Mark McCloskey's Reinvention as a Beacon of American Nationalism

Mark McCloskey's Reinvention as a Beacon of American Nationalism
Photo:Jeff Roberson (AP)

Yesterday Mark McCloskey, the vindictive personal injury lawyer best known for waving a gun at Black Lives Matter protestors outside of his St. Louis mansion, announced his campaign for Missouri senate. The video launching his campaign is a remarkable document. Certainly whoever styled the nearly unrecognizable McCloskey into a farmer and plopped him on a tractor was thinking very clearly about what points a post-Trump Republican needed to hit.

McCloskey, as you may recall, became a national symbol of suburban hubris and terror when he and his wife emerged from their “dazzling” Midwesten palazzo dressed for the country club and displayed an amateur grasp of firearm safety as a group of peaceful protestors marched past their home. Naturally, this viral moment has become the basis of a year-long speaking tour, including at the Republican National Convention and, more recently, a bizarre rally that was sort of about voting rights but veered (as these things often do) into an extended riff on the Second Amendment and the importance of protecting one’s property from “the mob.”

The only way to extend the bit, it seems, is for McCloskey to seek higher office on the platform of being able to “stand against” that poorly defined but deeply racialized mob. That he and his wife are still facing felony charges for menacing protestors, or that most of the stands they have taken in their lives involve filing petty lawsuits against family members and neighbors, remains unaddressed. But McCloskey does have a lot to say about the threat Marxists and socialists and people concerned with racism pose to America at large.

In the video, McCloskey has abandoned his ill-fitting suits and polo shirts for blue flannel and cowboy boots. A large silver cross hangs around his neck. He pets a horse and also a dog. The protestors who passed by his mansion last summer have become an “angry mob” who marched to his property to intentionally “destroy” McCloskey’s home and “kill” his family. The broader “fascist mob”—addressed as the personal injury lawyer stands in front of a small cabin that has little in common with the French silk damask wall-coverings adorning his actual home—comprises of “big tech, big business, the swamp in D.C.,” which are all “working together to destroy our God-given freedom, our culture, and our heritage.” Panning to a shot of a derelict house with “defund the police” signs in the yard, McCloskey rails against “cancel culture,” “the poison of critical race theory,” and “the lie of systemic racism:” “All intentionally designed to destroy everything we hold near and dear.” And then McCloskey, a man who once destroyed a child’s beehive and made his living suing people, gets on a tractor to fill it up with gas from a tank in some nameless agrarian landscape.

The McCloskeys are opportunistic and by most accounts morally bankrupt people with a clear willingness to parlay a shameful moment into an endlessly iterating political celebrity. In that way, and in their insistence on framing themselves as victims of a country besieged by crime and by extension “wokeness,” they’re the ideal blank slates for Republican political imagery after Trump—an endless series of conspiratorial accusations designed to stoke fear of an encroaching racial threat. It’s the only logic that could create this video in which a terrified paper-pusher is reborn not just as a farmer but as a righteous beacon of American nationalism and revenge.

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