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Here's what Donald Trump said at the Republican National Convention. Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally.

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Some have even been its victims.

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Thing is, this was not at this week's Republican National Convention. This was at the convention in 2016 before Trump was elected president.

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I have a message for all of you that crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon and I mean very soon come to an end.

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His message back then was basically this If you are scared of what you see on TV or even in your own city, Donald Trump will keep you safe.

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Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored.

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Coming up this year, one thing the convention has shown us so far is that the president is sticking with that same pitch, the one that got him to the White House in the first place. The question is, will it work? This is considered. This from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It's Wednesday, August 26th.

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Support for NPR and the following message come from you studio.

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Two weeks before candidate Donald Trump gave that convention speech in July 2016, two black men were killed by police within a day of each other. Flandreau Castiel outside Minneapolis, was shot in his car while his fiancee livestream the whole thing from the passenger seat.

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And Alton Sterling was shot outside a Baton Rouge convenience store. Two officers were filmed holding him down on the ground. And now this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blak, 29 year old black man, was shot by police. He survived. He's still in the hospital, paralyzed from the waist down. People in Kenosha have been protesting his shooting for the past several nights. Now we have to turn to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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The streets then last night during protests, three people were shot and two of them died.

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Today, a white 17 year old named Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested for first degree intentional homicide.

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His Facebook page reportedly featured pro police images.

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We turn now to that third night of violent protests that turned deadly in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last night despite the curfew.

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Protesters took to the streets and clashing with officers.

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Shots rang out during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.

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And now, just like four years ago, these killings by police and the protests that follow are part of the Republican Party's pitch.

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It seems as if the Democrats no longer view the government's job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.

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That's Mark McClusky, who, along with his wife, Patricia, was a featured speaker at the RNC this week.

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You might remember this couple or at least pictures of them waving guns at protesters who marched past their house in St. Louis this summer.

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What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country.

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We should say both of them face felony weapons charges.

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So make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe.

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And the radical Democrats, America, you went on to repeat another talking point, that Democrats want to abolish suburbs, which is not true. Another false talking point that the RNC from the president's son, Eric, and others is that Democratic nominee Joe Biden would defund the police, fund the police and take away your cherished Second Amendment.

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But Biden has repeatedly rejected the idea of defunding the police. The Senate's only black Republican, Tim Scott, did make a passing mention of black people killed by police from a global pandemic to the deaths of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, 20 20 has tested our nation in ways we haven't seen for decades. And while Scott says he does support some police reforms, nothing like that is in the official platform of the Republican Party this year. That's because this year the Republican Party doesn't have an official platform.

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Instead, it just put out a statement basically saying, we support President Trump for the president and his party. This idea of law and order is not new. As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night.

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When Richard Nixon accepted the Republican nomination in 1968, he ran with a similar message.

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As far as this problem of law and order is concerned, I am for law and order.

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One difference between now and then is that in 1968, 90 percent of voters were white.

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In 2020, that number is projected to be just 66 percent. And in 14 of 16 key battleground states, the number of whites without a college degree, Trump's strongest demographic will be smaller than in 2016. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe took a look at how Trump has talked about crime over the decades but hasn't overseen many policy changes and how his message is actually about race.

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This summer, as cities dealt with unrest and protests against police brutality, the message was impossible to escape.

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The Democrat Party has gone so far left. They don't care about law and order. Bring law and order back to our cities, back to our country, because people want law and order.

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We are for justice, but we're following orders.

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It's a rallying cry for a mostly white audience, and Trump is betting that it will help get them re-elected. NPR examined the way Trump has talked about law and order with the help of fact based a website that compiles all of his public statements. It started back in 1989. Trump took out a full page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty against five black and brown boys accused of attacking a woman in Central Park. They were later exonerated.

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During his first run for office, Trump shifted his law and order message. He blamed illegal immigration for surges and crime, even though studies show that's not true.

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Well, you know, when you look at Ferguson and you look at St. Louis like the other night and you look at, let's say, Baltimore and Chicago, the gangs, you know, many of these gang members are illegal and they're tough dudes. They'll be out of there so fast, your head will spin.

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Today, his law and order message is all about looting and cities run by Democrats. Quinten Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, says Trump's message is clear to him.

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It's playing on fear of black people, on black leadership, on Democratic leadership. It's embarrassing. It's awful.

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Lucas is a black Democrat. The Trump administration recently sent federal agents to Kansas City to combat a spike in crime that included the shooting death of a four year old boy. Lucas feels like it's a short term, politically motivated move when what's needed is long term cooperation, long term solutions, kind of like what Trump talked about back at the last Republican convention.

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The first task for our new administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens our communities.

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Tracy Siska says that would mean dealing with the actual root causes of violence in cities like the lack of services and opportunities. He's the head of the Chicago Justice Project, which pushes for data based solutions to violence. That hasn't happened.

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So it's completely rebuilding that social fabric in those communities. It's the start, everyone says, in Chicago and around the community, we're not going to arrest our way out of it. And then all they do is try to arrest their way out.

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Now, Trump talks less about fixing the cities and more about protecting the suburbs.

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If you want a vision of your life under Biden presidency. Think of the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the blood stained sidewalks of Chicago. And imagine the mayhem coming to your town and every single town in America.

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Mayor Lucas says the point remains the same. But if you can scare the hell out of people, oh, my gosh, you get attention, you get energy, you get understanding, and sadly, you get votes.

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Right now, polls show Trump behind in the suburbs, so it's not clear that the law and order message will work this time around.

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NPR's Asia Rascoe. The Pew Research Center recently asked Republican voters what their top issues are this year and violent crime was actually number two. Number one was the economy. That's exactly what Evan Osnos of The New Yorker found when he wrote about the wealthy suburban town of Greenwich, Connecticut.

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He talked about it with my colleague, Mary Louise Kelly. You were reporting from a very specific place from Greenwich, Connecticut. Do we know how representative that is? Are there comparable communities of wealthy elite Republicans backing Trump in different corners all over the US?

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There are. We know that on the basis partly of what the typical Trump voter looks like on paper, in data, they are wealthier than we sometimes imagine. They are not all in places that we sometimes assume they are. In fact, on the coasts. They are in wealthy communities in from Southern California all the way to New England. They have stayed with him and partly because of their perception that his vision of the economy is what they want. That's been the tie that binds them together.

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And now that the economy is really struggling, it becomes a much harder sell for him.

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You've mentioned the economy a few times. Is that the single biggest issue that has attracted these voters to Trump and is keeping them on his side?

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It's a big issue. I think a more complete answer is there is an element of this that there are people who are very uneasy about racial politics in this country. And that's not something that they like to talk about. But the reality is some of them are uneasy about the idea that this country is becoming more diverse and they often will answer the question in economic terms. But if you have a longer conversation, you hear them say that they wish that immigrants were assimilating.

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All of these are often there ways that people talk about something in an indirect fashion. Mary Louise, it's kind of a that's a hard one to to talk to people about casually, because what you're essentially asking somebody is, are you uncomfortable with the country becoming more diverse and intellectually the same? People will say, no, of course I'm not. I'm comfortable with it. But then when it comes to their voting behavior, we see that there are hesitations, that they are uncomfortable with it.

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And Donald Trump has figured out how to speak that language and it has worked for him.

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Did you meet anybody reporting the story? Who really surprised you?

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Yeah, there was one person in particular who is the head of the finance board in Greenwich, and he's a Republican who supports Donald Trump is a very powerful position. He's the person who decides how money is given out to things like special education in the schools and snowplowing and all the kind of day to day services. And I asked him, I said, does it bother you in the end, the way he talks about women, the way he talks about immigrants?

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What he said to me was, look, I care about the sixty thousand people who live in my town. That's that's what I care about. And I suppose. But isn't there a larger responsibility here just as a citizen? And he said, look, I can't worry about the things outside of that. I'm paraphrasing there. But that point was very striking to me because I my imagination, my in a sense, my sense of what that Prescott Bush Republican Party once was, was, look, we may not agree with Democrats on much, but we fundamentally imagine that our responsibility as people in office and as citizens is to all Americans.

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And I got the sense that there is a narrower definition that has taken hold for some people of what it means to have a responsibility to others. And that really struck me.

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Evan Osnos of The New Yorker talking to Mary Louise Kelly. Additional reporting in this episode from our colleagues at All Things Considered. For more news, you can download the NPR one app or listen to your local public radio station. Supporting that station makes this podcast possible. I'm Kelly McEvers.

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We will be back with more tomorrow.

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