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ICYMI: Frank Wilkinson: “The Political Uses of Murder”

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Frank Wilkinson of Bloomberg View has a blistering column condemning the gross exploitation and politicization of Mollie Tibbetts’ death.

Wilkinson’s piece is excerpted below and available in full here.

More than 1,600 women were murdered by men in the U.S. in 2015. That’s more than four each day. More than half died by gunshot. Almost every state with a high homicide rate for women has a stack of gun-lobby pamphlets in the place where its gun laws should be. But let’s not talk about those 1,600 lives.

Let’s talk about one.

Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old student, was murdered last month in Iowa. If the police got it right, her killer is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The reason we’re engaged in a national discussion about Tibbetts is the same reason we talked so much about Kate Steinle, a young woman who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco in 2015.

We talk about them because Donald Trump wants to.


It’s hard to relegate such tropes to the dustbin of history if large numbers of people prefer not to. It’s even harder when the president of the United States, and much of his party, go dumpster diving there for political issues.

Whether it’s reverence for statues honoring the Confederacy or gibberish about the imaginary “genocide” of white farmers in South Africa, racial aggression, honed by insecurity, continues to be the square root of Trumpism.

Yet in three years, Trump’s racial politics have gone from widely condemned to outrageously routine. Even brutalizing children at the border gets no rise from Republicans in Congress.

When Trump mimicked neo-Nazis and other bottom feeders with his tweet about South African farmers, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, said, “It sounds to me like a base stimulation message.” Corker can dully acknowledge Trump’s shout-out to fellow racists. He just no longer gets worked up about it.

Earlier this month, Fox News personality Laura Ingraham lamented that “massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.”

It’s true that voters never took a vote on changing the demographics of the nation, and making the U.S. proportionately less white. A series of immigration laws, beginning in 1965, contributed to that largely unintended effect.

But the racial panic that pervades much of conservative politics shows how little faith such conservatives have in American democracy. After her remarks caused a stir, Ingraham insisted that they “had nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but rather a shared goal of keeping America safe, and her citizens safe and prosperous.”

But why would changes in demographics, in a country where demographics have undergone repeated waves of change, alter such goals? The obvious conclusion to draw is that for Ingraham and other Trumpists, it’s not the system of democratic ideals, constitutional constraints, rule of law and capitalist enterprise that keeps America humming.

It’s the white people.

Tibbetts and Steinle were victims of horrible crimes. A decent society should honor and remember them and severely punish their killers. It should also shun the fear-mongers, demagogues and profiteers who exploit their deaths. And if such miscreants are in political office, it should expeditiously drive them from power.