President Donald Trump is making no effort to hide the fact he believes that violence and chaos on the streets of American cities will boost his reelection prospects.
Trump is using his Twitter account to incite violence and fuel divisions across the country, perpetuating an "us vs. them" mentality among his supporters.
After deadly violence in Portland on Saturday following clashes between Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters, the president took to Twitter to bash the city's mayor and decry the anti-racism protesters.
"The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing," Trump said in a tweet. "The people of Portland won't put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!"
"The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!" Trump, who controversially sent federal agents into Portland in response to the protests earlier this summer, said in another tweet.
Trump praised the large group of his supporters who drove into Portland in a caravan to confront protesters, hailing them as "GREAT PATRIOTS."
The man who was shot and killed in Portland was reportedly affiliated with Patriot Prayer, a far right group.
As Trump praised the caravan of his supporters who rode into Portland, the president in separate tweet characterized protesters in Washington, DC, as "Disgraceful Anarchists."
The violence in Portland over the weekend came a week after the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back. Some of the peaceful protests in the following days turned violent as people looted and defaced nearby businesses.
Armed citizens took to the streets in response to the demonstrations, which has fatal results. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, has been accused of opening fire during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha and killing two people in the process.
Trump on Sunday liked a tweet that spoke positively of Rittenhouse. "Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump," the tweet said.
The president has given a platform to conspiracy theorists, including those who claim ongoing anti-racism demonstrations represent a "coup attempt" against Trump, and people who've threatened protesters exercising their First Amendment rights with violence.
Experts on authoritarianism and fascism have warned that Trump's behavior bears unsettling parallels to autocratic leaders of both the past and present.
"Trumpism is something akin to a fascist social and political movement," Jason Stanley, author of "How Fascism Works," told CNN on Sunday. "We've got militias roaming the street. We have one of our political parties turning into a cult of the leader."
The president is moving ahead with a visit to Kenosha on Tuesday, despite the fact local leaders have made it clear they don't want him there.
"I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together," Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to Trump.
The Kenosha shooting came just one night after a St. Louis couple who made headlines for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters earlier this summer spoke at the Republican National Convention. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-toting couple, in their remarks for the GOP convention said Democrats "are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities" and want to "abolish the suburbs all together."
Trump and his allies have repeatedly pushed the false narrative that US cities led by Democrats are consumed by crime and destruction amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. While there has been rioting and violence on the fringes of these demonstrations, they've primarily been peaceful and Trump's rhetoric on this is at odds with reality. Crime in the US remains historically low.
The president is trying to convince white, suburban voters that they're in danger of being overrun by anarchists if he loses the election, so he's going full-steam ahead with painting former Vice President Joe Biden as weak on crime and unwilling to condemn violence. Meanwhile, Trump trails Biden in the polls.
'Rioting is not protesting'
Biden has a fairly hardline record when it comes to crime, which is part of the reason he's not particularly popular with the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and he's taken to the campaign trail to forcefully decry recent incidents of violence.
"Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting ... And those who do it should be prosecuted," Biden said in Pittsburgh on Monday, during a speech in which he also condemned "unwarranted police shootings."
The Democratic presidential nominee also slammed the president for his "failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia."
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 31, 2020
To Biden's point, the White House has openly stated that "violence and chaos" is good for Trump and his "law and order" messaging.
"The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said during an interview on "Fox and Friends" last week.
By fueling violence and disarray, Trump also distracts from his disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US has the highest number of cases and fatalities from the virus in the world, and the outbreak has left millions unemployed. Trump is trying to divert attention away from this by perpetuating culture wars.