Say this about the great echo chamber of America’s news media – credentialed, corporate news media and especially the cacophonous choir of news commentators on social media – they quickly lifted the story of a crime and the angry response to it to a genuine, if often fevered, national conversation about basic principles.
And no one shrank from the magnitude of the issues – the reality of racism, the reality of aggressive, undisciplined often violent policing, and the reality of the powers of a flailing executive branch in panic.
And despite the distractions of random outbreaks of looting or vandalism and of striking images of apparent police brutality caught on camera, the content of the coverage went well beyond the anecdotal. Institutional racism, still expressed every day, at virtually any moment within a society that tolerates it, is being recognized and challenged. So is the persistent mis-application of military attitudes and military techniques by police in civil contexts, and so is the ritual denial of the problem by civic leaders afraid to mess with their own armed forces.
The death of George Floyd was a display of racist abuse of government force. It called into question how we Americans treat one another, and how we should allow our governments, federal, state and local, to treat us, even when maintaining public order.
The death of George Floyd and the demonstrations that followed it demanded first of all recognition that racism is rampant in America and that it is frequently expressed in mistreatment by what White America liked to call “law and order.”
But consideration of these systemic issues was disrupted by our most un-systemic president, although his assaults on the Constitution and common decency put even his silly spew on Twitter into a more serious frame.
For example, it may have played like a madman’s restaging of the unmasking of the Wizard of Oz – the hulking president, a cringing diminutive executive inside his safe room, his White House palace, fenced and guarded at all times – given an extra coat of steel fencing and military guards – but still unable to prevent his exposure as just a panicky punk.
How could this fool think his bluster about “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” – Bull Connor meets Buck Rogers – would frighten the demonstrators. Their convictions brought them to the streets braving possible exposure to the deadly coronavirus.
The day after the dogs stayed on their leashes and the president stayed for at least a while in the bunker, his attorney general, the law and order guy, the one who looks like a giant garden slug, called on federal forces to gas and clear citizens exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. He had to clear a path for his president to an apocalyptic photo-op at St. John’s Church?
It didn’t take long for The Devil’s apocalypse to sound – emphatic denunciations from the Episcopal and Catholic proprietors of the two religious buildings he misappropriated for political purposes – followed by even more blistering rejections from illustrious former commanders of the military services Trump had been treating like his own toy soldiers.
Can a candidate who offends God – or at least senior representatives of two great religions – the Constitution and the military in June go on to win in November?
And if the president did mortally wound himself over the past week, what of his followers and enablers, what of the Republicans also on ballots in November?
And what about the Party itself…it completely rebranded under Trump into a much more radically-right-wing party than it had been before… can the GOP keep its name and change its politics again?
John Zogby — pollster, author, trend-spotter, and thought leader — has spent the past four decades as one of the most accurate pollsters in the world, conducting business in 80 countries, and leading the way in finding the meaning, story, direction, and usefulness of the data collected.
His client list is a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies (GE, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Coca-Cola, IBM); global NGO’s (UNAIDS, the World Health Organization); and government agencies (the US State Department, US Department of Defense, the Mayors of New York City, Houston, Miami).
John’s regular columns for Forbes.com and the Washington Examiner dissect the intersection between cultural values and political behavior