My Precious

“The Trump Republican sedition has far from ended, and the worst may be yet to come.” Sean Wilentz

I didn’t closely follow the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who shot three people, killing two, in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2020. I had no specific expectations of the outcome of his trial. What I knew about the case I learned from media accounts, namely, that Rittenhouse, 17-years-old at the time, went to Kenosha with an AR-15 assault rifle for the reported purpose of assisting law enforcement during demonstrations against police violence by Black Lives Matter. As any law enforcement professional will attest, controlling civil unrest takes training, and I’m fairly certain that Rittenhouse had none at all; to me he looked like a dorky kid who gorged himself on right-wing social media predictions of an impending race riot across the state line in Wisconsin. Media reports said Rittenhouse was driven from Illinois by his mother. What did Mother Rittenhouse say when she dropped her son off, “Have fun, Kyle, make good choices, and don’t forget to lock and load!”

Why isn’t Mother being investigated? Did she think little Kyle was toting a camera tripod or an umbrella?

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong reason. The kid had no legitimate reason for being in Kenosha during a time of high tension, and absolutely no reason for being armed with a military-style assault weapon. Two people killed, a third injured, and Rittenhouse strolls away free, acquitted on all five counts. From the clips I saw, the trial was something of a circus. The judge didn’t allow the two dead men — both white — to be referred to as victims. Here’s a question: if Kyle Rittenhouse was African-American, would the judge have ruled the same way, or would he have allowed the prosecution to use the label, victims? I think we know the answer. Had the finger on the trigger been dark-skinned, the whole affair would have turned out differently. No black teenager could have walked nonchalantly past police officers carrying an AR-15. Rittenhouse took a firearm he had no justification in possessing into a fraught situation. Are we surprised that the consequences turned deadly?

What happens now? Rittenhouse is in the process of transformation, from gawky kid to right-wing culture hero, a darling of the NRA, Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. He stood his ground and showed those Lefty-Communist-Pinko BLM demonstrators who bosses the streets of America. While he’s still a hot commodity, he’ll be trotted out at fundraisers, invited to Mar-A-Lago for a one-on-one with the Orange Menace, given a platform to spout his views, whatever they might be, and, who knows, maybe even encouraged to run for Congress in the near future. And why not? The litmus test in the Trump GOP isn’t complicated, it boils down to: Can you chew gum and act like an obnoxious dickhead at the same time? Rittenhouse might find himself in good company. Now that he’s an American hero, maybe he’ll find a girlfriend and get laid. On the first date he can take his girl to an indoor shooting range and then to a steakhouse for some all-American red meat.

The GOP is like a porta-potty that hasn’t been serviced in years. It smells, it leaks, it bubbles, it pollutes. If it would guarantee that he becomes Speaker of the House in 2023, Kevin McCarthy would gnaw off his own testicles. The boy from Bakersfield is as blinded by ambition as the creature Gollum was for the ring in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. “My precious gavel,” McCarthy whispers to himself late at night, “my lovely, precious gavel. We will be united soon!” In the meantime, he turns a blind eye to the mendacious behavior of shitbirds like Gosar, Greene, Gaetz, Jordan, Gohmert, and Boebert. McCarthy thinks the gavel will be his if he can only prove his Trumpiness every day. May he meet the same fate as Gollum.

Kevin McCarthy is hard to stomach, even as the lowliest backbencher from the Bakersfield oil patch, but McCarthy as Speaker is unimaginable, an insult to the institution. I hear the smart political money is on Trump Super-Ally Jim Jordan, should the GOP retake the House in 2023. Heaven help us. Reminds me of a question posed by Brian Klaas in his excellent new book, Corruptible: “Why are so many horrible people in charge?”

Brian Tanguay writes about politics, culture, and books. Co-founder of the California Review of Books and the long running blog, Shouts from the Balcony.