women or kneel on their necks so they can't breathe. Needless to say, there was little mention at the Republican convention of Blake, and none of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.

And the threat comes from Trump's own lackeys who have brazenly broken laws to help him attain and keep power. Since Trump first promised to hire only "the best people," 14 Trump aides, donors and advisers have been indicted or imprisoned.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at an airport hanger at a rally a day after he formally accepted his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention on August 28 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Spencer Platt/Getty

Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani—who ranted at the Republican convention about rioting and looting in cities with Democratic mayors—has repeatedly met with pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach, whom American intelligence has determined is "spreading claims about undermine former Vice President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party."

In addition, federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine with two men arrested in an alleged campaign finance scheme.

Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who had been a major Trump campaign donor before taking over the postal service, is being sued by six states and the District of Columbia for allegedly seeking to "undermine" the postal service as millions of Americans plan to vote by mail during the pandemic.

Not to forget Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke to the Republican convention while on an official trip to the Middle East, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits officials of the executive branch other than the president and vice president from engaging in partisan politics.

In short, the real threat to American law and order is found in Donald Trump's above-the-law, race-baiting, me-first presidency. This nation is in serious need of protection from him, and the bottom-dwellers whose behavior he incites and justifies.

Robert B. Reich is an American political commentator, professor and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Reich's latest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own. Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Jacob Blake was killed; he was shot in the back and paralyzed.