Two days after a pair of gun-toting white vigilantes got a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, a gun-toting white vigilante shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
These are not unrelated events, and it’s important that we all understand that.
Patricia and Mark McCloskey stood in front of their mansion in St. Louis with an assault rifle and a pistol June 28, and brandished them at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
I have absolutely no doubt that if two Black protesters had waived guns at the McCloskeys, they would have been arrested immediately, on the spot, and faced serious charges. In this case, it took a month – and immense publicity, pressure, and protest – before the two were charged by local authorities with “unlawful use of a weapon.”
And the Missouri attorney general is intervening to get the charges dismissed.
Meanwhile, they became Trump celebrities. The president said the two were “defending themselves against violent protesters,” although there is no evidence at all that any of the protesters, who included politicians and members of the clergy, were in any way violent.
At the convention, the McCloskeys stoked the racial fear that has become the defining message of the Trump Party.
“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country” Patricia said.
The Democrats, she said, “would bring crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. Make no mistake: no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
They live in a gated suburb, on a private street. They have tried to keep gay people out of the neighborhood.
But the overall, abiding theme of their talk, and of much of the RNC this week, was overt racism and an appeal to white people to take up arms against Black people and anyone who supports the Black Lives Matter and police accountability movement.
So that happened.
I don’t know how a 17-year-old kid got so crazy radicalized in the white supremacist world that he took up an AR-15 (and how does a 17-year-old get to walk around a protest with an assault rifle while there are cops everywhere, some of whom possibly thanked him for being there and gave him water) and opened fire on protesters.
But I do know that the Trump Party not only supports but encourages this kind of behavior, and is entirely responsible for what happened in Kenosha.
Two dead. One injured. A deeply disturbed kid in prison for murder.
This is Donald Trump’s legacy. But it’s also the legacy of every Republican who has signed on to the Trump Party and legitimized and empowered it. And they will have to own it for a long, long time.