Rod Dreher

Election 2020: Duck Vs. Rabbit

Oh what fun they’re having in downtown DC tonight:

I look forward to restaurant reviewers from NPR’s Code Switch team — the ones who brought us the sympathetic interview with the author who thinks rioting and looting is good — to explain how all the best joints feature progressives screaming at and abusing you:

Yes, the activist left continues to win hearts and minds — for Donald Trump.

The blogger Policy Tensor has a good analysis of the present moment, and how events in Kenosha have become a “Duck-Rabbit” for the left and the right. Here’s a Duck-Rabbit:

Some see a duck, and some see a rabbit. Policy Tensor says that’s how both political teams regard Kenosha. PT has a good survey of the fiercely opposite conclusions both sides draw when they see what happened there with Jacob Blake, and then with Kyle Rittenhouse. Excerpt:

Branco Marcetic dismisses Rittenhouse as one of “many thousands of misguided, wide-eyed kids out there who idolize police and genuinely think a career in law enforcement will let them do some good in the world.” It is worth our while to pause and examine the class bias inherent in the claim. In the working-class, becoming a police officer or a firefighter is a source of honor and respect in the community. With the neoliberal decline, following the Clinton betrayal, of industrial work that formed the backbone of the American working-class, becoming a soldier, a police officer, or a fire-fighter are some of the few avenues still open to working-class boys for a life of responsibility, dignity and honor. Dismissing the motivations of these ‘wide-eyed kids’ is thinly disguised class work.

That’s a great insight from PT. The Washington Post had some interesting details about Kyle Rittenhouse in this story. He lives in a small apartment with his mom, and dropped out of high school. He seems to have been bullied. He tried to join the military not long ago, but was rejected. He idolized the police and the military, this pudgy boy who didn’t even have a high school diploma, and couldn’t get into the service. Like I’ve been saying, I don’t consider Kyle to be either a hero or a villain; I consider his story to be tragic. But I think Policy Tensor is absolutely spot on to say we mock the dreams of young working class men like Kyle at our peril. He was, by most measures, something of a loser in our society. They didn’t have money in his family. His dad wasn’t in the home (and maybe not in the picture, I don’t know). He had been bullied at school, and had dropped out. He was trying to gain honor by serving in some capacity with the police. That’s can be a beautiful, heartbreaking thing. I don’t think it is at all “misguided” for young men like him to think being a cop can let him do some good in the world. As PT indicates, that is exactly the kind of thing that only an educated leftist would sneer.

Some of you conservative readers will disagree, but I still say a boy that young, with no training, had no business in Kenosha that night with a gun. That said, he was not there to push people around, to playact as a white supremacist militiaman or some cruel and malicious thing. He was there to try to protect good people from bad ones. There’s an image from earlier in the day, of Kyle washing graffiti off a building in Kenosha. Whatever mistakes he made, and whatever price he has to pay for them, he wasn’t on the streets of that city trying to hurt people or damage property — unlike those others. His intentions, however misguided, were honorable.

That’s how most conservatives see it. Most liberals see Rittenhouse as a devil. Or a rabbit. Policy Tensor goes on:

The Kyle Rittenhouse Duck-Rabbit is a window into the confrontation over American culture. As recently as mid-May, it seemed that the election would be a referendum on Trump — a contest that he was nearly guaranteed to lose, particularly because his handling of the coronapanic. That was indeed where things were headed before May 25, 2020. Since then, BLM has taken center stage.

No one has any doubt that BLM activists are Dems or that Dems are dramatically more sympathetic to BLM than independents or Republicans. If there was any doubt, it vanished after mayor after mayor, governor after governor, came out in support for BLM. They were thinking it was excellent politics since BLM was enjoying a surge in support in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. So, for better or for worse, the equation BLM=DEM is now pretty much backed into everyday perceptions.

PT says that two developments this summer have been important on this front. First, BLM made it clear that it’s not simply about addressing police brutality against black people. You have to take “the full Social Justice package” — including “defund the police,” which is not popular. Democrats find it difficult to disassociate themselves from the SJWs.

The second development is more important than the first. PT:

It was a development that could have been foreseen since it happens to every revolutionary movement. Namely, the balance rapidly shifted to violent extremists within the movement, with the result that, before we could say Mississippi, American cities descended into looting, violence and arson. However much Dems tried to distance themselves from the escalating violence on the streets, there was no way to sever the thread that linked Dems and liberal elites to the extremists burning down downtown Portland, Seattle and Kenosha.

This is really true. Joe Biden can and does condemn this violence, but it rings hollow with many people, because the Dems made themselves inseparable from BLM. I’m not sure how the Democrats can shake the rioters off as a political albatross. PT, once more:

The 2020 presidential election is no longer a referendum on Trump. Rather it has becomes closer to a referendum on the woke counterrevolution. This is not good news for Democrats. The shifting political context has, in fact, brought Trump’s reelection prospect back from the dead. Indeed, I am becoming more and more convinced that Trump will win again.

Read it all.

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