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Seattle and Portland, long left out of presidential politics, fuel Trump narrative

By David Gutman, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

SEATTLE - Washington and Oregon rarely feature in presidential races.

Neither state has voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, and neither President Donald Trump nor his Democratic rival Joe Biden is likely to campaign here this year.

But as demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism have continued across the country, the Pacific Northwest - the site of some of the country's largest and most persistent protests - has taken on a narrative role in the national campaign even as it remains an electoral backwater.

The Trump campaign has seized on images of property destruction and violence from a small minority of protests, warning ominously that the clashes happening under his watch are a harbinger of what's to come in "Joe Biden's America."

If you went to the president's campaign home page last week, you wouldn't have found a plan for defeating the coronavirus, or a plan for aiding the millions of people who've lost their jobs or the president's second-term agenda.

Instead, you were greeted with a splash page, urging you to stand with Trump "AGAINST ANTIFA!"

 

Trump's "law and order" campaign dates back, most famously, to Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" in the 1968 presidential campaign when he appealed to white voters uneasy with the civil rights movement and riots that erupted after the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

A new paper from Omar Wasow, a Princeton political scientist, found that violent protests that summer caused a significant shift among white voters toward Republicans "and tipped the election."

Jake Grumbach, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington, said there are several reasons to believe conditions are different this year.

This year's protests are much more widespread and interracial, Grumbach said, whereas the 1968 riots were concentrated in heavily Black urban centers. And, Grumbach said, the racial justice movement and ceaseless cellphone videos of police brutality have quickly and dramatically shifted white public opinion.

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