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America’s Dark Moment

Countdown Journal: 67 Days To Go
August 27, 2020
America’s Dark Moment
KENOSHA, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 25: An American flag sticker is attached to the window of a store with a smashed window following another night of unrest on August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rioting as well as clashes between police and protesters began Sunday night after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back in front of his three children. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

So we wake up to this: Hurricane Laura makes landfall in Louisiana; a 17-year-old is charged with murdering two people in Kenosha during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake; NBA and MLB games are postponed after players declare a boycott, wildfires continue in California; the death toll from the coronavirus neared 180,000; an asteroid is speeding toward earth; and Vice President Mike Pence warned us all how awful things would be if Joe Biden was elected president.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 67 days to go until the election; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day

We were warned there would be carnage.

No, wait. Donald Trump promised he would end it.  “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump declared during his lightly attended inaugural address. “We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.”

But, here in Wisconsin, our “glorious destiny,” includes a state of emergency, a regression to atavistic tribal violence, and an open embrace of vigilantism by much of the right wing media.

Let’s start with this.

A 17-year boy armed with a rifle killed two people and wounded a third in Kenosha. Here’s the call to members of right wing militias to descend upon the city in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

And here is Kyle Rittenhouse on the night he killed two protesters. The NYT provides this moment by moment tracking of what happened that night.

It came a day after the RNC featured this couple from St. Louis, who had also brandished weapons at protesters. #MAGA?

Buzzfeed reported Wednesday that “the law enforcement–obsessed 17-year-old ” has “appeared in the front row at a Donald Trump rally in January.”

Kyle Howard Rittenhouse’s social media presence is filled with him posing with weapons, posting “Blue Lives Matter,” and supporting Trump for president. Footage from the Des Moines, Iowa, rally on Jan. 30 shows Rittenhouse feet away from the president, in the front row, to the left of the podium. He posted a TikTok video from the event.

You can find videos of the shootings on social media. It makes for disturbing watching. But so does this, which seems to suggest a good deal about the culture of the Kenosha police.

KENOSHA — Not long before Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who was with a self-described “local militia” throughout Tuesday night’s deadly protests, allegedly killed two people and injured a third with gunfire, video shows law enforcement giving Rittenhouse water and telling his group “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”

But this all gets worse. Reaction to the shootings that left two people dead quickly broke along partisan lines. The Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin state assembly, Robin Vos, explicitly blamed the murders “entirely” on the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

Gov. Evers had the chance to tone down the rhetoric right after this happened and what did he do? He inflamed the rhetoric. He actually made it worse. He then began by saying let’s see if we can send some troops that were too small 125 is nowhere near enough to quell the violence. He then doubled the number thinking that was the political thing to do instead of listening to the locals. And now we have two people dead. That is entirely on Gov. Evers shoulders because he refused to do what the locals asked for.”

This was breathtaking, but, it got worse.. After Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of murder, Kurt Schlichter, the author of several volumes of racist violence porn that fantasizes about an American civil war, was quick to rush to Rittenhouse’s defense.


And then there was Tucker Carlson

“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it. People in charge from the governor of Wisconsin on down refused to enforce the law. They stood back and they watched Kenosha burn,” Carlson said.

He then added: “So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”

We have officially entered a very dark place in the American story.

This will make it all even worse: the narratives of both the police shooting and the street murders are messy. As a result, both sides will have material to keep the fires burning.

A Wisconsin Department of Justice report last night said that Jacob Blake was “in possession of a knife” at the time he was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer.

That changes the whole story, right? Maybe. Maybe not.  Lawyers for Blake said: “Witnesses confirm that he was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way.”

Then there is Rittenhouse. Videos show him being chased by a crowd and his defenders insist that he was acting in self-defense when he shot three people. That would also change the narrative. But Allahpundit puts that defense into context.

The self-defense claim in the second clip is obvious. He was being pursued by an angry mob, which likely included people who’d already been rioting that evening, and thus had a reasonable belief that they were going to cause him serious bodily harm. But the reasonableness of the second shooting depends on the reasonableness of the first one, at the car lot, no? Imagine a school shooter on a rampage. He shoots someone dead in the hallway, then turns around to find a classmate approaching him with a knife. He shoots that classmate too. He doesn’t get to plead self-defense in the second shooting just because his classmate was prepared to kill him if need to be to stop him from murdering more people.

Will any of this make a difference in November? This NYT article suggests that it might.  so does this:

But Joe Biden seemed to strike exactly the right note.

So did Wisconsin’s Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin: “The vandalism, armed militia, gun violence and fatal shootings in Kenosha are not advancing the cause of racial justice in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Elected officials at the state and federal level must answer the call of peaceful protests and take action to bring about the change we need”

In contrast, Mike Pence:

There are 67 days to go.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.