Leading expert from Western University available to comment on political protests in America

Matthew Lebo

A leading expert on American politics from Western University says President Trump and former Vice President Biden demonstrated starkly different reactions to ongoing political protests across the United States in the past 24 hours.

Matthew Lebo, the Chair of Western’s Department of Political Science, is available to comment on the protests and the potential for mass violence, which he says is something the United States has not seen in 50 years.

Lebo, who previously served as Chair of the Department of Political Science and Director of the Center for Behavioral Political Economy at Stony Brook University (New York), is an expert on the presidency, political parties, elections and Congress.

His book on the state of party politics in the United States, Strategic Party Government: Why Winning Trumps Ideology, written with Greg Koger, was published in 2017.

Lebo says:

“All over the United States, demonstrators have confronted police to protest the killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Many of these demonstrations have included further violence by police. There is also mass looting and vandalism — in many cases seemingly orchestrated by outside groups in order to invite police retaliation. The scope of the protests and the potential for mass violence is something the United States has not seen in 50 years. President Trump and former Vice President Biden demonstrated starkly different reactions to these ongoing political protests in the past 24 hours.

“Vice President Biden went to his local Bethel A.M.E. church in Delaware and engaged with black community leaders there. Mr. Biden’s connections to black voters were a key to his successfully capturing the Democratic nomination for president this year and something he needs to maintain for the November election.

“President Trump, on the other hand, did not meet with protestors or community leaders but, instead, broadcast a quick speech from the White House Rose Garden where he threatened a stronger military response to protestors. He then walked across the street to pose with a bible at St. John’s Church for a photo opportunity. On that spot only an hour before there had been a large and, by all accounts, peaceful demonstration. But the area had been cleared by police and National Guard units using tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Trump’s unspoken message seemed to be that he and the bible are what stands between his supporters and the angry protestors. The President’s threats to use the military to put down demonstrations is sounding alarm bells to many, including political scientists. These are authoritarian actions and every day the United States is losing more of its democratic underpinnings.”

Commentary reflects the perspective and scholarly interest of Western faculty members and is not an articulation of official university policy on issues being addressed.

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