Rioters and looters in Philadelphia may have just paved Trump’s road to victory in Pennsylvania. Biden helped last week when he admitted during the final presidential debate that he wanted to phase out US oil production. It was a boneheaded thing to say while trying to court blue-collar Americans in swing states, many of whom work in the energy sector. Now, Trump also has the ‘law and order’ narrative on his side.
Walter Wallace Jr, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by police in Philadelphia on Monday. It only took until that evening for protests to turn to looting and rioting. Just like in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland and other major cities, businesses were destroyed and individuals were harmed. At least 30 police officers were injured during the violent demonstrations, including one who suffered a broken leg after being hit by a truck.
Working-class voters expect that in exchange for doing honest work to provide for their families and paying taxes, the state should retain some semblance of order in their communities. Suburban voters, particularly women, fear what could happen to their families or their homes if violence spreads beyond the cities. Small-business owners are rightfully angry when they see their livelihoods and dreams burned to the ground. Biden has condemned violence, but failed to say how he would use his presidential powers to curtail it. Trump, on the other hand, has offered to mobilize the National Guard to states who ask for assistance. Even if the riots don’t motivate a ton of new voters, they could lower turnout in Philadelphia. This is all Trump, who often dominates in rural counties but struggles in cities, would really need to win.
The ‘law and order’ debate wasn’t so simple after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. People were of course turned off by violence and looting, but were sympathetic to the protesters and their cause after seeing the video of Officer Chauvin putting his knee on Floyd’s neck. Wallace Jr, however, was reportedly aggressively charging officers with a knife in his hand when he was shot, surely giving less cause for activist groups to demonstrate. Americans are also exhausted at this point by the constant unrest in cities. That’s another point in Trump’s favor.
The mainstream media is clearly worried about the impact the situation in Philadelphia could have on the election. A New York Times reporter is chastising conservative media outlets for covering the riots, questioning why they want to ‘elevate’ them. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer wondered on his show why police officers don’t merely shoot armed suspects in the legs to incapacitate them. Multiple outlets, including CNN and NBC, tried to downplay the protests are mostly peaceful, with CNN even referring to people who carried axes in the streets as ‘protesters’. They wouldn’t be spinning so much if they thought that the riots in any way could help Biden.