MINNEAPOLIS — President Trump’s attempt to flip Minnesota in six weeks hinges, in part, on his law and order message’s effectiveness.
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day instigated national unrest. And like the memorial of flowers, notes, and art that marks the spot outside Cup Foods where a white police officer knelt on the black man’s neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest for allegedly buying cigarettes with a fake $20 bill, Trump’s warning regarding the risk protests pose to public safety still lingers.
As activists agitated against police brutality and broader racial injustice, Trump seized on riots and looting to pitch himself as a law and order president. And voters in Minnesota listened as they began casting their ballots last week for Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
In Anoka, a city north of Minneapolis once represented by Tea Party Republican Michele Bachmann before she was succeeded by GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, Barb Turner, 65, reflected on how she felt about the continued bitterness between Black Lives Matter movement supporters and the police.
“If anything happens, it’s like, do we have the right to even protect ourselves, or will we get pulled out and hauled to jail?” Turner asked when speaking to the Washington Examiner, referring to the St. Louis couple charged with unlawfully using firearms this summer after pointing them at demonstrators outside their home.
Instead, the pro-Trump massage therapist of Champlin, Minnesota, prayed people would “start fighting for our rights.”
“We need to start doing the uprising like maybe they’re doing, but we won’t do that because we just aren’t that kind of people,” she said. “We have to have a backbone. We do because they have a backbone, and they’re all for their agenda, and they’ll run over you if they have to. And they’ll get away with it.”
During the worst four nights of violence following Floyd’s death, Aaron Howard, 30, remembered pacing in his Minneapolis home with his gun as buildings in pockets of the city burned and businesses were ransacked.
“It was crazy, kind of a mess. And for now, people to be like, ‘Oh yeah, cops are the issue.’ Well, no. We actually need more policing down there,” Howard, a store manager, said in Anoka.
And it is votes from the likes of Turner and Howard that will prove critical if Trump wants to clinch Minnesota, a state a Republican hasn’t won since Richard Nixon in 1972 and that the president lost to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by 1.5 percentage points, only about 45,000 votes.
But two polls released last week offer different accounts of the race in the state regarding law and order. An ABC/Washington Post survey found a plurality of respondents trusted Biden more than Trump to treat racial groups equally and to handle crime and safety. In comparison, New York Times/Siena College research found respondents were split between the two on violent crime and law and order while the two-term vice president and 36-year Delaware senator was preferred to lead on race relations and the protests.
Sebastian Bora, 21, said Trump’s public safety rhetoric resonated with more voters “the further you get out from the city.” The Biden supporter, who is a Minneapolis student visiting Anoka, added the “defund the police” demand was “a really strange slogan,” potentially detrimental to the Black Lives Matter cause. Bora’s friend Anna Jo McCormick, 19, agreed.
“It depends on the age range because my parents think it’s ridiculous, but obviously, younger people know more what they mean by it, like they don’t actually mean, ‘Defund the police,'” McCormick said.
For people similar to McCormick, “defund the police” is interpreted as a push for diverting resources, given the breadth of responsibility delegated to officers. The Minneapolis City Council’s plan to dismantle its police department in favor of a community safety and violence prevention department is being considered by its charter commission, delaying a possible vote until next year.
Further north near Duluth, Lee Conradi said he “wouldn’t go into Minneapolis” even if the 72-year-old retiree’s life “depended on it.”
Jeff Vollran, 66, echoed his associate. Vollran described the liberal stronghold of Duluth as a gateway into Minnesota’s Iron Range, which has become increasingly competitive for conservatives in recent cycles.
“This is a law-and-order, working-class area. They used to be all Democrats. They were the working Democrats in the ’60s, and now, it’s all different,” said the amateur radio host of Esko, Minnesota.
Democrat Lynn Welshinger, 72, though, was skeptical of Trump’s public safety platform.
“His idea of law and order is getting out the militia and the government against people. People aren’t getting that. They’re getting brainwashed,” the Duluth retiree said, alluding to how Trump deployed law enforcement to clear streets near the White House so he could look at the damage to St. John’s Episcopal Church and pose for a photo.
Welshinger added, “Something has to be done because there’s too many good cops that are getting a bad name because of the bad ones. I have black grandchildren, and I know why they’re frustrated. But there’s good cops, too.”
Where the coronavirus pandemic, the economic downturn, and public safety fall on voters’ list of priorities in addition to the battle over the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday will be the subject of polls during the weeks leading up to Election Day.
Meanwhile, at the George Floyd memorial site, TJ Johnson, a black Minneapolis businessman in his 60s, said he would be basing his ballot choices on whether it would “help me survive.” He wasn’t optimistic anything would change, however, adding that he believed former President Barack Obama’s era of “hope was gone.”
“I think this is going to be happening ’til the day I die, ’til the day I die. We’re gonna have to watch our own selves,” he said of black deaths in police custody.
Original Author: Naomi Lim
Original Location: Trump’s law and order message hits mark with Minnesota voters