Pro­test­ers help push un­de­cid­eds to Trump

Anti-Amer­i­can images back up mogul’s rhetoric

The Washington Times Weekly - - Pol­i­tics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The ugly protest scenes out­side Don­ald Trump’s ral­lies are do­ing more dam­age to the pro­test­ers than to Mr. Trump’s po­lit­i­cal chances, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts who say the vi­o­lence and anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments are back­fir­ing.

Pro­test­ers in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, last month toted Mex­i­can flags, burned Amer­i­can flags and clashed with po­lice, rack­ing up $50,000 in dam­age to the neigh­bor­hood.

Per­haps even worse for the ri­ot­ers, they are likely chas­ing un­de­cided vot­ers to­ward the side of the man they are protest­ing.

“When peo­ple show up throw­ing bot­tles and wav­ing the Mex­i­can flag, you have had a lot of peo­ple who may have not been will­ing to sup­port Trump who see this and say the en­emy of my en­emy is my friend,” said for­mer Rep. Tom Davis, who ran House Repub­li­cans’ cam­paign com­mit­tee for two cy­cles a decade ago. “There is no ques­tion these are help­ing Trump, and Democrats know that.”

The bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man’s stern calls to tighten bor­der con­trols, his vow to build a wall be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico and his dec­la­ra­tion that Mex­i­can so­ci­ety is send­ing “rapists” and other bad el­e­ments to the U.S. have an­gered His­panic ac­tivists, who view Mr. Trump’s cam­paign as a tip­ping point in pol­i­tics.

Like­wise, his call for a ban on Mus­lim vis­i­tors and some of his com­ments about women leave many vot­ers wary and some of them an­gry enough to take ac­tion beyond the bal­lot box.

At­tempts to dis­rupt his ral­lies from the in­side have drawn stiff re­bukes from the 69-year-old can­di­date, who has talked about punch­ing pro­test­ers and de­scribed oth­ers as un­dat­able goobers, di­a­per-wear­ing mo­rons and fat blowhards.

“Go home to mommy,” he told a pro­tester at rally in Al­bu­querque.

Out­side of the Al­bu­querque rally, things were even worse.

Six city po­lice of­fi­cers sus­tained “sig­nif­i­cant in­juries” and an­other was treated for smoke in­hala­tion from fires that pro­test­ers set. Ev­ery of­fi­cer who re­sponded was pelted with rocks and other de­bris by the anti-Trump swarm, the depart­ment said.

Two ju­ve­niles were ar­rested and re­leased to their par­ents, and a 30-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man were ar­rested and charged with dis­or­derly con­duct.

The depart­ment sig­naled that more ar­rests are likely but could not con­firm re­ports that Mex­i­can gangs were in­volved in stir­ring up the fra­cas.

Tele­vi­sion news, al­ready ea­ger to cover Mr. Trump, has been filled with images of lines of of­fi­cers pre­par­ing for vi­o­lence and re­porters doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery rock-throw­ing in­ci­dent.

Pa­trick Buchanan, a two-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, said the scenes could alarm mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans al­ready wary of Mr. Trump, and there is a dan­ger the protests could feed into a me­dia nar­ra­tive that he is in­cit­ing the vi­o­lence.

For now, though, Mr. Buchanan said “on bal­ance Mr. Trump wins” be­cause the pro­test­ers ap­pear to be back­ing up the can­di­date’s claims.

“Cop-bat­tlers and rock-throw­ers des­e­crat­ing Amer­i­can flags and wav­ing Mex­i­can flags are a per­fect foil for Trump,” he said. “They so­lid­ify and harden his base and re­in­force his case against the il­le­gals from across the bor­der.”

Hil­lary Clin­ton, the likely Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, and her al­lies have in­deed ac­cused Mr. Trump of stok­ing the vi­o­lence with his pol­icy pro­pos­als and be­hav­ior on the stump.

“When you di­vide peo­ple against one an­other, you don’t know what is go­ing to hap­pen,” Mrs. Clin­ton said at a rally this year. “We are see­ing vi­o­lence at po­lit­i­cal ral­lies in our coun­try. That is the kind of thing you see on TV, you as­sume is far away, don’t you? Well, this, this hate­ful talk about im­mi­grants, about Mus­lims, about women, I mean, enough, enough. It is not who we are.”

Corey Le­wandowski, a se­nior ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign, said the press is over­play­ing the protest story.

“Mr. Trump and the cam­paign do not con­done vi­o­lence,” Mr. Le­wandowski said. “The cam­paign ral­lies are at­tended by tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, and it’s no sur­prise the dis­hon­est me­dia is in­tent on fo­cus­ing on a few pro­fes­sional ag­i­ta­tors.”

David Yepsen, di­rec­tor of the Paul Si­mon Pub­lic Pol­icy In­sti­tute at South­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity, said Mr. Trump’s ral­lies are “pretty un­prece­dented” and that the clos­est his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent he could think of was Ge­orge Wal­lace’s 1968 cam­paign and the way in which “he’d bait the me­dia.”

“In a con­ven­tional cam­paign, such ral­lies and op­tics would hurt,” Mr. Yepsen said. “Just look at what the Chicago 1968 con­ven­tion did to Democrats — made them look un­fit to gov­ern. But Trump’s is an un­con­ven­tional cam­paign.

“It’s a lit­tle early to see whether it works with gen­eral elec­tion au­di­ences, such as in­de­pen­dents in tossup states,” he said. “It fires up some vot­ers and scares oth­ers. Trump doesn’t seem likely to tone it down. He’s go­ing with what worked, and he seems to be his own best con­sul­tant.”

Polling from ear­lier this year, af­ter the first round of vi­o­lent protests, sug­gests vot­ers do blame Mr. Trump but blame the pro­test­ers even more.

Jeff Crouere, a Trump del­e­gate from Louisiana who hosts a con­ser­va­tive ra­dio talk show, said the protests have been net pos­i­tives for the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee.

“Ev­ery time you see one of these pro­test­ers burn an Amer­i­can flag or at­tack a po­lice of­fi­cer or hurl a pro­fan­ity­laced tirade against a Trump sup­porter, I think that reaf­firms to all Amer­i­cans that Don­ald Trump is stand­ing up for our coun­try,” Mr. Crouere said. “I think the av­er­age Amer­i­can sees these peo­ple com­mit­ting vi­o­lence and burn­ing the flag and says we af­fil­i­ate more with the per­son who is wav­ing the Amer­i­can flag, not the guy who is burn­ing the Amer­i­can flag.”

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRI­BUNE VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A pro­tester sets a Don­ald Trump cam­paign hat on fire dur­ing a rally in San Diego. Polling sug­gests vot­ers blame the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee for vi­o­lence but blame ri­ot­ers even more.

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