Let me tell you a story. I have to go back in time a little, so bear with me here. Once upon a time, there was a candidate for president of the United States. He belonged to a Church of Christ congregation in Chicago. As an aside, this didn’t prevent others from calling him a devout Muslim, but I’m allowing myself to get distracted. This candidate came under fire because his minister had made statements in sermons that were perceived as anti-American and pro-terrorism.
Mind you, no one can prove that the candidate was ever in attendance for any of these particular sermons, so no one can prove that he had direct knowledge of anything. Still, this minister had spoken on behalf of the candidate in the past, so the candidate had to make a big speech about race to clear the air.
See, the problem is that when you have a surrogate in your campaign, you are responsible for whatever they say or have said in the past. At least that is what conservatives at the time wanted to us to believe. The candidate in question should have quit the church as soon as he found out about the comments. He should have publicly disavowed him in every way. In short, he should have investigated everyone he allowed into his circle.
See, there are a number of problems I have with the conservative movement. This is but one of them. They have an awfully short memory. They also have a huge victim complex. Here, we are seeing these two traits intersect in a way that is disgusting. It was okay to criticize Barack Obama for who he had in his life. Obama should have done a better job vetting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Having him in his life meant he agreed with those views and therefore must be radical. Is this ringing any bells?
Yet, those same people claim it is unfair to criticize Donald Trump based on some of the speakers he had at his own convention. See, they didn’t say anything at the convention that was objectionable. Shouldn’t that be the standard? Well, if it wasn’t the standard back in 2008, then it can’t be the standard now can it?
Trump and his team seem to suffer from the same disease as 2008 Obama. For all of his savvy, this is one area where Obama wasn’t savvy. He learned later that carrying the torch as the first African American president meant that he was under increased scrutiny. He had to watch what he said, how he said it, and who he allowed to be around him. It was a difficult lesson. It’s one the current president would do well to learn.
Let’s consider Abby Johnson. She spoke at the convention this past week. Her primary message at the convention was one of faith and anti-abortion. That’s normal for Republican politics. However, in the past she has trumpeted something called “family voting.” That’s the idea that instead of having each adult cast a ballot, the head of the household (the man) would speak for the whole house on election day. I’m sure that’s going to go over well when I mention it to my wife.
Yet, that’s just a minor case that is designed to get chuckles on social media. No one really takes that seriously. We had our laughs and moved on. It was similar to when Stella Immanuel spoke for the doctors in favor of using medicine that most of the medical community says isn’t effective and most studies demonstrate the same.
It quickly came out that she had some pretty radical views on religion. Does this impact her medical knowledge? Well, when someone says that some form of cancers are caused by demon sperm I’d say that’s relevant. More importantly though, if you are going to have someone speak for your point of view it would be good to know if that person has gone off the deep end.
Johnson and Immanuel had their fifteen minutes of infamy and now they are gone. The bigger issue is Mark and Patricia McCloskey. They demonstrate the danger that symbols can bring. Fortunately for Obama, no one ever acted on Wright’s comments. No one is going to be able to act on Immanuel’s comments and we sure aren’t going back to family voting. We can’t say that about the McCloskey’s.
I’ve talked about them before. For some, they are a symbol of racism. They were so threatened by people outside their home that they came out with a pistol and semi-automatic rifle. For others, they are heroes. They protected their home against the onslaught of would be protesters and rioters. We’ve covered all of that ground before.
What we haven’t covered here is the fact that they were holding their weapons incorrectly. Patricia McCloskey shouldn’t have had her finger on the trigger unless she was ready to fire. Mark was also holding his weapon in an unsafe way. Those subtle points dovetail into how dangerous it is to take matters into your own hands.
Let’s ignore for the moment their message at the convention. The fact that they were invited is tacit approval of what they chose to do. It’s a good thing to take matters into your own hands. In their case, the end result was just a few hundred memes on both sides of the aisle. However, when we start to include their message we see something else.
Democrats are invading our neighborhoods. They want to take them over to recreate them in their own image. That means destroying the suburbs with low income housing. It means constant protesting, looting, and violence. It will truly be American carnage.
Enter Kyle Rittenhouse. Did he shoot three people (murdering two) because of what the McCloskey’s said? I seriously doubt it. He is seen on the front row of a Trump rally in January. So, obviously, that message of American carnage had reached him earlier. It’s hard to say that one radicalized teenager is the responsibility of the president, his surrogates, or anyone else for that matter. However, those of us in opposition to the president have long maintained that his rhetoric was an invitation to some to take matters into their own hands.
Rittenhouse’s mother drove him there. So, this wasn’t the act of a lone teen that went against the wishes of his parents. At least she seemed to think it was perfectly alright for her underage son to go protect property that wasn’t there’s with a huge gun. We expect that kind of breakdown in logic from people with an underdeveloped frontal lobe. Seeing it from a full functioning adult is absolutely frightening.
In the abstract, we can argue all day and night about the legal responsibilities of highlighting vigilantes at the GOP convention. Can we draw a direct line from the McCloskeys to Rittenhouse? I’m guessing no, but then again I’m not an attorney or judge. If I sat on a jury seeking civil action against them I’d be listening pretty closely.
What there can be no doubt about is that our political leaders have a moral responsibility to do whatever they can to influence people to behave responsibly. When you “joke” about people ingesting bleach, you are bound to have some idiots out there give it a try. When you hold up a couple that terrorized people on the street with their big guns as American heroes you are bound to have someone try to do the same. The fact that this ended in death shouldn’t really be a shock.
I hate to ask what would Obama do. I will point out what he actually did. He made a landmark speech about race in America and his connection to it. In it he didn’t necessarily disavow himself from Rev. Wright. He just told us where he stood. The president and his other surrogates can do the same. My fear is that they already have. They agree with the McCloskeys and deep down may agree with Rittenhouse too. There is nothing more scary than that.