Republicans now openly calling for armed mob violence

Experts on the breakdown of democracy warn us to be ready for when the bright red warning lights start flashing.  And no sign is more ominous than when you have political leaders explicitly promoting violence against whole segments of the population.

That was precisely the message sent by Texas Governor Greg Abbott when he pardoned the convicted murderer of a Black Lives Matter protestor.  I looked a bit more deeply into this case in the hope, frankly, of finding some mitigating factor, some reasonable doubt – some excuse for this pardon other than to proclaim: “it’s open season on progressives, boys.”  But there was none.  This was a pretty open-and-shut, fairly adjudicated case of a politically motivated murder – which Abbott decided to overturn after being goaded to do so by the likes of Tucker Carlson.

Unlike Kyle Rittenhouse, the then-teenager who shot three men – two of them fatally – at a racial justice rally in Wisconsin in 2020, the defendant in the Texas case, Daniel Perry, was found guilty by a jury of his peers.  And no, we’re not talking about those liberal-by-definition New York City jurors that Trump and his cronies love to complain about – this was a jury of red-blooded Texans.

The facts of the case were depressingly clear.  Perry, an Uber driver, in July 2020 followed the increasingly common – and Republican-encouraged – practice of driving into groups of protestors. At that point, he came upon marcher Garrett Foster, whom he shot to death.

Now, the only thin reed upon which right wingers have to hang their defense is the fact that the victim, Foster, was open-carrying an AK-47 at the time of the incident.  The hypocrisy of a party that has spent decades touting unfettered gun rights – to the point of Republican U.S. Representatives wearing assault weapon lapel pins on the floor of Congress – saying that progressives deserve to be shot if they have a weapon in their hands is, well, just breathtaking.

Careful accounts of the trial have noted that multiple eyewitnesses stated that Foster did not raise or point his rifle at Perry while only Perry and his defense attorneys claim otherwise.  Eyewitnesses versus a defendant trying to keep his butt out of jail – hmm, tough call there!

The most damning part was actually excluded from trial but released later – a full 82 pages of Perry’s social media messages in which he made or promoted endless racist slurs and made statements like “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

See what I mean by open-and-shut case?  The justice system worked and that should have been the end of it.

But that’s the point at which Tucker Carlson, then still at Fox, attacked Abbott for allowing the cold-blooded murderer of a progressive protestor to be convicted without a fight.  And like a well-trained dog, Abbott responded with a tweet stating “Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney…I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”

Take just a moment to gawk at the sheer, incoherent nonsense and dishonesty of this statement. “Jury nullification” is the practice of jury members declaring a defendant innocent even when they know he is guilty, as a way of protesting against the criminal justice system. What the hell does that have to do with a case in which a jury found the defendant guilty?  Abbott, by the way, is a former state Supreme Court justice and attorney general who surely knows better.

Furthermore, “Stand Your Ground” cannot be a defense when there is nothing to stand your ground against – you can’t just shoot and kill a victim who does not threaten you.  The clear and disturbing message here is that the sheer existence of members of the political left peacefully protesting is itself a threat justifying right wingers in actually shooting such progressives to death.

The pretense for this pardon could not be thinner. Abbott acted after his self-appointed parole board recommended it – but that board, in an empty three-paragraph statement, did not give a single reason for its recommendation.

So, ultimately, there was no remotely reasonable justification for this pardon.  That leaves only one explanation – it was a political act. And I do not see any way to read this political statement other than to reward the murderer for what he did and to encourage more MAGA types to take up arms and use the threat or reality of violence to stop members of the left from peacefully expressing ourselves.

You’ll know that fascism has arrived at our shores when you have a major political party deciding to throw aside the legal and moral norms and constraints of democracy in favor of outright mob violence as their favored form of political expression.

And that is exactly where we are . . . Republicans calling for mob violence against anyone they don’t like.  Someone needs to remind Republicans that the Second Amendment applies to E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. — including us liberals.