George Floyd

How Protests Over George Floyd's Death and Police Brutality Could Help Trump Win Reelection

Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow says violent protests helped Richard Nixon win the presidency in 1968.


In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted around the country. Some of these have turned violent and resulted in injuries to citizens and police as well as looting and property damage.

Cities have implemented curfews and other restrictions on movement, further stoking tensions that were already present due to the coronavirus lockdown, the start of summer, and a 15 percent unemployment rate.

The last time the nation faced this level of social unrest was 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.

To help us make sense of the current moment and figure out where it could lead, Nick Gillespie spoke with Omar Wasow, a political scientist at Princeton, who has studied how protests of the 1960s affected public opinion, social discourse, and voting patterns.

Will today's protests make policing reform more or less likely? Is it possible that violence in the streets will boost Donald Trump's reelection chances—just as events in 1968 helped put Richard Nixon in the White House?

Wasow's research also looks at the nature of police misconduct, analyzing whether headline-grabbing incidents such as the horrific killings of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are the result of a few bad apples or a systemic problem with law enforcement in minority communities.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo: Joi Ito

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56 responses to “How Protests Over George Floyd's Death and Police Brutality Could Help Trump Win Reelection

  1. After having identified themselves with lock-downs that cost millions of people their jobs unnecessarily, the progressives have now identified themselves with looters and arsonists–and you think that might make the Democrat unpopular?


    P.S. Joe Biden wants to train the police to shoot people in the leg!

    1. Yeah, knee-jerk reading of the headline:

      How Protests Over George Floyds Death And Police Brutality Could Help The Progressive Left Continue Defeating Themselves.

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      1. Jesus dude. Didn’t you read Boehm yesterday? Turns out Biden deeply regrets all the horrible shit he’s done and is practically a libertarian now.

        1. Boehm is too stupid for words. Sometimes I think he’s just on staff to make Suderman seem smarter.

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        2. I read that Boehm reported that Biden claims that he deeply regrets all the horrible shit he’s done, I didn’t see that he said anything about believing him.

          1. Oh right, since there’s no sarcasm emoji you can’t recognize it.

            I figured twenty plus years of Biden bashing from Reason would be enough to establish the position.

            1. From the article yesterday TITLED:
              Joe Biden Basically Admits Libertarians Were Right All Along: Cops Shouldn’t Have Military Gear

              “But it’s still better to look like a hypocrite than to continue being wrong. Biden’s evolution from a drug warrior who approved of arming cops with military gear to a critic of the drug war who wants to end abusive policing is perhaps a silver lining to this week’s awfulness. He’s a presidential candidate who is the embodiment of the Overton window, and it appears he has been shifted.”

              He calls it Joe Biden’s “evolution” to a “critic of the drug war who wants to end abusive policing.” His words not any of ours. He’s completely credulous about the whole thing. As if we should give the man credit for being becoming sincerely enlightened. I propose Biden offers to spend the rest of his dementia ridden life behind bars with the millions of people he helped put there for frivolous offenses against the state’s evil drug policy to prove how repentant he truly is? No? You want to reward him by making him the most powerful man on earth instead? How Just.

              I can’t think of a better figurehead for how the state preys on the poor, helpless, marginalized people that they claim to want to help. You want the real face of family separation and the prison industrial complex, look no further than that career public succubus, Biden. Fuck Boehm for being so ignorant and fuck Biden even harder.

        3. …..until elected. Then back to the same old progressive policies.

    2. P.S. Joe Biden wants to train the police to shoot people in the leg!

      This kind of thing is usually said by people who’ve never fired a gun before.

      1. Or people who watched to many 50s and 60s TV westerns.

        1. He saw them when they first aired.

          1. Joe probably watches the “Rope Operas” every Saturday morning on MeTV.

            (For those who are saying “whaaa?” right now, MeTV is an awesome channel broadcasting Boomer shows from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and their Saturday lineup is host of old cowboy shows.)

          2. Bidet doesn’t watch Westerns.

            He was there to see the source material : “Billy the Kid was a bad dude . . .”

      2. Joe has shot two shotgun blasts into the air from a double barrel to scare of criminals.

    3. Joe Biden has spent his entire political career (no really, the whole thing) empowering and enriching cops and police departments to “get tough on crime”. Now he’s the leading voice against police brutality? Pull the other one.

    4. Maybe he should teach the cops to pin them up against the wall and grab them by the pussy. He could teach the classes himself using his actual real life experience. They could make it part of the debates and have the candidates take turns!

    5. P.S. Joe Biden wants to train the police to shoot people in the leg! dog.

  2. Gosh, I guess there is hope that people may actually figure out how horrific and destructive progressive policies have been.

  3. >>The last time the nation faced this level of social unrest was 1968

    again though 1968 was real. 2020 is theater.

    1. “Fuck those dead white kids at Kent State” – Reason Magazine

      1. Tin soldiers and Nixon comin’….

    2. Both were theater. That doesn’t mean they weren’t also real.

      Today I learned Antifa terrorists are scouting out the homes of police officers so they can attack their families.

      Sooner or later these terrorist thugs were going to force us to fight Civil War 2. Thank God they did it when a patriot was president, so that we can fight it with the government on the good guys’ side. It’s a great opportunity for the President to put them out of our misery for at least a decade, maybe forever, and the only way he can lose now is to fail to take full advantage of it.

      1. That’s going to end very badly for them. If anyone is going to have a family that knows how to fire a weapon, it will be cops family. Anti-fa is going end up with a lot of corpses and I’m not going to shed a tear.

      2. No.
        They THINK they will spark a civil war, but all that will happen is that a few of them will get themselves slightly SHOT, and most of the rest will run back to mommy’s basement.

    3. “The last time the nation faced this level of social unrest was 1968”

      It feels like we’re reliving the Seventies but without all the free love and drugs and with far shittier music.

      1. I think we’re actually a lot wealthier, healthier, and more peaceful than in the 1970’s.

  4. How many of the new first-time gun buyers will vote for Biden so Biden can put them in prison?

    1. So many people are buying, there’s not a single AR-16 left on the shelves!

      1. No more double-barrel shotguns for Torpedo Joe? How sad.

        Though if you want to go see and handle some ridiculously expensive double shotguns and double rifles too, the new storefront for Collectors Firearms is open in Houston. The place is practically a museum. I never knew I needed a Winchester 21, with engraving over every possible surface, until I visited them the other day. .38 Supers that’d make a Mexican cartel leader blush, and think they were gaudy.

        Neat place.

      2. I’m looking for a Mini-15 myself.

      3. AR “14”; get it [Biden] right.

    2. Are there stats on recent first time buyers? I expected a spike after the $1200 checks went out (I’ve got my eye on one of the newish Glock single stacks), but a major increase in places like Florida and Wisconsin would be a bad auger for Uncle Joe.

  5. I must add that this article’s suggestion that the attacks were provoked or deserved in any way is complete horse shit and is unlibertarian.

  6. “…Brutality Could Help Trump Win…I can’t! I just can’t!”


  7. Yea 1968 people voted in President Nixon, how well did that turn out for the American people. The war continued, the Kent State shootings, Watergate and resignation. Also it is worth remembering that Nixon was promising change. President Trump is promising to continue his lazy, slow, and incompetent ways.

    1. And your favorite child molester wants to continue the petty tyranny and incompetent corruption of the Obama regime he was part of, back when they waged half a dozen unauthorized wars in the mideast and drone bombed weddings and hospitals for shits and giggles.

      But you already knew that, you partisan fuckwit.

    2. Lol, wut? Nixon reduced troop levels during his first term and ended the Viet Nam War during his second.

      He certainly delivered on at least one of his promises. He also ran as a Law and Order candidate and played off those filthy hippie protesters to make people forget Kent State.

      Which is why he buried George McGovern in the ’72 election, despite all those new 18 year-old voters created by the 26th Amendment.

      History is going to repeat itself.

    3. Yea 1968 people voted in President Nixon, how well did that turn out for the American people.

      Except for Watergate, Nixon was actually a pretty good president (and ex-president). Watergate used to shock me, but looking back, it seemed more like Nixon was simply more inept at what was sadly quite routine among his opponents. On top of that, the people who broke Watergate turned out to be arrogant a–holes working for dishonest media corporations.

      1. What Nixon had done In Watergate to spy on his adversary Obama raised to a new level with advanced technology.

    4. It turned out pretty well — Nixon went to China and stomped hard enough on North Viet Nam to get them to stop whining about the shape of the table and instead sit down at it. If not for the Congressional Red Army, we would have kept our promise to the Vietnamese, and saved ourselves decades of trouble worldwide.

  8. This one comes down to: Who is the law and order President?

    I don’t think Sleepy Joe really wants to try and claim that mantle.

    1. Joe is in the unenviable position of trying to unify a base that can’t be unified.

      If he goes full BLM/Fuck Tha Police mode, he wins the hearts and support of the Bernie wing but alienates the moderate voters he needs to take back WI, MI, and PA.

      If he tries to go Law and Order, he loses the Looney Left.

      Trump, OTOH, simply has to keep the Republican base on board and present himself as the less crazy alternative. He shouldn’t have any problem doing that, considering how the Democrats are acting right now.

      1. Joe is in the unenviable position of trying to unify a base that can’t be unified.

        Don’t feel sorry for him: he made his own bed.

        Trump, OTOH, simply has to keep the Republican base on board and present himself as the less crazy alternative. He shouldn’t have any problem doing that, considering how the Democrats are acting right now.

        Politically, Trump has been pretty good and fairly moderate. But he’s a lousy public speaker and his Twitter feed is just a tad too unfiltered. Compared to Biden, he’ll probably still be OK, but if he played his cards better, I think he could win by a landslide.

        1. Take him seriously not literally.

        2. Being a lousy public speaker, and having no filter on his Twitter feed, has actually HELPED Trump. He’s seen as a stereotypical New Yorker, rather than the polished political insiders that he defeated.

  9. No. No. No. Let me explain this one more time :

    (1) There were “X” number of people who wanted a reality-TV-show buffoon as president when the economy was booming

    (2) There were “X” number of people who approved when Trump told his 15,000th lie and “X” number of who cheered on learning he tried to get a foreign country to aid his election campaign (Ukraine, if you’re having trouble keeping them straight)

    (3) There are “X” number of people who don’t mind Trump responded to national pandemic emergency with his usual mix of brat-child theatrics, continuous lying and petty squabbles.

    And they’re all the same number. It seems there’s a niche market for turning the presidency into a dumpster-fire shit show, but it definitely a limited one. That’s why Trump’s approval hasn’t moved a jot from the day he was inaugurated – and immediately lied about the crowd size.

    The people who think President Troll is great fun will continue to do so, rioters or not. The people who don’t will vote for an actual human being on 03 November.

    So Trump will lose. It’s that simple.

    1. I guess if you’re simple enough, you can believe that Trump will lose.

      Those of us who have been paying attention see nothing on the horizon that can cost him reelection. The lamestream media, social media, and people with the attention span of a fruit fly have been working their hardest against him for 5 years, and nothing they tried has had any effect beyond being subject material for Hitler rant videos on YouTube. This continuous campaign has devolved into what most people consider “noise floor,” to be tuned out.

      And then the race was between “Boom-Boom” Biden and an old Communist who would be dead if he had been given the same medical care that he wants to impose on the rest of us . . .and he folded.

      I doubt that any of the millions of new gun owners will be interested in voting for the guy who is bragging about how he will take away people’s guns. The Russia scam not only died, but now is exposing the evil, ignorant, imcompetent rats who promoted it. The Proglodytes first condemned Trump for closing travel, then pivoted to condemn Trump for letting 40,000 Americans and green-card holders come home before travel was completely restricted, THEN Trump maneuvered them into taking full responsibility for the damage that they have done to the American voters’ lives. And now an idiot bad cop in Ilhan Omar’s stronghold has sparked Auntie Fascist to burn black stores nationwide, while Trump offers assistance to restore peace, which the Proglodytes refuse to accept.

      None of these things are costing Trump any of his votes from last time, and bringing him a bunch of new ones. NO WONDER Bidet is saying that staying away from live appearances is helping him!

      1. Heck of a rant there, but it doesn’t make the 43% of people who like President Dumpster-Fire a single person more. You couldn’t recruit an extra Trump supporter back when the economy was red-hot, why think you can lure suckers in now? This election will be settled by swing voters who usually tire of a political party after two straight presidential terms. Care to guess whether they’re exhausted already by our man-baby CINC? Watching a room full of whiny brattish toddlers is a bone-weary task, and that’s been the whole country’s chore following this White House.

        But that’s not all. Trump will be losing in three months just as he’s losing now. Care to guess how he’ll react? Someone more emotionally stable might pretend to be a rational being with real human empathy. At least pretend. Instead, we can expect Trump to double-down on narcissistic Stupid. They’ll be wildly erratic meltdowns those last weeks as DJT spirals down the toilet bowl.


  10. Biden is exactly what the Democrats wanted; he is vanilla-beige senile demented 40+ years of bad history but yet not Trump, and that is the best they could do.

    Those who hate Trump and all his “deplorable” supporters stand for will vote for him. As will those who have an abundance of Chardonnay wisdom and plenty of virtue to signal in a way that will not actually cost them anything, as far as they know.

    1. For example read the post that preceded this

  11. Trump has said some really stupid stuff, let’s not deny.
    However, there are some important things he does right. He calls out wrongdoings when he sees it. He called for justice for Floyd. He denounced militant anarchists. He called out the state’s police force for their inability to handle a situation, and is offering the federal gov’t support that is needed. The stock market is climbing back as previously predicted by most scholars (like myself… just kidding), and it will continue to return to rising numbers.

    But, the most alarming thing which has me thinking, why would I ever not vote for Trump in this election? Nobody in the Democrat political leadership wants to denounce the violence, the 18-22 yos who have lost their minds, causing turmoil and chaos. Corporate elites, celebrities, professional politicians are only interested in one thing, and that is glorifying a guy, George Floyd, who was looking for trouble with drugs in his system after several second chances, one of being robbery and assault with a weapon on a pregnant lady. And, not one single one of them, will recognize and honor the brave men protecting their shops beaten and killed or the innocent kids thrown into this shot by panicked cops, surrounded by militant cop-haters provoking them, resulting in more deaths from riots than all of the unarmed black suspects who were killed by cops all of last year.

    There is progress in the country, so why vote for a guy, Biden, who is only interested in making up stories about Trump, rather than ending the impact that communities are having from riots. And, it’s not just him, Bernie’s twitter account is concerning, of the things he’s more worried about, with no consideration toward the great Americans who need to clean up their communities. They only care about one thing, removing Trump from President.

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