"Rioting is not protesting," said Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a speech at a steel mill in Pennsylvania today. "Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting."
Biden called for the prosecution of looters, shaming them for destroying small businesses and harming working families. The former vice president even spoke directly to the Trump-world talking point that he is a pawn of the radical left.
"You know me," said Biden. "You know my heart. You know my story, my family story. Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?"
Joe Biden: "Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting." pic.twitter.com/gGjazceXRq
— The Hill (@thehill) August 31, 2020
This isn't a new direction for Biden: The candidate has consistently praised the mainstream Black Lives Matter protests while steadfastly refusing to condone violence or lend support to the more radical political goals associated with the movement. (He does not, for example, want to defund the police.) And he has condemned the riots several times over the summer.
So far, to the extent that the violence is generating a backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement, it does not seem to be impacting Biden's popularity. Nevertheless, Trump surrogates evidently believe the violence in several U.S. cities could be a winning issue, and are trying to spin them as "Biden riots."
"Every time you see a burned out building or looted store, it is a reminder of failed Democrat leadership," wrote Steve Guest, a spokesperson for the Republican National Convention, in a press release.
Several local Democratic leaders have indeed mishandled the violence. But Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler isn't going to be on the ballot in November (except in Portland). As long as Biden continues to call for rioters to face justice, attempts to portray the Biden-Harris ticket as an avatar of lefty violence will be unconvincing.