Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson has now pardoned the pair for their crimes, as he had previously promised he would. Both state and national Republicans were aghast the McCloskeys even being charged for their gun-waving, and the racist portions of the party—meaning pretty much all of it—claimed that even charging the Missouri pair for waving guns at marchers was a political move meant to punish conservatives.
It’s been easy to see why the McCloskeys achieved martyr status in Trump-era Republicanism. The incident was a perfect encapsulation of racist, paranoid, gun-obsessed conservative culture. It had everything:
- Republicans believe it is their right to point guns at Black Americans who come into their neighborhoods. This has been a common point of contention in recent years, with many new laws passed to make sure Republicans could keep doing it.
- Republicans believe the lives of protesters are worth less than the theoretical injury Republicans would incur if someone accidentally walked on their lawn. Again, not speculative: Hell hath no fury like a city council that hears an Occupy Something crowd has been using a public space too much or for too long.
- Republicans are deeply paranoid, and the mere presence of Black Americans in their neighborhoods is enough to make Republicans believe The Real Race War is about to happen and they must immediately grab the nearest loaded gun and start waving it around.
- Republicans tend to actually believe National Rifle Association magazine conspiracy articles warning that Black people are always this close to coming to your neighborhood to loot your belongings or marry your imaginary daughters or, again, walk on lawns.
- Republicans believe—and have written many letters and opinion articles so as to ensure nobody is left unclear on the point—that anti-police violence protests by Black Americans should be met with violence. If not by the police themselves, then by calling out the Army. If not by the Army, by patriotic “militia” members who appoint themselves to the task, ask their moms to drive them out to the protests, and start shooting people.
The McCloskeys’ few minutes of fame combined, again, every twitch of new conservative culture into one lump. They acted out of conspiracy-minded paranoia, absolutely sure that marchers walking by their house on the way to a protest elsewhere were probably coming to kill them because Jeebus Christ, how could you watch even an hour of Fox News without having that paranoia drilled into your paranoid conservative head? They immediately sought to “solve” the problem by threatening people with guns out of a belief that the Second Amendment was absolutely written into Constitution to make sure Americans could kill other Americans if Americans believed other Americans needed killing. Most of the McCloskeys targets that day were, of course, Black, and it has long been a staple of conservatism that Black Americans who go where they are not supposed to be or ask for rights they are not supposed to have must be retaliated against with physical force.
So yeah, this pair is the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of American sundown towns. It’s surprising the Missouri governor hasn’t yet ordered a bronze monument celebrating their act of moist-pants heroism. Make it into a fountain; like the eternal flame of other monuments, this one could depict a conservative pantswetting that would last for the rest of time.
There is one new Republican belief that trumps all the others, however, and it is the one dictating the Republican governor’s actions here. It is the most Trumpian belief; and the one the party has most internalized; and one of the defining features of any fascist movement as it looks, with admiring eyes, for heroes willing to commit “good” violence for the sake of the movement.
A core fascist tenet is that the laws of the state exist to constrain fascism’s opponents. The laws of the state do not apply to those inside the movement. The notion that an in-movement pair could be charged for the same actions that would indisputably lead to arrests if done by those outside the movement was from the outset met with disbelief and derision.
The McCloskeys aimed their guns towards Black Americans. Towards not conservative Americans. Towards uppity outsiders. That is, in conservative Republican pundit circles, among conservative senators writing op-ed letters, and in the conservative base, exactly the sort of people who guns should be aimed at. The McCloskeys chose the targets they were supposed to choose, so why should any of the usual laws apply?
The McCloskeys. Rittenhouse. Trump’s response to Black Lives Matters protest. Cotton’s response to the Black Lives Matter protest. The Capitol insurrectionists. Republican lawmakers voicing their outrage over the jailing of Capitol insurrectionists. The Republican Party has been increasingly clear in endorsing the notion that it is time to use violence to put the American other back in their place, and that if government cannot do it, there is no problem with individual would-be martyrs taking things into their own hands.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson plucked the McCloskeys out for special treatment to again make this point: It’s not illegal to do illegal things if you are doing it to combat Republicanism’s sworn enemies. The party will have your back if you try. Sending that message was a more important use of Parson’s pardon powers than any of the others he hasn’t gotten to yet, and you are allowed to notice that.