Trump threatens democracy with militarized police as polls suggest he’s in trouble
Federal officers in Portland, July 25, 2020. | Noah Berger / AP

By sending federal militarized units in fascist-like fashion into major cities to attack peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators, President Donald Trump is assaulting democracy and setting a dangerous precedent less than 100 days before the November elections.

Clearly, it is a desperate move to shore up his far-right base and divert public attention away from his criminal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, both of which are costing him politically. Poll numbers, for now, show him badly trailing his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The response by public officials, civic leaders, and civil rights groups in these Democratic-controlled cities and states has been swift and forceful, with pledges to take legal and legislative action to stop the unwelcomed and undemocratic intrusion into local jurisdictions.

In letters fired off to the administration and congressional leaders on July 20, the mayors of 15 cities charged: “Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values.”

Citing federal forces’ actions in Portland in recent weeks, the mayors told Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf that “use of significant force against protesters on a nightly basis,” including snatching protesters off the streets and putting them in unmarked vehicles, and wounding one demonstrator in the head, “are tactics we expect from authoritarian regimes.”

The mayors called on the Trump administration instead to focus on battling the pandemic and providing relief to workers, businesses, and cities, which they characterized as totally inadequate.

“But,” they said, “The irresponsible actions of your agencies threaten community safety and progress on policing in our communities.”

In a second letter to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, the mayors said Trump’s unilateral deployment of paramilitary forces into cities was tyrannical and called on congressional leaders to “immediately investigate the President and his administration’s actions.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner went so far as to threaten that “anyone, including federal law enforcement, who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people will face criminal charges from my office.”

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats swept to victory in a number of formerly Republican-controlled congressional districts, senate races, and down-ballot contests. Several new progressives were ushered into office.

Currently, the electoral map is looking even more promising for Democrats, as the poll figures show Trump and Republican Senate and congressional candidates trailing or barely hanging on in a number of formerly Republican strongholds.

Last week, the Cook Political Report said six of the U.S. Senate seats currently held by Republicans are in the “toss-up” category while one leans Democratic. Only two Senate seats held by Democrats appear vulnerable.

There are still months to go before the election, and opponents to Trump can’t let their guard down, but these numbers, if they hold, open the possibility that the nation’s Senate majority would flip from Republican to Democratic hands. At the same time, Democrats retaining their majority in the House of Representatives at this point appears assured.

While I am not in the habit of quoting right-wing Republicans, it is worth noting the alarm with which key Republicans view their electoral chances at this time.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, is in the battle of his political career—so much so that he broke with Trump on nearly every major issue related to the coronavirus, including stressing the importance of wearing a mask.

Former House Speaker Republican Paul Ryan, speaking at an event hosted by Solamera, a company with close ties to Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, said that Trump was losing key voting blocks, namely among suburban voters, across the Midwest and in Arizona, a Republican-leaning state “presently trending against us,” the New York Times reported.

Ryan pointed out that “Biden is winning over Trump in this category of voters 70 to 30, and if that sticks, he cannot win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.”

In a sign of how enduring the Black Lives Matter movement has been, Republicans in Congress are also joining with Democrats in a direct challenge to the president as they back legislation that would force removal of Confederate names from Army bases. On July 23, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate passed defense policy legislation containing that provision by an 86-14 majority. The House has also passed legislation with a similar provision by a veto-proof majority.

Targeting cities with large communities of color in his dispatch of quasi-military forces shows the patent racist nature of Trump’s intentions. Furthermore, he is trying to suppress the role of a Black-led movement that is challenging systemic racism and demanding democratic reforms that are bound to benefit society as a whole.

What’s more, the movement has awakened communities, concentrated in the suburbs and smaller cities, which in the past have tended Republican but are now moving into the Democratic camp just as the nation is headed towards one of the most, if not the most, consequential election in history.

It is important to note here that the transformation of politics in the suburbs and smaller cities is a reflection of the antipathy with which an ever increasing section of the population has come to view the political actions of Trump, his far-right cabal, and Republican political figures. But, also noteworthy, is the changing composition of the populace in these areas, which has become more multiracial and liberal as the cost of housing and living has forced many out of the central cities.

Now, as we move toward the November elections, the challenge is to organize and mobilize voters and potential voters everywhere, but especially in electoral swing regions and states.


Juan Lopez
Juan Lopez

Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.