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Biden invokes the ’60s as protests show no signs of stopping; Steve King, however, has been stopped. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet.
Where things stand
Less than 24 hours after President Trump, standing in the Rose Garden, declared himself the “president of law and order” — then strode past a crowd of peaceful protesters who had been sprayed with chemicals and roughed up by riot officers to clear his path — thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the White House on Tuesday, with some shouting their complaints at National Guard members. In New York, protesters defied curfew for a second straight night, marching across the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn — but this time, they were turned back after a police blockade prevented them from stepping into Manhattan. In O’Fallon, Mo., just a 30-minute drive from Ferguson, a 17-year-old who had never attended a protest before organized a large march, and ended up walking arm in arm with the city’s police chief.
Across a country upturned by a pandemic, in hundreds of cities from coast to coast, a movement making no explicit demands other than all-out racial justice showed no signs of stopping — or even slowing down.
In his first in-person address in months, Joe Biden called George Floyd’s last words in Minneapolis a “wake-up call for our nation.” Condemning Trump’s bellicose response to protesters, Biden linked the protests with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and cast himself as a leader willing to embrace the moment. Likening Trump to the segregationist police chief the president quoted on Twitter last week, Biden stood before a backdrop of American flags at Philadelphia’s City Hall and repeatedly invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears,” Biden said. “We must not let our pain destroy us.”
Biden acknowledged “the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart,” saying it was “part of the American character.” He declared that it was time “for our nation to deal with systemic racism” and then followed through with some tangible commitments. He said he would set up a national police-oversight commission within the first 30 days of his presidency. He threw his support behind a bill that would ban police chokeholds. And he committed to ending the Defense Department policy of funneling excess military equipment to local police forces. (In Washington, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun to discuss curtailing the program.)
Biden might have a point about that wake-up call: In two separate polls released yesterday, exactly 57 percent of Americans said the police were more likely to mistreat black people than to mistreat white people, far more than ever before on record. In both polls, about half of white Americans said so — a stark jump. In 2016, shortly after the killing of Alton Sterling, just 34 percent of the country said officers were more likely to use force against a black person, including only 25 percent of white people, according to a Monmouth University survey. In the poll that Monmouth released yesterday, three-quarters of all Americans said that racial discrimination was a “big problem” in the United States — 17 percentage points higher than in 2015 — and 78 percent said the anger that led to the current protests was at least somewhat justified.
Many of the raw, confrontational scenes playing out over the past week have been in New York City, where thousands of protesters faced off against city police officers in riot gear for the fourth consecutive night. The continuing feud between Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor, and Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, took yet another turn yesterday, when Cuomo criticized de Blasio for failing to control the protesters, some of whom have looted stores in Manhattan and the Bronx. But de Blasio resisted Cuomo’s offer to send in the National Guard. He urged city residents to abide by the 8 p.m. curfew, saying that it would remain in place throughout the week. He expressed worry that the protests could lead to a resurgence of the coronavirus but said he was still planning to start the first wave of reopening on Monday.
Republicans announced last night that they would be moving Trump’s convention speech out of Charlotte, N.C., after the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, said he still couldn’t guarantee the G.O.P. convention would be allowed to happen as planned because of concerns over the coronavirus. Trump said on Twitter that his party would “seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.” Republicans are said to be considering moving their convention to Nashville, Las Vegas, Orlando, Jacksonville or sites in Georgia. But they may still hold other convention business in Charlotte, in keeping with a formal contract they’ve signed with the city.
Steve King, the Republican congressman from Iowa who last year capped a career’s worth of racist statements when he openly questioned why white supremacy was offensive, prompting G.O.P. leaders to suspend his committee appointments, appears to have arrived at the end of his run in Congress. He was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary yesterday by the businessman Randy Feenstra, who will now represent the party in the general election. It was the largest day of elections since the pandemic swept across the country, with eight states and the District of Columbia holding primaries. Also in Iowa, Theresa Greenfield, the Democratic establishment choice, won the nomination to face Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican incumbent widely seen as vulnerable. Biden handily won all nine Democratic presidential nominating contests.
Spaced-out voting took place on Tuesday in Honesdale, Pa.
Inequality hangs over the protests. It may be driving where they take place, too.
Americans still talk today, almost in shorthand, about the urban neighborhoods “devastated by riots in the 1960s.” These were predominantly poor, segregated black neighborhoods, and they became only more isolated and ravaged by disinvestment for decades afterward: the West Side of Chicago; the U Street Corridor in Washington; Watts in Los Angeles.
With that history in mind, it has been remarkable over the past week to see a very different set of places touched by unrest. Malls in upscale neighborhoods have been vandalized. Peaceful demonstrators in some cities have massed in wealthier neighborhoods. This uprising has been far more decentralized in any given city — and it has reached into rich enclaves, too.
Some of what’s driving this is pure opportunism; there weren’t Apple stores to loot in the 1960s. But the shifting nature of protest also reflects drastic changes cities have undergone in the last 50 years. Inequality has widened, and anger about it has been rising. Big cities are increasingly home to the rich and the poor, with few jobs promising a middle-class life in between. And in so many jobs, the poor effectively serve the rich, an economic arrangement that is hard to separate from race.
All of this means that inequality has been bound up in this uprising, too. Sometimes that has been explicit, in smashed windows scrawled with Occupy slogans, or in protests that have deliberately steered into gentrifying neighborhoods. At other times it’s in the background, contributing to what enrages people.