Two police officers were shot in Louisville, Kentucky in the wake of renewed protests and violence over the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. During the evening of Septemeber 23 and into the night, other urban areas of the nation erupted again with scattered protests and violence. Some of it is quite disturbing. Those that choose to follow the scenes on cable news or social media are peppered with video of continuous civil disorder and unrest.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic is a major campaign issue. It’s certainly has played some role in Gov. Roy Cooper’s declining popularity here in North Carolina. Former vice president Biden has bet that blowback to Trump’s push for reopenings will help to propel his campaign to the White House. President Donald Trump believes that the coronavirus numbers are improving and blue state governors need a quicker reopening. Essentially, the issue in the governor’s race is not that much different.
However, with races close and tightening in North Carolina and in large parts of the nation, one wonders if the rule of law, or “law and order” as Trump prefers, might swing not only the presidency but other major races. For all of Trump’s flaws, his political instincts aren’t one of them, a major reason why he sits in the White House today.
In the August Civitas Poll, 87 percent rated crime and public safety as important election issues for 2020. The poll revealed a super-majority of North Carolinians said it was “a very important” issue.
The September poll asked a similar question:
Now switching topics…How much of a problem is maintaining law and order in this country right now—is it a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem right now?
Major problem 69%, Minor problem 19%, Not a problem 8%, Unsure/Refused 3%.
Clearly, it’s a problem in the mind of likely voters across the state.
With races tightening and both sides firmly entrenched in their respective camps, particularly in North Carolina, the fight is over get out the vote efforts and those swing and independent voters that may still be on the fence.
I don’t expect any of the unrest to lessen between now and Election Day and it seems likely that it will intensify. The Supreme Court vacancy and a potential vote before the election might also amplify the general unrest and the potential for riots or violence.
North Carolina remains one of the best models for the national electorate as a whole and all our divisions. Yet, close elections can turn or reach a tipping point. Law and order have tipped elections in the past, most notably in 1968 at the presidential level. It was a key issue in 1988 too with the infamous Willie Horton ad.
Trump’s instincts are right to make this a focal piece of his campaign. Republicans in the General Assembly across North Carolina have homed in on the issue as well. We’ll soon find out how right they are in about 39 days…or longer, but that’s an entirely different article.