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Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination for president at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Joseph R. Biden Jr faces a crosscurrent of pressures as protests continue to batter Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wis. On one side is President Trump, who is trying to blame Mr. Biden for the unrest as he presses the theme of his convention — remember that? It was last week — that a Biden presidency would lead to disorder and crime. He has repeatedly used false claims to portray Mr. Biden as anti-law enforcement.
On the other are some Democrats who have always been a little wary of Mr. Biden’s political fortitude against a candidate like Mr. Trump. Some are concerned that the Democratic standard-bearer has been slow to push back on the notion that Democrats are responsible for violence taking place under the Trump presidency.
“How do you cede the violence narrative when it’s directly a result of Trump and has nothing to do with Biden?” said Moe Vela, a former aide to Mr. Biden at the White House.
Mr. Trump, who spent Sunday bashing the mayor of Portland on Twitter over the unrest there, plans to travel on Tuesday to Kenosha, where disturbances broke out after a white police officer shot and paralyzed a Black man. Mr. Biden is giving a speech today in Pittsburgh.
The risks for Mr. Biden are clear. Law and disorder have become a major theme of the Trump campaign. If he chooses to play it safe, Mr. Biden could come across as timid or tentative.
But this could also be a political opportunity for Mr. Biden. It plays into a central theme of his candidacy: that a Biden presidency would bring a return to normalcy and an end to the chaos of the Trump presidency, marked by the president’s struggle to respond to the pandemic, the economic decline and the unrest on the streets.
In a statement he released Sunday on the Portland shooting, Mr. Biden charged Mr. Trump with fomenting the very unrest that the president is trying to blame Mr. Biden and other Democrats for.
“I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same,” Mr. Biden wrote. “It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight. What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters?”
Mr. Biden has run a deliberately cautious campaign — to stay out of the way and let Mr. Trump, as one Democrat put it, run against Mr. Trump. But as the general election begins, and with Mr. Biden under attack and the country racked by such turmoil, a lot of Democrats are looking to see how aggressively Mr. Biden engages Mr. Trump at what feels like a critical point in their competition.
The fatal shooting in Portland, Ore., over the weekend capped a volatile week of street violence that increasingly hangs over the 2020 race.
On Saturday, a man affiliated with a right-wing group was shot and killed as a large caravan of supporters of Mr. Trump drove through downtown Portland, where nightly protests have unfolded for three consecutive months. No suspect has been publicly identified and the victim’s name has not been released.
The shooting came in the same week that a 17-year-old armed with a military-style weapon was charged with homicide in connection with shootings during a protest in Kenosha, Wis., that left two people dead and one injured.
The pro-Trump rally in Portland drew hundreds of trucks filled with supporters and adorned with Trump flags and American flags into the city. At times, Trump supporters and counterprotesters clashed in the streets, with fistfights occurring and Trump supporters shooting paintball guns from the beds of pickup trucks as protesters threw objects at them.
The shooting that night immediately reverberated in a presidential campaign now entering its most intense period, and came on the heels of a Republican National Convention in which the president had sought to reframe the 2020 race as a “law and order” election.
President Trump unleashed an especially intense barrage of Twitter messages over the weekend, embracing fringe conspiracy theories claiming that the coronavirus death toll has been exaggerated and that street protests are actually an organized coup d’état against him.
In a concentrated predawn burst, the president posted or reposted 89 messages between 5:49 a.m. and 8:04 a.m. on Sunday on top of 18 the night before, many of them inflammatory comments or assertions about violent clashes in Portland, Ore., where a man wearing the hat of a far-right, pro-Trump group was shot and killed Saturday after a large group of Mr. Trump’s supporters traveled through the streets. He resumed on Sunday night.
In the blast of social media messages, Mr. Trump also embraced a call to imprison Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, threatened to send federal forces against demonstrators outside the White House, attacked CNN and NPR, embraced a supporter charged with murder, mocked his challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and repeatedly assailed the mayor of Portland, even posting the mayor’s office telephone number so that supporters could call demanding his resignation.
One of the most incendiary messages was a retweet of a program from the One America News Network, a pro-Trump channel that advances extreme theories and that the president has turned to when he feels that Fox News has not been supportive enough. The message he retweeted Saturday night promoted a segment accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Mr. Trump’s downfall.
“According to the mainstream media, the riots & extreme violence are completely unorganized,” the tweet said. “However, it appears this coup attempt is led by a well funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.” Accompanying it was an image of a promo for a segment titled “America Under Siege: The Attempt to Overthrow President Trump.”
A project from the National Domestic Workers Alliance called the We Dream in Black initiative on Monday morning released its “Unbossed Women’s Agenda,” which outlines economic and social policies that aim to transform domestic work and infrastructure to support not only Black domestic workers, but also their communities.
“Domestic work is the first way Black women’s labor has been used and exploited in this country,” Aimée-Josiane Twagirumukiza, the organizing director of the workers group, said in an interview. “The importance of having a Black domestic workers agenda is to address that — to address the foundation of how the society views Black women’s labor in general.”
Domestic workers are at the center of the coronavirus pandemic, facing heightened risks as they continue to work long hours, often for low pay. As caregivers and nurses, Black women constitute 28 percent of all women working in home care, while representing about 7 percent of the population.
The agenda wasn’t meant to be a recovery plan for the pandemic; it has been in the works for about a year. But the timing of its release coincides with the rising political debate over how to go about the economic recovery.
“It’s definitely something that we want to be anchored with an economic recovery plan,” Ms. Twagirumukiza said. She added that the pandemic had shown people that the economic recovery will have to focus on more than just on jobs and labor protections. “It also has to be coupled with other things in terms of a new care infrastructure,” she said.
Those changes, in the workers alliance’s eyes, include passing the federal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which was introduced last summer by Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. They would also mean enacting things like Medicare expansion, raising the minimum wage, instituting universal family care, securing better housing and passing an immigration overhaul.
“It’s really important now that we can reimagine what our economy looks like, that we can reimagine what work looks like,” said Jennifer Dillon, the director at the workers alliance. She called the plan an opportunity to “re-envision what work could look like for Black women who are oftentimes the first to lose income and the last to receive any kind of support or structural relief.”