Crises that arise during presidential campaigns often define the candidates.More.
Will this horrific week prove to be the crucible of the current campaign?
Violence has shuddered through America since Tuesday: First, two controversial shootings by police of African American men, captured on cameras and spread on social media; then the assassination of at least five Dallas police officers and the wounding of others by a sniper after a peaceful march protesting the earlier deaths.
At the very minimum, the bickering between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has been temporarily overshadowed, much as it was less than four weeks ago when a single assailant killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub.
That pause proved temporary and for all its horror, had little effect on the presidential race.
But in past decades, dramatic disorder has had a political impact. The convulsions of protests and violence in 1968 — albeit occurring in a vastly different country — helped swing the presidential election that year to the law-and-order candidate, Republican Richard Nixon.
The effect of the latest outbreak may be fully determined only when more specifics are known about the Dallas attack.
Already, however, the three days of shootings have served as a reminder of how events outside the campaign can overwhelm the carefully plotted strategies of the candidates. For a time, at least, the question of whom Trump will pick as a running mate and the details of Clinton’s handling of classified information in her emails while secretary of State seem unlikely to attract much attention.
Whether the effect goes deeper and persists also will depend on how a polarized public — and the candidates — frame the week’s deadly events with their fraught elements of racial tension and maintenance of public order.
Both candidates began shaping their responses — and the public’s view of events — on Friday.
Trump, who cancelled a planned Florida event, has built much of his campaign around the idea that America is no longer “safe.” He couples his denunciations of illegal immigration with claims that American cities are places of danger where his audiences — mostly older, white and nonurban — would rightly fear to walk.
He could benefit if voters see this week’s killings as part of a general picture of national chaos — a crisis of authority requiring a tough response.
In a statement released early Friday, Trump largely cast the events in that vein, saying it was necessary to “restore law and order” and “the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street.”
But he also used terminology rare for a candidate who has been criticized for months for using divisive racially-inflected rhetoric — and one who regularly lauds police while dismissing complaints about police violence.
He called the shootings by police of African American men in Louisiana and Minnesota “senseless” and said they remind “us how much more needs to be done.”
“Our nation has become too divided,” Trump said, adding that “racial tensions have gotten worse, not better.”
Saturday, July 9, 2016
From Cathleen Decker, at the Los Angeles Times, "Analysis: Will the violence across America change the presidential campaign?":