Republicans for BLM and Other Things You Don’t Remember About the Summer of 2020
I can’t say I expected it to happen, but somehow it feels inevitable: Kyle Rittenhouse has endorsed Black Lives Matter. “I support the BLM movement,” the culture-war lightning rod declared on Fox News last night. Rittenhouse, whose politics before his trial seemed to be those of a back-the-blue conservative, added that “there’s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone.”
Rittenhouse, of course, is the teen who went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, during the unrest there last year, where he shot three people, killing two of them; he faced homicide charges, argued that he had acted in self-defense, became a cause célèbre on the political right, and last week was acquitted. Since he made those comments about Black Lives Matter, my social media feeds have been filled with both liberals and conservatives questioning his sincerity. And they could be right: It’s not hard to think of reasons why Rittenhouse would be trying to reinvent his public image right now. It might not seem like a great P.R. strategy to alienate your most devoted fans while your most devoted foes continue to hate you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a P.R. strategy.
But he could be telling the truth too. The guy just spent a year churning through the criminal justice system, and that’s been known to change a person’s perspective. And it’s easy to forget just how fluid people’s goals and loyalties were in the spring and summer of 2020—especially early on, when the George Floyd movement was spilling across the boundaries on our conventional political maps.
For example: There was a time when a majority of rank-and-file Republicans supported the protests.
Officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd on May 25, 2020. Not long afterward, in the first week of June, a Washington Post poll showed 53 percent of Republicans endorsing the protests sparked by the murder. A Pew poll conducted around the same time asked the different but related question of how people felt about the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM did not get a GOP majority, but it wasn’t a blowout either: 40 percent expressed their support.
This was after some of the marches had turned into riots. That Post poll even brought that up, asking if people saw the protests as predominantly peaceful or violent. The responses were split down the middle, with 44 percent saying peaceful and 42 percent saying violent. This wasn’t a purely partisan gap: 65 percent of Republicans went with “violent,” a clear majority but nowhere near unanimity. (I should add that calling the protests violent didn’t always mean blaming the protesters. In the same poll, 66 percent of the country assigned responsibility for the violence to neither protesters nor police, but to “other people acting irresponsibly.”) And the Post poll wasn’t out on a limb by itself. A roughly simultaneous survey by Data for Progress had 44 perc
Article from Reason.com