The Tyranny of Ideological Narratives

And why it may cost Democrats in Wisconsin

Protesters are gathered outside the Kenosha County Courthouse after a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

My latest, in Politico Magazine:

In Wisconsin, Democrats have a Kenosha problem — from the police shooting of Jacob Blake, to the protests and riots that followed, and now the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.

And it could cost them the state’s governorship and a senate seat next year.

Even before Rittenhouse’s acquittal on Friday, it was clear that the incidents in Kenosha were going to cast a long shadow over the 2022 elections in Wisconsin. But the verdict once again highlighted the deep partisan divisions and particularly the problems that Democrats face in the crucial battleground state.

Moments after the Rittenhouse verdict was announced, Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), issued a statement denouncing the acquittal. “It’s disgusting and disturbing,” he said, “that someone was able into carry a loaded assault rifle into a protest against the unjust killing of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man…”

The only problem? Jacob Blake was not killed (he was paralyzed), and he was not unarmed. He was, in fact, holding a “razor blade-type knife” when he was shot. And the “protests” also included riots, vandalism, and looting that caused more than $50 million in damage and destroyed many local businesses.

But Maloney’s statement (which he later corrected) reflected the tyranny of the powerful — and often misleading — narratives that remain central to the ideological battle over the events here.

Since the video of a police officer firing seven shots into Blake’s back went viral in August 2020 — a moment when anger over the killing of George Floyd was still at its peak around the country — much of the media and political world has insisted on seeing the incident through the prism of Black Lives Matter. More than a year later, Wisconsin Democrats remain committed to that template, even though much of the original narrative surrounding the shooting of Blake has been discredited by subsequent investigations.

Just last month, the Biden Department of Justice found that there was insufficient evidence that the police officer who shot Blake “willfully used excessive force.” That finding mirrored the decisions by the local district attorney, the state’s own Justice Department, and an independent review by the African American former police chief of the state’s most progressive city.

Read the whole thing at Politico.

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Speaking of Mandela Barnes

Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor is leading in both the polls and in fundraising in his bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Ron Johnson.

But, as NBC noted a while back, Barnes is a progressive true-believer, far to the left of the state’s narrowly divided electorate.

[By] branding himself a progressive, some observers say, Barnes could be getting in his own way. In Wisconsin, a purple state that is one of the most sharply divided in the U.S., a firmly progressive Democrat could hamper the party's appeal among the suburban and working-class voters the party needs to win a statewide race.

I’ve commented on this before:

“Wisconsin is on the razor’s edge and the margin of victory tends to be decided by a very small number of swing voters, who have recently, mostly been relatively centrist voters in the suburbs, so I’m not sure his formula is the right one,” said Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin and an editor-at-large at The Bulwark.

Sykes and others pointed to not only Biden’s victory last year, but to wins in recent months by centrist Democrats over progressive candidates in primaries in different parts of the U.S. In New York City, centrist mayoral candidate Eric Adams won over several popular progressives. In Ohio, congressional candidate Shontel Brown touted her loyalty to Biden to best former Bernie Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner.

Unlike many other Democrats this year, Barnes wears his wokeness on his sleeve. During a recent on-line candidate forum (which you can watch here at 1:33:38, Barnes says:

 "The reality is, the United States of America is the most wealthy, it is the most powerful nation on earth, and that is because of forced labor on stolen land. We have to teach the reality of why we are where we are or else people will just assume it just happened this way because of hard work because of pulling up by your boot straps."

You are of course, free to disagree, but I suspect that may not be an appealing message to Wisconsin voters next year.

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Another deplorable bites the dust

Via NBC:

Sean Parnell, a candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, suspended his campaign after a judge ruled Monday in favor of his estranged wife in a court fight over custody of their three children.

His estranged wife, Laurie Snell, had testified about abuse she said she and occasionally their children endured from him.

Awkward for MAGAWorld:

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“What we know so far about the five victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade.” Via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Every parade has an act that draws the eye, that brings a quick smile and a delighted laugh. 

An act like the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, who with their pom-poms, sense of humor and moxie have entertained crowds across the area for decades.

Founded in 1984, they usually performed 25 times a year, although they had to take a break in the earlier months of the pandemic.

"The Grannies are kind of a really tight unit," said Beth Krohn, a retired member of the group. "We used to call it a sisterhood."

On Sunday, the women were doing what they loved best: performing, providing entertainment and bringing joy to those gathered at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

But in an instant, when a red SUV roared down the parade route, several of the Dancing Grannies were tragically run down, with four fatalities.


Unfortunate bonus take:

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Quick Hits

1. How Trump Repeatedly Duped the GOP Elites

Amanda Carpenter writes in this morning’s Bulwark that Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book offers a modern tale of the definition of insanity.

If you listened to the hype, Peril seems like another in the parade of new books about Trump palace intrigue, bombastic personalities, behind-the-scenes controversies, disgruntled officials, and f-bomb-dropping pols. It is all that. But tucked in the book’s pages is another story—a story about how various elites kept getting duped by Trump and are setting themselves up as his stooges once again.

2. The Twisted QAnon Vigil Awaiting JFK Jr.’s Return

Don’t miss Thomas Lecaque in today’s Bulwark:

K Jr. has stubbornly refused to appear in Dallas, despite messianic predictions that the late scion of the Kennedy clan would return to the land of the living. But the members of QAnon—the Trump-era political conspiracy-theory-cum-cult—who gathered weeks ago in Dallas to await him did not go home. Many of them stayed at Dealey Plaza, one day making the shape of a giant Q, another day lining up to have Michael Brian Protzman, known as Negative48 on Telegram and other right-wing sites, with a bird on his shoulder, show them a nonexistent Illuminati pyramid on top of the Book Depository. The QAnoners attended a Rolling Stones concert and claimed that a number of dead famous people were in fact alive and there in disguise. And one of their followers reportedly offered them property nearby so that they can stay, permanently.

Protzman, who claims to base his predictions on gematria, a form of Jewish numerology, is not alone in prodding the Dallas QAnoners. Yesterday, a Twitter account named for—or pretending to be—John F. Kennedy Sr. asked for a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of his assassination:

They obliged, gathering at Dealey Plaza last night to sing the 1985 anti-famine anthem “We Are the World”—an incongruous choice of songs, perhaps, but one that certainly highlights the average age of the participants…

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Cheap Shots

The governor of Maryland would like a word.

The United States of Insanity.