Apocalyptic images of blazing buildings and window-smashing protesters pop on the TV screen as a 911 caller reaches voicemail. The computer offers to take reports of rapes, murders or home invasions, adding, “Our estimated wait time is five days.” The 30-second ad by President Donald Trump’s campaign ends with “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” emblazoned across a flickering hellscape, reports the Associated Press. It blames a push by progressive activists to defund the police while “violent crime has exploded.” After shootings that have killed children and dozens of others in cities with large Black populations like New York, Atlanta and Chicago, the GOP is trying to play offense.
Ads like Trump’s suggest that the rare looting and violence that marred largely peaceful protests are spreading and foretell a wave of mayhem they claim Democrats would abet with anti-police policies. Trump emphasized that menacing theme at the White House Thursday, calling proponents of defunding the police “crazy.” Telling a group of Hispanic Americans that many immigrants had fled dangerous countries, Trump added, “They know what happens when the police cannot protect the innocent, when the rule of law is destroyed.” Democrats call the GOP drive a diversion from issues they say voters care most about: the coronavirus pandemic that Trump has failed to control, the economic shutdown, recession-level unemployment, racial justice and health care. They say the GOP is fanning the flames of racism, preying on white suburbanites worried that scenes of burning buildings mean their neighborhoods are next. “It’s not even subtle. We’re well beyond dog whistle,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic consultant. Biden supports overhauling police practices and budgets but has disavowed calls for defunding the police, as have most congressional Democrats.