The Rittenhouse Peace Dividend

With his tie removed, attorney Mark Richards spoke in calm, sober terms following a career triumph. 

“They wanted to use Kyle for a cause,” Richards told reporters. “And I don’t represent causes. I represent clients. And the only thing that ended up mattering to me was whether he was found not guilty. . . . I told him when I first met him . . . that if he was looking for somebody to go off on a crusade, I wasn’t his lawyer.” 

Rittenhouse himself, upon learning of his acquittal, did not high-five his attorneys or revel in the victory. A flood of suppressed feelings finally burst through the calm exterior he maintained in the nearly three-week ordeal. 

Rittenhouse’s attorney has it exactly right. Friday’s verdict in Kenosha was not a political win for the Right. It is a routine application of black letter law to a clear-cut case. The victory and praise belongs to the nonpartisan administration of justice in a far corner of this country. It doesn’t belong to conservatives who are rushing to harvest notoriety from the boy’s tragic ordeal. 

The jury pool was, like Wisconsin itself, undoubtedly, bipartisan with both Black Lives Matter sympathizers and Back the Blue conservatives. In a miracle of American civics, they nevertheless united to resist relentless political pressure from television, print, social media, and the shouted slogans penetrating the walls of the courthouse itself. Rittenhouse didn’t win because the jury wanted to help the Right win in 2024. And it cheapens the moment to suggest conservative politicians had anything to do with his acquittal. 

The prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the young man did not use reasonable force to protect himself. Rittenhouse’s lawyers resisted making political arguments to simply spotlight the already gaping holes in the prosecution. They played the ball, not the crowd.

The verdict yielded a dividend of peace almost immediately. Looting and rioting in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland were the exceptions that proved the rule. Those cities had already abandoned their citizens to criminals and mobs. But the streets of Kenosha and almost all other American communities remained peaceful

The awful snake of political violence wielded two poisonous fangs to make the riots possible: first, a media outrage machine to whip up the mob with lies, and, second, captured local governments that prevented police from interfering with the mayhem. In spite of more cable television hysterics about race and vigilantism, the mobs largely stayed home Friday night. The racial narrative that so reliably activated mobs in 2020 seems to have worn out from overuse. 

As for the second fang, the Rittenhouse precedent means leftist politicians can no longer guarantee safety for rampaging mobs who hunt down and beat their political targets. The Rittenhouse prosecution tried to tell Americans (well, deplorable Americans at least) that we all have to take a beating sometimes. No, we don’t. 

In the Washington Post, no friend of the Right, libertarian Megan McArdle wrote

Yet whether or not you think he presented a legitimate claim of self-defense in his now-concluded murder trial, Rittenhouse is not the caricature the left has made of him. When on Friday afternoon the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all counts, it wasn’t yet another triumph of white supremacy, aided by a biased judge. It was the American justice system working as it should: giving the benefit of the doubt to a defendant who was dangerously unwise but didn’t clearly commit murder.

Richards’ apolitical style, and results, contrast sharply with opportunists such as Sidney Powell, whose politicization of the Michael Flynn case clearly contributed to the very unsatisfying outcome. Powell hurt Flynn by making his case a political football in some great, vaguely defined crusade. 

When the next controversy erupts, we should be careful about trusting the loudest and earliest voices.

There are so many lessons to be learned from the Rittenhouse case. But one that can be put to use immediately is to resist race-baiting and political grandstanding. The Rittenhouse case, at its core, had nothing to do with politics or race. It was a murder trial in which the defendant credibly argued he used lethal force to defend himself. Rittenhouse did not go free because he convinced the Republican jurors to agree with him. He prevailed because of the rule of law. From school boards to courtrooms, to corporations, and even the Thanksgiving dinner table, we need to remove the politics rather than trying to change them. 

The legacy media and tech have again covered themselves in shame by censoring and canceling any support for Rittenhouse. The relative absence of riots in spite of their best efforts can be interpreted as growing political fatigue and an increasing awareness that the media distorts the news to stoke violence. 

Riots in America will be less likely as a result of the Rittenhouse trial. Like the brave members of the Rittenhouse jury, Americans are beginning to find the courage to fight for a return to normal.

About Adam Mill

Adam Mill is a pen name. He is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. He graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri. Mill has contributed to The Federalist, American Greatness, and The Daily Caller.

Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

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