Good Friday Morning, and welcome to what feels like a return to March. That’s the main thought I’ve had this week watching the rioting pick back up, two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and sports leagues shutting down — again. All the news, all the events, everything feels like the last two weeks of February or the first couple of weeks of March to me. Right before the shutdowns began in earnest. Maybe it’s PTSD. But as I was telling a friend this week, it just feels like the country is on the precipice again and events combined with attitudes are going to shove it over that ledge.
I’ll get more into those thoughts below. It’s a little bit of a different week this week. I had intended to write about the Republican Convention, and I will below. But there’s simply been so much news this week, that I’m going to talk through events this week. A throwback issue of sorts, where I hit multiple topics. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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Trump needs to stay on message at the GOP convention – The Conservative Institute.
It’s still Barack Obama’s party. But for how long? – The Conservative Institute.
The elements of our political discontent continue.
As I said at the intro, it feels like we’ve returned to the spring of 2020 when this crazy year truly began. I’m not counting impeachment just because that — bizarrely — feels normal by comparison. But it is worth remembering that Nancy Pelosi (and Harvard’s Laurence Tribe) threatening to withhold the articles of impeachment kicked off this year. It’s been wild ever since.
On June 1st, just days after George Floyd’s death and the protests began, I wrote a column for the Conservative Institute titled: “The elements of our political discontent.” I identified several key trends that were driving everything in our country. My conclusion then was:
The bottom line is that while the specifics may be different, the prevailing cultural and political winds of today have created the conditions necessary for an explosive weather pattern for the remainder of 2020. We don’t know what or whether anything will happen, but it is clear that the atmosphere is heavy with the elements required for intense storms. It won’t take much to set off a major event, either, as the populace is on edge and on hair-trigger alert.
Take your pick of metaphors. Storms, sitting on a precipice, or the country is sitting on kindling waiting for a match. The amount of conspiracy theories roaming the land has increased exponentially, everything from QAnon on the right to the USPS and related ideas on the left. Trust is low, emotions are high, and we keep rolling into more explosive news cycles each week. And I know we haven’t even touched a potential bottom, we’re nowhere close to the end of the 1960s/1970s divisiveness:
“According to FBI statistics, the United States experienced more than 2,500 domestic bombings in just 18 months in 1971 and 1972, with virtually no solved crimes and barely any significant prosecutions.”
Do you know what we’d called that today? Domestic terrorism. These events aren’t ancient history. As these protests and riots groups become more radicalized, and they start encountering stiff resistance as happened in Wisconsin this week, the risk of radicalization and worse violence goes up. And I’m concerned for this potential for radicalization because of what we’ve seen in Wisconsin and Minnesota this week.
Violence erupts in the midwest.
Three different events in Wisconsin and Minnesota have caused an avalanche of consequences. I’m going to hit each one of them in quick succession. I’ve seen the videos on all these events.
The video that went viral Sunday showed police shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man who lives in Kenosha, Wis., seven times in the back. In the video, Mr. Blake is walking away from officers with weapons drawn as bystanders yell in the background.
Mr. Blake walks around a gray SUV, opens a door of the vehicle and leans inside when an officer grabs the tank top he is wearing and shoots him from behind. Several officers have their weapons drawn. An officer can be heard screaming, “drop the knife,” but it isn’t clear from the video if Mr. Blake is holding anything. The shooting spurred protests in Kenosha that have persisted, but have become peaceful after some initial violence.
On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said that Mr. Blake admitted having a knife in his possession.
Police are keeping him handcuffed in the hospital. It’s very early, but the police action here seems excessive with the seven shots. But with the knife and admission there, not wildly irresponsible behavior like what we’ve seen with George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. And what I mean by that is that I suspect the officer involved will end up getting cleared eventually, which will trigger a wave of second protests. That’s a preliminary conclusion, though, and I believe more evidence/facts will clear up what happened.
That shooting spurred the protests and riots which continue and led to Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, killing several people. The way the media has covered this story makes it sound like he was a white nationalist firing off into a crowd. That’s not what happened. It’s not entirely clear what happened at every stage. You get that from reading the five-page criminal complaint by Kenosha Police.
This is a difficult case because, when you watch the video and read reports of what happened, there’s a strong case, at least on the first shooting, that it was a case of self-defense. The guy who gets shot first, Rosenbaum, is very clearly instigating conflict with Rittenhouse. That’s why the charge here is a lower one of “Reckless Homicide.” Rittenhouse will have self-defense claims on the other killings too, but I’m not sure self-defense claims are as strong on those.
The New York Times did some excellent work stitching together and syncing all the videos from that night. One of the main witnesses and journalists on the scene was a guy for the Daily Caller. When you read the main witness account, he’s the one you’re hearing, and he has a lot of the video evidence the police used. And when you combine the police complaint with the NYT story, there’s a story of self-defense and confusion there that aren’t as clear as people are saying.
And again, because people are hardening into narratives instead of facts, that’s what drives news coverage. If Rittenhouse sees some of those charges dropped or bargained down (which I suspect, some of those are easier to prove than others), you’re going to see more outrage. They will claim injustice here because they’re focused on narrative over facts.
Finally, you had the shooting in Minneapolis. Social media was all abuzz that police officers shot a man in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. That accusation and video of the man dying went viral across social media, and then protests and riots began. Police had a video of the man taking his life. In an attempt to quell social unrest, they released the video to the public. Local media reports are this:
As officers approached the suspect, the suspect produced a handgun and took his own life. Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder said people began to live stream to social media that officers had shot the suspect in the head. Elder said that information is false and police have surveillance video of the incident taking place.
The video, a surveillance camera owned by the city, shows a man in a white T-shirt, wearing a black backpack and a hat.
“He appears to have seen officers approaching. He turned into a doorway of a building, produced a handgun, put it up underneath his chin. He then adjusted his stance, and shot himself underneath the chin closer to where it meets the neck,” Elder said.
I haven’t seen whether or not this has quelled riots yet. But protestors had already started looting that area before the video got released. And it has turned Minnesota back on its head after the George Floyd protests had begun to calm down. The far-left progressive mayor of Minneapolis went from trying to march with and reason with the protestors in the early summer, to now calling for the National Guard. Attitudes are shifting quickly, and it’s not political for the politicians in these cities.
We have to keep competing ideas in your head with these events. It is simultaneously true that we need reforms on policing, and the events of the last few days may not be protest-worthy. I’m very open to things like 1) Ending qualified immunity, 2) Ending public-sector police unions, 3) Malpractice insurance for police officers and more. The events of the past two weeks don’t change that. I wrote about potential reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death. I’m not convinced these shootings fall into the same bucket. And if they do, it’s clear we need to get more evidence and facts first.
We can’t allow these events to prevent seeing the need for real changes to policing. People like to pretend that these are mutually exclusive ideas. They aren’t. We have to stay humble and wise about what we do and do not know. We need the law to work towards justice and to work on reforming that system. If we allow events to dictate what and when we believe something, we believe nothing at all.
One last thing: the politics on Black Lives Matter, police reform and these protests and riots is changing rapidly. Nationally, support for BLM has dropped back to pre-George Floyd levels. It’s underwater in these Midwest states getting rocked. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, more people are opposed to these movements now than for them. Democrats realize this now. The New York Times, Politico, and the Bulwark all posted pieces on the same day warning that polls and anecdotal evidence showed people were moving towards Trump in these states. I recommend the NYT piece; it is jarring to read in a paper like that. They get quotes from several Wisconsin voters who are drifting to Trump over this one issue.
That’s why Biden delivered a statement. And that’s why you’re seeing Democrats in national media start to freak out and try to push any narrative to prop up the movement. People don’t like having their cities attacked. I’m in a private Facebook group of older gamers, mostly all far-left liberals. One of them posted a long rant in the group that he was livid that Democratic leadership in his state was doing nothing to stop the destruction. He was looking at getting a CCW in Wisconsin for work. There are 5 million new gun owners in America this year alone, he’s not alone. Democrats are losing momentum on this issue. The worse these riots become, the more it helps Trump. And I think it’s going to get worse and that’s not a good thing for the health of the country.
Thoughts on the Republican Convention.
Something I learned this year: when watching the conventions, watch them on C-SPAN (live streams on Youtube). No interruptions. No commercials. No dumb pundits were jumping in, just everything the conventions do and nothing else. This ended up being necessary for the Republican convention. After Trump’s speech, you got to watch him spell out his name in fireworks over the Washington Monument. Then Christopher Macchio, an opera singer, regaled the audience with his renditions of Nessun Dorma, Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen), Ava Maria, and God Bless America.
Comparing the Democratic and Republican conventions, I’d put it like this: Democrats had better primetime speakers. Republicans had better regular people speeches. Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, and even Joe Biden all gave great speeches. Republicans had memorable everyday Americans speaking. Democrats relied heavily on Hollywood star power, which was off-putting. At least to me.
Republicans had a better convention. It was just a much higher production and put everything Democrats did to shame. The decision to give Pence, Ivanka, and Trump an audience was smart because it made their speeches better. Democrats erred in not doing the same for Harris and Biden. Trump, in particular, took a while to work into form. Only Senator Tim Scott truly stood out to me on the GOP side of primetime speakers. Pence and Trump gave fair speeches for them, but they weren’t great.
If you didn’t watch the Republican convention, here are my top moments/speeches (in no particular order):
- Ann Dorn’s speech about the death of her husband. This was probably the biggest gut-punch, emotional moment of either convention. I don’t think anything else touched it.
- Alice Johnson, who was pardoned and her case got pushed by Kim Kardashian.
- Jon Ponder’s story and the surprise pardon Trump gave him.
- Kayla Marsh’s parents honoring her memory and legacy.
- Sister Deidre Byrne. Quite simply the best pro-lief speech at the convention, and one of the best speeches period. Also, read this woman’s bio. Tell me, is that not the most awesome Nun bio you’ve ever read?
- Trump hosts a full naturalization ceremony in the White House. New Americans! These get me every time.
- Senator Tim Scott’s speech. A great address on its own, and his opening bid for 2024.
- Nikki Haley’s speech. The pundit class thought it was an incredible speech. I thought it was above average. I don’t see it as a career launcher, though. Strong VP candidate. She has work to do if she’s going to be a 2024 contender.
- South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s speech. On pure substance grounds, this was probably my favorite speech of the week. Her attack on technocrats was right up my alley. I’m now a huge fan.
- Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron. I highly recommend watching this speech, because Daniel Cameron is the next Governor OR Senator OR BOTH of Kentucky. I fully understand why he won his race by 16 points. He has the brightest stars of anyone at this convention. If there were an audience, he’d have brought the house down.
- And I couldn’t find a video of it because it just happened, but Trump 100% shot off fireworks that spelled out “TRUMP 2020” over the Washington Monument. Here’s a gif of what happened. This is now a new bucket list item for me to have my name shot off in fireworks. Except I’d go full name.
To me, the three big names to watch are Tim Scott, Daniel Cameron, and Kristi Noem. They all have bright futures in the Republican Party and represent the next wave of talent. The decimation of the Democratic Party during the Obama years is still showing on this front for them. They lack a deep bench in many of these states. Democrats will build back some from 2018, but the elections of 2010-2016 were extremely unkind to the Democratic Party’s bench.
The million-dollar question is: will the conventions matter? It doesn’t appear they mattered for Biden. And the preliminary viewing numbers for the GOP convention weren’t great. DC conventional wisdom says they don’t matter right now, and I’d tend to agree with that. BUT, I do think the polls will narrow after the convention, and people may misread it. My theory is the polls will narrow because of these protests and riots. But that’s just a hunch right now, and I could be off (see, for example, how DC protestors treated those leaving the convention here and here).
Either way, the Republican Party’s future is bright, and anyone preaching doom and gloom for the future can only be correct in the near-term. Long term, there’s young talent to carry the GOP for years to come.
Links of the week
How Chaos in Kenosha Is Already Swaying Some Voters in Wisconsin: As residents see fires and looting, some worry that local Democratic leaders are failing to keep control of the situation. – Sabrina Tavernise and Ellen Almer Durston, The New York Times
‘It’s playing into Trump’s hands’: Dems fear swing-state damage from Kenosha unrest: Some Wisconsin Democrats worry that the images of violence and destruction will turn suburban voters against the party. – Natasha Korecki, Politico
Is Kenosha a Warning for the Biden Campaign? Listening to swing-state voters in Arizona and North Carolina. – Sarah Longwell, The Bulwark
Stop Downplaying the Violence in Our Cities – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Blanked-Out Spots On China’s Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang’s Camps: China’s Baidu blanked out parts of its mapping platform. We used those locations to find a network of buildings bearing the hallmarks of prisons and internment camps in Xinjiang. Here’s how we did it. – Alison Killing, Buzzfeednews
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Democrat Watching RNC Unsure Who This ‘God’ Guy They Keep Mentioning Is – The Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!