Governor Tony Evers does not want President Donald Trump speaking in Kenosha on Tuesday, and he asked in a letter for the president not to visit.
I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state. I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.
It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma. Now is not the time for divisiveness.
Granted, Trump is quite capable of saying the wrong things during his appearance on Tuesday.
For example, Trump could say something like:
“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”
That rush to judgement came shortly after Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, and the riots soon followed Evers’ statement.
Or Trump could say something to add more fuel to the riots, like undermining the investigation:
“We don’t need an investigation to know that [Jacob] Blake’s shooting falls in a long and painful pattern of violence. And this is a pattern of violence that happens against black lives too often across this country.”
Or for that matter, Trump could make the mistake of echoing any number of Democrats in the state legislature who didn’t wait for the facts before condemning police.
After all, those kinds of comments were criticized by the Kenosha News in an editorial:
“On Sunday Evers sent an outrageous statement that fueled the flames by taking sides in an explosive situation in Kenosha that should go through the courts and to a jury.”
And across the state in the Lakeland Times:
As we watched the governor conduct himself — in horror — we saw not a leader who was working for the justice he says he savors, or for the businesses he says are his allies.
What we saw this week instead was a cheerleader for violence.
The Evers Administration would be hard-pressed to find anyone except his partisan supporters to defend his comments on the Kenosha violence. Worse, his slow response to the rioting has led to two deaths and a city begging for $30 million in state aid to help repair the damage to which Evers contributed.
So we can understand Evers’ reluctance to have the President of the United States visit a city that has so suffered under the governor. Trump might remind everyone that he offered aid but Evers turned it down, contributing to the disaster.
We should not expect a great speech from the president that will heal the divisions in our state. Frankly, his predecessors were much better at giving such a speech when it was necessary.
However, if Evers was really concerned about a public official’s speech on the Kenosha violence being counter-productive, he should try focusing on self-improvement.