Murdering Democracy in Kenosha
Common Dreams

No other president or presidential candidate than Donald Trump has so openly courted far-right violence.
Kenosha, Wisconsin
A man on the ground was shot during the third day of protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020. (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images).

By Joe Lowndes

Photos of the small “reopen America” protests, which have made the rounds on social media over the past week, have revealed a spectacle as cartoonish as it is macabre: a rogue’s gallery of right-wing groups coming together to share in the spirit of defiance and, presumably, tiny droplets of mucus and saliva. The protests (and their backing by deep-pocketed funders) invited many comparisons to the Tea Party movement of a decade ago. Unlike that movement, these small protests are likely to die out soon. Nevertheless, they have captured something vitally important about how the right is responding to this fraught moment in our recent history.

As jobless claims have soared past an astonishing 26 million with no end in sight, the Covid-19 pandemic may well push the United States into a profound and long-lasting economic crisis. The countless indices of human misery will put enormous pressure on political institutions that are ill-equipped to respond adequately. The onset of this immiseration has begun to propel bold ideas and movements from the left to demand a reorganization of the economy and a fundamental shift in political power. But the right is swiftly establishing its own morbid template for how to interpret and respond to both the pandemic and its economic effects.

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The first night of the 2020 Republican National Convention featured Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple famous for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protestors in front of their mansion in St. Louis. The next night, armed right-wing vigilantes confronted Black Lives Matter protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin where two people were shot to death and a third severely injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, a seventeen-year-old Illinois resident, was charged with murder.

In Tweets, public statements, and mass campaign emails over the last few months, Trump has repeatedly referred to those protesting police killings as dangerous criminals and terrorists. In doing so he has amplified the conspiracy theories of the far right, and authorized the violent stances of Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other organized paramilitary and individual armed volunteers who have shown up in greater numbers at Black Lives Matters protests in recent months.

No other president or presidential candidate has so openly courted far-right violence. The closest comparison would be segregationist third-party candidate George Wallace in the tumultuous election season of 1968. During the urban uprisings that rocked the US in the latter half of the 1960s, small armed right-wing groups formed to defend white communities across the country, reflecting Wallace’s (and then Nixon’s) calls for “law and order.”

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