First level: “Black Lives Matter.” Good. Next level: “Black VOTES Matter.” Much better. Getting from one to the other is the trick. If Democrats can pull protests away from statue-toppling, defunding police and looting downtowns and onto constructive paths, they deprive Trump of law-and-order issues.

Democrats risk getting complacent from polls. Remember 2016. Their electoral gains — particularly in the Senate — depend on keeping protests peaceful and Black turnout high. Republicans want precisely the opposite.

One step is to curb the anarchic toppling of statues. Confederate generals’ statues deserve to be legally removed from state or municipal sites. They betrayed their country, broke their solemn oaths and fought to retain slavery. Their statues aim to perpetuate white power. No, they are not “just part of history” or “heritage.”

But where should this stop? Andrew Jackson owned slaves and initiated the Trail of Tears to remove Native Americans from land whites wanted. But he died in 1845, before the Civil War. So pull down his iconic horseback statue in front of the White House? What about his founding of mass-based democracy with the 1828 U.S. election? Counts for nothing?

Washington and Jefferson owned slaves but always felt bad about it and envisioned eventual emancipation. (Washington was the only one of eight slave-owning presidents who granted his slaves manumission upon his death.)

Vandals who topple and damage Columbus statues — even in Columbus, Ohio — offend Italian Americans. Want them to vote for Trump? Tear down statues of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt or the majestic Washington and Jefferson national monuments? Some propose it. Hard to tell if they’re exaggerating for impact. And change the name of the nation’s capital as well. Giving it back to Maryland would solve the statehood question.

Rage has appeared in America. Hannah Arendt explained how rage underlies revolution, which spins out of control into tyranny. The current enraged lunge for symbolic justice could lead to a second Trump term. Protest leaders, likely with nudges from the Democrats, understand this and urge restraint. (Indirect evidence: Most BLM demonstrators wear masks.) Several points are worth making.

Symbolic changes — renaming army bases and football teams — are good rallying points but do not fight legal and material disadvantage. If all statues were torn down, it would not help African American, Native American and Hispanic American citizens one bit. They would still face barriers in education, justice, hiring, housing and voting rights. Statues, standing or fallen, solve no problems. In 1991, excited Russians toppled most statues of their former Communist masters but now admit that it didn’t build democracy.

How many protesters really want to tear down statues and other symbols? Angry youths — a minority of them Black — portray themselves as righteous avengers, but they do not speak for most. Let’s see some valid poll numbers: How many demonstrators want property destruction? The anonymity of crowds can overcome inhibitions and good sense.

Statues of Confederate figures should, after public deliberation, be removed to battlefields or parks where their history can be explained but not celebrated. The parks must include long-overdue statues of African American thinkers and soldiers. Each state’s statue parks would become major educational and tourist draws.

Ironically, and probably disingenuously, Trump mentioned (briefly) the statue-park idea before the Democrats. (He may have thought he could build hotels nearby and make money.) Democrats should not cede this idea to Trump. Granted, it does not satisfy a radical minority, but it avoids getting locked into radical proposals, which is exactly what Trump hopes for.

Philosophically, mindless statue-toppling ignores human complexity. One finds moral flaws and contradictions in every major figure. Woodrow Wilson’s liberalism barely disguised his racism. LBJ’s voting and civil-rights acts were major steps, but he threw his presidency away in Vietnam. Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), celebrated for his 1966 Vietnam hearings, blocked efforts at racial justice his entire long political career. If political leadership requires moral purity, we would be leaderless.

If states and cities cannot say no to statue-topplers, the Trumpists will have a field day alleging Democratic weakness and inability to preserve law and order. Trump has resurrected his “American carnage” dog-whistle, which television coverage amplifies. The 1960s urban riots helped Nixon win in 1968. In the face of lawless disruption, voters choose safety.

Amid anarchy, Blacks suffer first and worst. Their jobs, schools, groceries and neighborhoods become trashed with no investors or tax base to restore them. Massive urban decline soon follows (think Detroit). Concentrated poverty fuels epidemics (think COVID). Whites, as before, will flee to the suburbs, reinforcing the pattern of self-renewing segregation.

The chronic wound of American racism justifies anger, but protesters must ask if they prefer to make allies or enemies. Control the rage before it controls you. By promoting “Black votes matter,” the Democrats can channel rage into constructive action and not only win the election but set a new course for American politics.