In the popular conservative imagination, Rittenhouse has become more than just a teen who did something regrettable in the process of defending himself. By killing two protesters at a protest for Black lives, he became a righteous crusader for the Americans who really matter. Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Rittenhouse “had to maintain order when no one else would.” Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi called him “a little boy out there trying to protect his community” and “mitigate the chaos out there.” Conservative writer Rod Dreher maintains that “Rittenhouse did no wrong”—he was ridding Kenosha of “the enemy of civilization,” the people “vandalizing, burning, and looting.” Trump supporters have called him a “hero” and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support his legal defense.
This applause for the killing of the right’s political nemeses is everywhere these days, popping up wherever the GOP can be found. It was there in one of Trump’s first tweets about the George Floyd protests: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” It was at the Republican National Convention, which honored Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a random St. Louis couple who earned a moment of fame for threatening protesters with guns, as esteemed representatives of the party. It’s in ads for Republicans like Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whose recent TV spot suggests she’ll “eliminate the liberal scribes,” and QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, who posted a photo of herself brandishing an assault rifle next to images of Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. “Squad’s worst nightmare,” it read.