In the eyes of President Donald Trump and some Republicans, electing the Democrats in 2020 would lead to a clear and frightening outcome: tranquil suburbs in Connecticut and elsewhere would be overrun by crime, violent protests, and social decay.
It’s an old message with a new twist, fueled by the backlash against Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations this summer that were largely peaceful in Connecticut, but turned violent in Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities.
Referring to the prospect of civil unrest, David X. Sullivan, a Republican candidate for the 5th Congressional District, told the Courant that he is “concerned about Avon, Farmington and Simsbury becoming as violent as Portland, New York and Chicago.”
Unrest in Avon?
Trump’s law and order message and its many versions may sound far-fetched to some. But there is a racist undertone to the rhetoric that has proven effective in the past, said Noel A. Cazenave, a professor of sociology at UConn. It reflects a long history of American politicians attempting to secure votes by playing up racial fears.
A Trump campaign video from July conjures up a world of defenseless suburbs under attack, showing a fictionalized scene of an elderly white woman watching a news segment about the defunding of the police as a shadowy intruder breaks into her house. She calls 9-1-1 but there is no dispatcher to pick up. The ad flashes a message: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Sullivan said he rejects any implication that there is a racial element to his campaign messaging, which he described as an effort to “promote safety, in our homes, in our workplaces.”
But Cazenave notes that fear-mongering in political campaigns has deep roots in America, from Richard Nixon’s “Law and Order” campaign in the late 1960s to George H. W. Bush’s late 1980s political ad centered on Willie Horton, a Black man incarcerated in Massachusetts who raped a white woman while released on furlough, meant to demonstrate his Democratic opponent’s weak stance on crime. Trump is exploiting those same themes this year, Cazenave said.
“Donald Trump’s appeal to European-American suburban women voters is intended to exploit fear that if Joe Biden is elected, low-income African Americans and African American protestors will invade their suburbs,” Cazenave said. He noted that the tactic is “an extension of the old racist trope of imperiled white women.”
Many Trump supporters in the state say they find comfort in Trump’s promise of safety and were angered to see Connecticut law enforcement come under attack during Black Lives Matter protests this summer and through the recent police accountability bill signed by Gov. Ned Lamont.
In a Biden White House, Trump supporters say they fear the dismantling of constitutional liberties and a lax approach to public safety.
“We haven’t seen the Democrats come out and really put a squash on the increase in crime or the rioting out West and even though we haven’t seen it here, there is that fear that