After his recent acquittal, the American Right continues to lionize Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenage vigilante who traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin during unrest in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse claimed to be there in order to protect property and provide medical help. He armed himself with an AR-15 before shooting three people, killing two of them, later arguing he acted in self-defense.
In the days since Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts, the far-right has leapt to promote him and his actions. At least four members of Congress are publicly offering him positions on their teams. Others are encouraging others to follow Rittenhouse's lead. Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, praising Rittenhouse, encouraged his supporters to remain "armed" and "dangerous." GOP Congresswoman and prominent conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene called on her Twitter followers to buy AR-15s.
Now J.D. Vance—an author and candidate for an Ohio seat in the U.S. Senate—has joined the jangling chorus of Republicans singing Rittenhouse's praises and encouraging the "virtues" of vigilante violence.
Alongside a picture of Rittenhouse marching in the streets with an assault rifle, Vance said:
"Instead of saying, 'Isn't it good that a 17 year old raised by a single mother made good decisions and decided to be a positive force in his community,' they slandered and lied about him. They treated basic manly virtue as white supremacy. ... It's about what kind of young men do we want to raise in our communities, what kind of virtues do we want our leaders to promote? Certainly not the people who are burning Kenosha, Wisconsin down. We want to promote the types of virtues that exist in Kyle Rittenhouse."
This is only the latest development in Vance's continued rightward swing. Once thought to be a moderate, Vance has defended the white supremacist "great replacement" theory and embraced fascist talking points, like calling professors "the enemy."
People found his comments on Rittenhouse revolting.
More broadly, the GOP's rush to beatify Rittenhouse has many Americans deeply concerned.
Vance's biggest competition in the GOP primary for Ohio's Senate seat is Josh Mandel, who also praises Rittenhouse.