But to those Republican efforts to use race to divide in the run-up to the elections: “I want to make it absolutely clear,” Biden said. “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness. Plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change.” But Biden was clear on the context, from racial injustice to the fact that “Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline” while Trump refuses to “call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country.”
“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?” Biden continued.
Biden went on to mock the picture of him Republicans are trying to paint.
“Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really? I want a safe America. Safe from COVID. Safe from rioting. Safe from crime and looting. Safe from racially motivated violence. Safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear: Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.”
Trump, on the other hand, “looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline. Having failed to protect this nation from the virus, that has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, Trump posts an all-caps tweet screaming ‘LAW AND ORDER’ to save his campaign. One of his closest political advisers in the White House doesn’t even bother to speak in code, she just comes out and she says it, quote ‘The more chaos and violence, the better it is for Trump’s reelection.’”
Trump is “trying to scare America,” Biden said, while detailing so many of the ways Trump has made the U.S. less safe.
Biden was pushing back hard against Republican attacks on him by presenting himself as basically a moderate white man. There was plenty in the speech to make progressives cringe, including Biden’s pledge not to ban fracking. But Biden’s broadening of the idea of safety and security to include public health and Social Security and unemployment marked a refusal to try to go harder on crime and policing than Trump in the way that a centrist Democratic nominee of years past might have done. This is a candidate who has been pushed to a better place by activists—and one who rebutted another of the key Republican attacks against him by giving a powerful, persuasive speech completely at odds with the portrayal of him as senile and incompetent.