Violence again convulses 2016 election
campaign, testing Trump, Clinton
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[July 09, 2016]
By Steve Holland
(Reuters) - In the hours after a gunman
shot 12 police officers, killing five in Dallas, Republican presidential
candidate Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton abruptly
canceled campaign events. Their Twitter accounts largely went quiet.
The shootings marked yet another convulsive event in the 2016 political
season, one in which Clinton and Trump have scrambled to find the right
response to terror attacks abroad, mass shootings at home, and protests
over police killings of African Americans.
Much of the violence, captured live on smartphones and endlessly
replayed on cable television news, has fueled Americans' fears about
their personal safety, polls show. It has evoked memories of 1968, when
civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Democratic presidential
candidate Robert Kennedy were assassinated in a turbulent era of
protests against the Vietnam war and racial segregation.
"We're seeing wild acts of gun violence and we are polarized in our
politics and in the public square," said historian Douglas Brinkley.
"Every 48 hours there seems to be some horrific event that jars and
jerks our consciousness into a new dimension."
Historically, uncertain times tend to push the party out of power.
Witness Republican Ronald Reagan's defeat of incumbent Democrat Jimmy
Carter in 1980 during the Iran hostage crisis, or Obama's victory over
Republican John McCain in 2008 as the U.S. economy collapsed.
But that may not be the case for Trump, who has yet to convince a
majority of Americans that his would be a steady hand at the tiller.
Trump's initial reaction to Dallas suggested he understands the stakes.
He issued a sober statement of unity that was unlike many of his public
utterances that are often derided by critics as hyperbolic or
"Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve
lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have
gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for
our children," he said.
"This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and
compassion. We will pull through these tragedies."
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE
With race relations becoming a more prominent issue in the White House
race, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a top contender to be Trump's
vice presidential running mate, told Fox News that Trump and his No. 2
can help broaden their appeal by going to inner cities, where many
African Americans live.In responding to the spasm of gun violence,
Clinton has called for more regulations on the gun industry and has
aligned herself with the Black Lives Matter movement, which campaigns
against violence against African-Americans.
In a round of TV appearances, Clinton said she had been working her
whole life to try to bridge the racial divide. Her comments follow the
police shooting of two black men in two separate incidents in Louisiana
and Minnesota over the past week. The Dallas gunman told police he was
angry about the killings.
[to top of second column]
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the
General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during
their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Charles
“I will call for white people, like myself, to put ourselves in the
shoes of those African American families ... who fear every time
their children go somewhere. I'm going to be talking about white
people,” Clinton said on CNN.
Democratic strategist Bud Jackson said she is hitting the right
"I don't think this is an issue that she needs to take advantage
of," he said. "In fact it would probably hurt her if she is
perceived as taking advantage of it."
But the demand for change is sweeping among voters. According to a
Reuters/Ipsos poll taken over the last five weeks, nearly two-thirds
of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track, reflecting
their general unease with the economy, terror threats and violence.
"Her challenge is to show she can cope with these issues and that
she would bring change and would not be the same," said presidential
historian Thomas Alan Schwartz.
Trump has said a Clinton win in the Nov. 8 election would amount to
a third term for President Barack Obama. Clinton has embraced many
of the policies of her former rival in the 2008 presidential
election and campaigned with him this week.
Lanhee Chen, who advised 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and
2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio, said a more civil discourse
in American politics would help to calm people's general fears.
"I think there's bigger issue around civility and rhetoric and
discourse and how our leaders appeal or don’t appeal to our better
angels. That’s really what this is about. I see this as an absence
of leadership all around."
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Ross
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