This is June 2, the eighth night of mass protests across America and once again I feel compelled to sit down and put pen to paper.
The sun has not set yet on the East Coast and I am watching live TV footage of scores of mass demonstrations. What started as protests in the Twin Cities and a handful of urban centers, has spread faster and more virulently than the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands are marching across America, from Miami to Seattle; from San Diego to Boston; from Houston to Chicago, and in many major cities in between.
If history offers any lesson, these mobilizations will escalate on and after June 4, the day of George Floyd’s funeral and burial. There are numerous instances in which assassinations and martyrdom, and the burials that followed, have sparked protests and even rebellions.
The assassination of progressive Colombian presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1948) ignited a bloody revolt that unleashed a decade of political violence, with a death toll of 200,000.
Twenty years later and closer to home, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination sparked a wave of riots and social unrest, at a level not seen since the Civil War.
More recently, in 1977, the brutal execution by torture of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was, according to Nelson Mandela, “the spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa.”
Cracks in Trump’s Coalition
The current protests are no longer solely about justice for the murder of George Floyd. His death has triggered an outpour of collective indignation among masses of Americans of all races but especially among the working poor, the unemployed, and many who live in constant fear of losing their jobs, health insurance (if they are fortunate to have one), and homes.
For all that has been said about the indolence and apathy of millennials and generation Z, they are the spearhead of a progressive movement of the sort that has not been seen since 1968.
The dynamics have changed substantially in the last 24 hours. Marches that started on May 25 as human brooks flowing through city streets have turned torrential – oceans of men and women – as aerial views attest.
President Donald Trump’s bravado, his heavy-handed response against protesters in Washington, DC, threats of dominating cities by military force, and his Bible-holding stunt in front of a boarded-up St. John’s Episcopal Church have elicited much criticism. The judgment came not just from the usual voices but from sectors of his loyal coalition, including some Republican politicians, police and military forces, and even his staunchest base, conservative Evangelicals.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse castigated the Commander in Chief for “clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop.” Even ultra-conservative Evangelical leader Pat Robertson criticized the president’s actions and words.
More dramatic is TV footage of policemen and even National Guardsmen warmly embracing with protesters, marching arm in arm with them, and kneeling down in memory of Floyd’s murder. These are the first cracks in Trump’s coalition.
It is now 11:40 pm and newscasters begin to report on today’s electoral results. The people are speaking clearly. Republican primary voters crushed the re-election plans of the unabashedly racist Congressman Steve King of Iowa; minutes later CNN and MSNBC report that Ella Jones has been elected as first black mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, the city where a white policeman killed 18-year-old black man Michael Brown, an event that ignited rioting and the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ella Jones became the first African-American and first woman elected mayor in Ferguson, Missouri, on Tuesday, nearly 6 years after the city erupted in protests after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager https://t.co/OfekWj3U9r
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 3, 2020
The president’s handling of the peaceful antiracist revolt has further eroded his popularity and electoral support. Today’s Monmouth Poll reports that a whopping 74 percent of registered voters believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction; tellingly 78 percent of independents feel the same way.
Fast forward to November 4. Looking from today’s perspective it is not clear what will transpire on election day. At the top of the Democratic party ticket, it is clear, will be Joe Biden.
Amy Klobuchar, it has also become clear, will not be at the bottom of the ticket. In the past 10 days she has gone from apparent front-runner to unacceptable, not because she is white but because as Hennepin County attorney, she earned a tough-on-criminals reputation.
It has also become clear that the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate will be pushed further left by the Bernie Sanders–Elizabeth Warren wing of the party. Biden will not be allowed to govern as a Wall Street Democrat, that is for sure.
Things do not look good for Trump whose coattails are likely to drag Republican candidates to defeat. That Mike Pence will be Trump’s running mate is not a done deal. Known for his lack of loyalty, Trump would drop Pence if he believed that another politician, perhaps a woman, would help him win the elections.
I am not exaggerating when I say that the November elections are in jeopardy. First, the anticipated second peak of the pandemic will keep tens or hundreds of thousands of voters home. The vote by mail option has not received funding because of Mitch McConnell’s partisan obstructionism; President Trump has repeatedly said, without any evidence that voting by mail generates fraud and his brilliant son-in-law has dared to say that it is possible that the elections will have to be postponed. Oh, did I fail to mention Russian intervention?
There is nothing in Trump’s personality, value system, and record that guarantees that he will step down from power quietly and gracefully. It is more likely that he would challenge the elections, spew hatred, and mobilize his well-armed base. A smooth collaborative transition is also unimaginable.
It is now 3:15 am on June 2. Everything indicates that today’s protests have been more peaceful than yesterday’s; that is a good sign. As I am about to turn off CNN news, I see footage of a Florida policeman kneeling down to pray with protesters. That is another good sign.
I anticipate having a better night’s sleep today. For now, I am convinced that if the unimaginable happens in November, larger crowds will flood the streets, and American soldiers, National Guardsmen, and police officers will not fire upon them.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.