At 9:30 p.m., as hundreds of protesters marched down Kenosha’s streets to protest a police shooting that left 29-year-old Jacob Blake paralyzed, National Association of Police Organizations President Michael McHale took to the stage at the Republican convention to chide Democrats for disrespecting America’s police officers.
“Chaos results when elected officials in cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York make the conscious and very public decision not to support law enforcement,” McHale told millions of Americans who have watched as scenes of police violence consume our daily lives. “The violence we are seeing... isn’t happening by chance; it’s the direct result of elected leaders refusing to allow law enforcement to protect our communities.”
McHale, whose lobbying group represents over 250,000 active and retired police officers and their unions, broke with precedent to endorse Donald Trump this election cycle. And he spoke to Americans not as the voice of public servants sworn to protect, but as the leader of an openly Trumpist paramilitary force.
McHale’s appearance—and the silence on racial issues and police violence that fills every day of the RNC—makes clear that Republicans no longer feel compelled to make even token gestures towards solving the problems of Americans they dismissively consider other peoples’ voters. Protesters are to be mocked and derided. The victims of police violence are ignored.
Cloaked in the costume of law enforcement, McHale threatened dark times ahead if Americans elect Democrats. “I’m shocked and disgusted by how far left Joe Biden has swung and how anti-law enforcement he has become,” he said. “And Kamala Harris’ legislation to further restrict police would make our American communities and streets even more dangerous than they already are.”
Even more dangerous than they already are.
The RNC is a landscape full of effects without causes. Perils are alluded to, and struggling Americans acknowledged without any mention of what caused those challenges in the first place. And in the case of police violence and racial injustice, protesters without context. That’s because an honest discussion of these crises is also a stinging indictment of the Trump administration’s failure to lead.
It’s also a world apart from the majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—who support wide-ranging Democratic police reform proposals. While traditionally conservative voters look for a vision of what Republican police reform looks like, a Trumpified GOP rejects even the idea of police accountability as anti-American.
Vice President Mike Pence made it clear that instead of acknowledging the issues driving racial justice protests across the country, the Trump campaign intends to blame them for America’s coronavirus-related economic crisis.
“In the midst of this global pandemic, just as our nation has begun to recover, we’ve seen violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities,” Pence said. “The hard truth is, you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. Under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line.”
Jacob Blake, the African-American man whose near-fatal encounter with police sparked the riots Pence condemns, didn’t even merit a mention from the vice president. In Trump’s GOP, thoughts and prayers are reserved for the perpetrators of police violence, not its lengthy list of Black and brown victims.
On Monday, the GOP featured remarks by Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who gained national prominence after being arrested for waving loaded weapons at peaceful protesters assembled near their home. In remarks designed to terrify, the McCloskeys warned of rampant chaos in the streets: “What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country.”
Two days later Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Blue Lives Matter fanatic obsessed with the same “Thin Blue Line” culture Pence praised last night, drove across state lines with an assault weapon to strike back against the same Kenosha protesters vilified by RNC speakers. Rittenhouse shot three activists, killing two.
Not one Republican speaker condemned Rittenhouse’s act of domestic terrorism Wednesday night. Not one voice offered condolences to those who gave their lives in the fight for racial justice. In fact, only one Republican wanted to acknowledge Rittenhouse at all—Fox News host Tucker Carlson took to the airwaves to defend Rittenhouse, praising the shooter for “maintain[ing] order when no one else would.”
Beyond the appalling nature of Carlson’s idiotic comments is a truth about the modern Republican Party: law and order is synonymous with violence, and it’s something Republicans impose on others. In the twisted politics of Trump’s GOP, Kyle Rittenhouse upheld law and order by breaking the law and sowing chaos. He killed the right people.
The GOP believes it can craft a winning coalition by offering violent impunity to police departments and vilifying racial justice activists. In order to protect the rule of law, Americans must reject that fatal cynicism.