WILMINGTON, Del. -- President Joe Biden's political climate may have been even more difficult after the acquittal Kyle Rittenhouse.
Already, Biden was facing declining poll numbers due to a dwindling electorate and the coronavirus pandemic. The president is now caught between angry Democrats, some of whom were already stewing about Biden's inability land voting rights legislation and police reform, and Republicans who want to exploit the national divide over grievances and race.
Christopher Borick, director of Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, stated that "this is one of the last things Biden wishes to be engaged in at this point as he tries for the big Build Back better bill and get it across the finish line through Senate." "Race and Kyle Rittenhouse are not the right space for Biden to go deep at this time."
The acquittal Rittenhouse has sparked new discussions about racial justice and vigilantism in America. The Illinois teenager armed himself with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at a protest in Kenosha (Wisconsin) on August 20, 2020. This was just days after the shooting death of a Black police officer. He claimed he was in the small city to protect a car lot and to provide medical assistance.
Rittenhouse would end-up fatally shooting two men, and maiming another. Rittenhouse's lawyers successfully argued that Rittenhouse had acted in self defense during a confrontation in the midst of which he was afraid for his life.
Biden's verdict comes as he tries to keep his fellow Democrats focused on passing his huge social services and climate bills. He also hopes to turn the tide for Americans who are unhappy with his performance as president.
After Friday's verdict, the president carefully responded and expressed respect for the decision of his jury. Later, he added that he was angry and concerned about Rittenhouse's jury acquittal in a written statement.
Republicans are now embracing Rittenhouse, 18, as their new hero in America’s culture wars.
GOP Reps. Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz, both from Arizona, have indicated that they would like to hire him as an intern. Gosar suggested arm wrestling for the honor. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, predicted Saturday that liberal outrage about the Rittenhouse trial will benefit her party.
Boebert tweeted, "It seems that liberals want self defense to be illegal." "Try running that in 2022 to see how far you can get with the majority of the sane American population."
After the verdict, former President Donald Trump stood with Rittenhouse. He called Rittenhouse's teen "brave" for defending himself and accused the left "to spread hatred" by its treatment of Rittenhouse.
Trump spent much of his time as president stoking divisions by his frontal criticisms of Biden and any Republican who did not follow his lead. Most Republicans have either backed him directly or remained silently in his footsteps.
Republicans highlighted a tweet Biden sent during his 2020 presidential campaign, in which he seemed to suggest Rittenhouse was white supremacist.
The September 2020 tweet criticized Trump for not "to disavow White Supremacists on the Debate Stage" the previous night. It also included a video with Rittenhouse's still from the Kenosha shooting as well footage of white supremacist torchbearers at the 2017 Unite the Right rally, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Among the party officials who called for Biden's apology are Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of Republican National Committee, and Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas.
McDaniel posted on Twitter, "He smeared teenager to score political points. He spread lies about the case." "What Biden did is dangerous and inflamatory."
Biden was asked by a reporter shortly after the verdict whether he stood behind his campaign social media posting.
According to Borick, a Muhlenberg College pollster who said that Virginia's election results show that Republicans could use cultural issues, including transgender rights, as a strategy to get the support of a section of the electorate that is passionate about Trump, but less so about the rest. Borick cautioned that Rittenhouse's enthusiastic embrace by the GOP was not without risks.
Borick stated, "I don’t know if that’s a great spot to be if there’s an effort to reach suburban voters, educated voters, and voters who might not fault Rittenhouse's decision to acquit him because of the circumstances, but are far from content holding him up to be a hero."
Biden was already under increased pressure by Democrats for not passing legislation to reform police and voting rights.
Biden admitted that the process of government can be frustrating and sometimes demoralizing, but encouraged supporters to "keep the faith" last month, just a day after Senate Republicans had filibustered a major vote bill for the second consecutive year.
Civil rights leaders expressed disappointment that Biden did not use the bully pulpit to push for a comprehensive police reform bill named after George Floyd. This was the Black Minneapolis man who was shot and killed by police last year.
Biden made no mention of the George Floyd Act at an earlier event, where he signed three bills to increase police aid. He asked legislators from both sides to come together to make it law.
Biden stated, "That's next."