Kyle Rittenhouse and the Left’s Terrifying Assault on Due Process

They want revolutionary justice. The legal system’s verdict will be supplanted by the people’s judgment.

The unhinged reaction from the left to Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal last week is easily dismissed as a glimpse into the rancid minds and rabid hearts of the ideological brigands of modern progressivism.

But it may offer clarity about the real threat posed by the Democratic Party and its fellow travelers to the values and institutions that have made America the most successful democratic republic in history.

With varying degrees of apoplexy, from President Biden on down, the party’s leaders and its allies emphasized their dismay with or rage at the decision by 12 of Mr. Rittenhouse’s peers, after due deliberation, unanimously to find him not guilty of first-degree murder and lesser charges in the killings of two men and wounding of a third during the August 2020 riots in Kenosha, Wis. 

Mr. Biden, proving himself once again the consummate moral weakling, first declared his respect for the jury’s verdict, then pronounced himself—no doubt after consultation with his handlers—“angry and concerned.” 

While the follow-up statement paid lip service to the idea that a jury’s decision should be respected, the more striking message was that remarkable emotional response to its unanimous decision. 

The president’s politically motivated disregard for the rights of accused defendants is well documented by now. He had already included the young man among a video montage of “white supremacists” during his memorably “healing” campaign for the presidency. He also told the nation he was “praying for the right verdict” as the jury deliberated in April before convicting Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Running commentary on the guilt of criminal defendants is despicable when offered by barroom braggarts, but when it comes from the most powerful man on the planet it amounts to reckless endangerment of the rights of his fellow citizens.

But that’s the point. 

In the minds of the ranting radicals of the Squad or MSNBC, dimly repeated by the president, these so-called rights—presumption of innocence, due process, trial by jury, proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, etc., are not the bedrock legal protections against overweening authority the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence has deemed them to be. In the minds of the regnant left when they find the defendant unsympathetic, they are inconveniences, fetishized excrescences of judicial process that obstruct and subvert the larger and more important objective of social justice. In this increasingly popular account on the left, they are the armor with which the capitalist white supremacists protect their hegemony. As such they can be dismissed.

And so people like House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler,the Democratic congressman, his own intellectual vacuity helpfully filled in by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, can demand that Mr. Rittenhouse face further prosecution under spurious civil-rights precepts designed to undo the principle of double jeopardy. 

So too do the president and his party demonstrate disdain for other niceties of the law: extending the Covid eviction moratorium Mr. Biden knew was unconstitutional, imposing a blanket vaccine mandate on employers in the face of widespread advice that it wouldn’t pass legal muster.

It’s hard to resist the conclusion that the intention behind the denunciation by some of the left of the Rittenhouse verdict reflected an even darker instinct. Though the president himself called for restraint, some of the loud condemnations sounded like incitement of more of the kind of behavior that characterized the Kenosha riots in the first place. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri tweeted: “The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action”—just as California’s Maxine Waters had promised unrest if the Chauvin verdict went the wrong way.

This is what the pernicious doctrines of the modern progressive identity left look like in practice. The “critical theory” they subscribe to says real justice cannot be delivered by a court, presided over by a judge whose outcome is determined by a dispassionate jury, since the entire structure is itself the product of racism, oppression and discrimination.

What they want is revolutionary justice. The legal system’s verdict will be supplanted by the people’s judgment so that someone like Mr. Rittenhouse will pay for his crime of defending himself and the property of others against the people’s paramilitary.

These same people professed outrage when a Republican-supporting mob attempted to subvert a constitutional process. Genuine democrats condemn both sorts of lawlessness.

Juries sometimes reach the wrong verdict. But no one who watched critical phases of the Kenosha trial can honestly assert that the evidence proved the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Far from representing some malign flaw in the legal process, it showed the system working at its best.

If the left’s reaction to this case doesn’t scare you, I am afraid you don’t understand what it represents, or how rapidly and how far the poison of this subversive and illiberal dogma has already spread through a political movement and ideology we once called liberal.