What the Rittenhouse ruling and Republican lawmakers’ embrace of violence portend for the future of American democracy | columns | Orlando

What the Rittenhouse ruling and Republican lawmakers’ embrace of violence portend for the future of American democracy |  columns |  Orlando


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For those who remember the gruesome circus of the 2013 George Zimmerman trial, Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal felt painfully familiar.

Like Zimmerman, the self-proclaimed ranger who stalked and shot a black teenager, Rittenhouse claimed self-defense after provoking a confrontation. Rittenhouse, a white teen, took out an assault rifle to “defend” Kenosha, Wisconsin–a city 45 minutes from his home in Illinois–against a Black Lives Matter demonstration. After lying about his medical credentials and pointing his gun at a passerby, Rittenhouse shot one protester who chased after him, then another hit him with a skateboard, then shot an armed medic in the arm.

The “primary aggressors” are not entitled to claim self-defence. But the legal lines are so blurry that aggression lies in the eye of the beholder—in other words, who the system considers the “right” guard or the “right” victim. Even the three men from Georgia who murdered Ahmaud Arbery while conducting a “citizen arrest” for jogging while Black nearly escaped prosecution; Until video footage surfaced revealing what had happened, the police and prosecutor were happy to get the murder under the rug.

Another complication: Wisconsin law required plaintiffs to prove Rittenhouse did not act in self-defense rather than require Rittenhouse to prove he did, a steep hill to climb. So it was not entirely surprising that the jury found Rittenhouse’s behavior legally justified.

Most worrisome were conservatives who stumbled upon themselves to turn the proud wannabe boy into a hero—here again, unlike Zimmerman. After the sentencing, Rittenhouse dined with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and took a victory tour at his new friend’s show Tucker Carlson. Three Republican members of Congress –Madison Cawthorne, Matt Gates and Paul Gosar – they offered him internships. The types of far-right paramilitaries were semi-masturbating in their jubilation.

Armed vigilance has become popular on the right. So does political violence.

Earlier this month, a recording emerged of former President Donald Trump defending the January 6 rebels who chanted the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, saying that Pence had come: “People were so angry. … It makes sense that you’re supposed to protect. How You can – if you know the vote is fraud, right? – How do you pass a fraudulent vote to Congress? How do you do that? And I tell you: 50/50, it’s right down the middle for the top constitutional scholars when I talk to them. Anyone I’ve talked to Almost all of them agree with me at least to a large extent, and some agree with me a lot – because it passes a vote that they know to be fraudulent.”

Needless to say, every word in this quote is nonsense. But it is effective nonsense. More than half of the Republican Party approves of Trump’s lie, and party officials are turning his lies into action. The Republicans who run the Wisconsin legislature are trying to hijack the state’s election operations — if some succeed, even arresting members of a committee that has relaxed absentee voting rules during the pandemic — based on conspiracy theories about fraud.

Meanwhile, 30% of Republicans and 40% of those who trust far-right “news” sources say violence may be necessary to “save” the country. The few Republican House members who voted for President Biden’s infrastructure bill are facing death threats. Gosar – a white National Congressman from Arizona who wants to be Rittenhouse’s best friends – tweeted an anime video of himself killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Republican leaders did not condemn him. Jan. 6, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri tries to bolster his credibility by claiming masculinity—which is odd for a man who looks like tall cowardice.

Beneath these currents, there is an increasingly conscious shift among conservative activists and thinkers away from liberal democracy and toward a more authoritarian model—particularly that of Viktor Orbán in Hungary—that uses government to impose Western values. Like Rod Dreyer from American conservative David Brooks recently told about Atlantic OceanThe left (allegedly) controls the economic, cultural, and educational institutions. “We need to embrace the unapologetic use of state power.”

Mold is already eating us from the inside. For the first time, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance included the United States on its list of “declining democracies” in a report released Monday. Significantly, the United States, the bastion of global democracy, has fallen victim to the same authoritarian tendencies.

But this is where the Republican Party has been heading since the Gingrich Revolution. Its course accelerated after the wave of the Tea Party, then reached terminal speed during the Trump era. We are now adding to this stinky stew an overwhelming sense of injustice–hallucinations about lost elections, and clung to pearls about “wake up”–that justify violence as politics by other means.

In less than 14 months, this party is likely to control Congress.


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